Thursday, June 14, 2007

Western Skies

Our recent trek with friends from the East reminded Tom and me of what the West has that the East does not--SKY. It seems limitless, close, as if one only had to let go of the earth to be drawn into it. My skies in the Blue Ridge Mountains could be stunning--the sunset over Fancy Gap Mountain, Fisher's Peak purple against the orange, or lightening cracking the heavens wide open. But the Western Sky is overwhelming, from horizon to horizon, vast. It is the perfect subject for translation to art. Yesterday I took a little field trip to Manhattan, Kansas, to the Strecker-Nelson Gallery, for the Kansas Masters Invitational Art Exhibit. The big sky was front and center (above, Wabaunsee by Lisa Grossman).

"I see my work as a sustained meditation on open spaces, said Lisa, "as a celebration of their sublime beauty, as an expression of my deep concern for their survival. Painting en plein air is a necessity for me. It allows me to work in a very direct manner, drawing energy from my surroundings and translating it into paint."

Lisa's work focuses on vast stretches of rural eastern Kansas and the Flint Hills. She paints en plein air or on location, on canvases or small wooden panels. Her work explores the relationship between land and sky, distance, light and atmosphere with color and confident brushwork.

Lisa's landscape paintings have appeared in numerous group shows and regional exhibits including the nationally touring exhibit for the annual "Arts For The Parks" competition in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Unfortunately, this exhibit is over Saturday, but visit the gallery's website for a list of the artists and check out their work Jay and Barbara Nelson, gallery owners, have created a unique space to showcase first class artwork. Our friend Don Lambert organized this exhibit and kudos for an incredible job.

Cheap Entertainment

Speaking of our trip, how did Carol and I survive for a week riding in the backseat with two hairy-chested historians up front? (Besides the cooler between us. . . .)

Well, I'll tell you. I brought along some light reading, A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes edited by Michael Foss. So Carol and I read nursery rhymes to each other. Lest you get the idea that these are warm, fuzzy, Mother Goosey, let me share one with you:

Annie Mary jumped in the fire;
The fire was too hot, she jumped in the pot;
The pot was too black, she jumped in a crack;
The pot was soon over, she jumped in some clover;
Clover's too sweet, she kicked up her feet;
When her feet were free, she cried 1, 2, 3,
Then jumped in a tree.
The tree was so high she couldn't go any higher,
'Long came a breeze and blew her away.

Well, so much for Annie Mary. I'm sure there's a moral here, but not sure I want to know what it is. Or how about this touching story about Peg:

There was an old woman and her name was Peg,
Her head was of wood, and she wore a cork leg;
The neighbors all pitched her into the water,
Her leg was drowned first, and her head followed after.

I bought this book in a thrift store for fifty cents, mainly for the beautiful illustrations, but found the tales compelling. Stories of death and disappointment, murder and mayhem, unrequited love, and occassionally, just a sweet sentiment. They seemed somehow appropriate for a trip into the West, where not all dreams came true, but the experience made for a strong people, and pithy sayings.

Seeing the World. . . One Grave at a Time. . .

I do collect graves--from Smokey the Bear to Daniel Boone to. . .Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Cabinet Member, buried in Pere Lachaise, Paris, France. It took four hours of wandering this incredible graveyard before finding the elusive Benjamin. Andy Waskie snapped this photo of me a couple of years ago. Those are my grave-searching earrings!

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