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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Art of Life--A Short Story?

A strange week indeed.  Two extended family members passed away.  I was informed of the first passing last Tuesday.  I attended the wake just yesterday.  As I was walking out of the wake I received a text from my mother telling me of the passing of another family member.  How apropos.  During my trip across country I stopped at a cemetery and monuments raised to honor the dead and here I am surrounded by the reality of what awaits each of us.  I tweeted something about the wake and how I would write about the Art of Life.

Art captures life in all forms.  It codifies a specific moment in time.  Whether a still life painting, sculpture or photograph, something captured the artist's attention.  Moved to manifest the internal infestation of this "muse," a creation is born.  Life and death.  Hand in hand.  One does not come without its tethered twin.  Some art examines the idealism of life; some the pessimistic nadir that pommels our hopes and dreams.  All the "isms" of our infinite ability to construct paradigms revealed, manifest throughout the history of humanness.

Morning.  After promising to blog about such lofty ideas as Art and Life, I took to the streets to find art.  Maybe some inspiration out there could help me define these two pillars of existence. As I drove around Falmouth, Cape Cod, MA I didn't find any outward monuments to life.  No symbolic statues reaching toward the heavens.  I contacted my producer.  Lula, help!  She got to our favorite "savior" Google.  "Go to Cotuit Center of the Arts."  Okay, GPS do your thing...bleep, bleep. drive 13.5 miles east.  So with the big eye in the sky assisting me I followed the directions being harped at me and settled into the single lane traffic. I glanced at the Cape Cod homes with the slate grey, deep blues and rustic reds weathered and tested by mother nature.  Look at all the people "ant-ing" about.  Teeming life all around.  People going about doing their thing as if death wasn't even a possibility.  "2.5 miles, your destination will be on your left" the sweet British-voiced GPS guided lady prompted.  I looked to my left and I saw a barn red building -- Cahoon Museum of American Art.  Big American flag waving, banners calling out their "Campaign for the Cahoon."  Yup, just like art, always trying to raise money.  I thought, "we artists always struggle with money."  I passed the Cahoon and arrived at my scheduled destination.  It was a theater complex.  A large theater and a black box.  Not what I was expecting.  Oh wait, there is an art gallery...oh darn, it's closed.  Okay, obviously not in the cards for me today.  My stress level beginning to peak, I have to write about art and life, right?

Back in my truck, I moved out the parking lot to the street.  Guess I better head back to Falmouth. I jumped into the thickening traffic and was quickly upon the Cahoon again.  I drove past it thinking "well that's a museum.  Must be art in there."  "American art...boring!  Hmmm what is American art?"  Tap tap tap on my shoulder came my artistic alter-ego.  "Turn around -- NO. I am not interested!  Tap tap tap, turn around!"  No, no, no, but somehow my fire red Nissan Frontier managed to listen to the internal me and not the external me and I found myself parking.

At the entrance was one of those fundraising thermometers.  Showing how well -- or not-- the management campaign for cash was going.  "Did it say $1.5 million raised?  Can't be right. This little community raised that much money for some unknown museum?"  I looked closer.  "What, they are trying to raise $2.5 million?  Lofty dreams for such a seemingly small organization."  As I  reached for the door I saw the sign saying "American Art"  I had this immediate reaction to turn and run, run fast and far.  I rejected and over powered the response, pushed through the entrance, and came upon a nice young lady sitting quietly at a small letter desk.

I looked about.  It was a typical New England styled home built in 1775.  Wainscoting, strong paneled doors, planked flooring, yes, seen this before.  I introduced myself ... blogger, art, California, travelling about, can I photograph, blah, blah, blah.  The young woman disappeared quickly to get the appropriate person to allow me access to...?  I grabbed a postcard on the desk that advertised the current display.  March 26, 2013 -- just opened yesterday.  "ARTIST AND BARTENDER: The Extraordinary Works of Captain Joe Miron." Well that has potential" I quipped to myself.  I walked around the small room thinking, "this will be a quick visit.  Nothing interesting here. Just quaint small town artists happy to see their work on walls other than their own."

From behind me I heard "I understand you have questions regarding our exhibit?"  I turned to find this very tall brunette, big eyed and pretty smile, extending her hand. "I am Stephanie, I run the gift shop.  I will try to answer your questions.  I am new here, but if I don't know the answer, I can certainly find out."  I took out my cell, turned on my tape recorder and peppered her with questions --who, what, where, why, when ... public art?  We wandered into the second room.  I immediately realized the building was much larger than the outside indicates.  Stephanie was a bit nervous at first, but as we chatted her knowledge and love of the arts spilled out and our conversation took on a comfort that allows for a reporter to get some good 411.

"We are really excited about our newest exhibit. Captain Joe Miron.  "Stephanie led me into another room and began to talk about Captain Joe Miron.  "He is from Falmouth originally."  "Really," I interrupted.  "I grew up in Falmouth, I never heard his name?" Stephanie leaned in and said, "he was a bartender at a bar called the Captain Kidd in Woodshole."  "What!  That was my hangout back in the 70's.  I wonder if he ever served me a beer?"  Stephanie moved into a long hallway running behind the rooms we had just occupied.  "I really like this new exhibit, full of life."  Hmmmm, life and art.  Just what I am looking for.

I listened to Stephanie and as I moved to the second and third work, I realized I was rushing through.  Not really looking, more like on auto pilot.  I took a breath.  "Self, you got some chip on your shoulder, give the work its due.  Stop glancing, work the work."   So that's what I did.

I looked at composition and setting first.  I noticed that Captain Joe Miron really liked crowd scenes.  People everywhere in all of his work.  Groups small and large.  I examined what was happening in the crowds.  This is where I fell for the work of Captain Joe Miron.  People, enjoying, partying, stealing, grabbing, drinking, cavorting, carousing, and canoodling!!!  Captain Joe Miron was capturing real life.  He had mastered the art of life.  Slap! Right across my face it all began to make sense.  The colors vibrant, not brash.  Juxtaposed with the subject matter.  Color of life.  The application wasn't flat.  Captain Joe Miron's use of strong line against the simple application created a bold depth that I obviously missed with my first glance. There was immense humor -- a caricature of the living, but one which also revealed.  I could see those wrongly-coined "cartoonish" characters as full living beings.  Occupying the same space.  And all wrapped up in bawdy behavior--living life, making a living, loving friends and sharing the very precious time we get to be on this earth.  Bravo, Captain Joe Miron!

I looked down this hidden hallway and I spied a well quaffed gentleman with a handful of boxes and the like. He turned and smiled and Stephanie, right on time, made the introduction. "This is our Museum Director, Richard Waterhouse."  I pounced!  "Richard, what do you think of...."  And I began to gush over the dramatic turn within me regarding Captain Joe Miron.  A chorus of  "I almost missed this and that," and "his subject matter..." and "the power of the every day existence."  Yes that 's what Captain Joe Miron captured the seamy everyday deep beautiful side of life in all its forms.

Toulouse Lautrec, came screaming into my head, but it was stuck in there, you know, on the tip of your tongue sort of thing.  I spoke "who is  that French painter who painted the bawdy side of life?  This work so reminds me of that in its style."  Richard was right on it... "oh, yes, Toulouse Lautrec.  Yes, I suppose so."  Stephanie cordially agreed and Richard excused himself.  A director's work is never done, and by the looks of the few works I reviewed, so far so good.

Alas Alack, my guides were gone.  And I was left to explore.  Captain Joe Miron is deep, traveled the world and he captured it magnificently.  Nassau, Italy, Spain, France and more.  Each painting examining life that is right in front of him.  The taste for living and the zest of life he conjured is quite remarkable.  The longer I lingered at each work, there is a plethora, I marveled and chuckled out loud, at the creative mastery Captain Joe Miron conducted by capturing "us" in the stroke of life. 

So you would think that this is the end of the story. And it was.  Until I met Joan Lynch whom dropped some serious knowledge on this PhD fathead.  A bit of back story here: After my conversation with Stephanie and Richard, I was alone.  I, being a jovial extrovert, engaged Joan immediately and we basically--stranger to stranger--viewed the complete exhibit (Art is communal).  We bantered back and forth about everything.  The art makes you think.  Joan was well traveled abroad and she immediately verified the accuracy of the depictions of the locations.  With the Captain Joe Miron  spin.  Joan volunteer's and works with clients afflicted with Alzheimer's   Joan was involved with classes that were held on Cape Cod which trained home health care professionals to use art in the treatment of Alzheimer's.  The classes where headed by none other than MOMA.  This program which Cahoon Museum of American Art participates allows groups to come to view art when the museum is closed allowing the Alzheimer's clients full interaction with the art.  Joan stated, "you would be amazed to see what they notice and remember and comment on" regarding the art they see during the visit.  And as quickly as we had become art partners walking, enjoying together, she put forth a firm hand and flashed her smile  perfectly displayed with her silver head of hair.  And our encounter was over.

I said my goodbye's and walked out of the museum.  I took some pictures of the outside of the building because I wasn't allowed any photographs of the art.  But now it was okay not to have it, again, in the irony of this whole visit, it only seemed right not to have them.  Better to tantalize, makes it all the more sweet when you visit and see America's Toulouse Lautrec.

These last few days I pondered Life and Art. Captain Joe Miron has the answer.  Be in the moment my friends.  MOMA has the answer: art as facilitation for the community.  Cahoon Museum of American Art has the answer: make art accessible to everyone--art renews.  Joan Lynch has the answer: give, love, help--art heals.

A lesson learned?  Join me won't you?

Typical New England 

The Art World's nemesis -- MONEY

Did you find the line about Toulouse Lautrec?  I stumbled upon this poem by the grandson of Captain Joe Miron.  He called his grandfather the "American Toulouse Lautrec."  This is in the last room I visited.  Over an hour after I mentioned the work had T.L. flavor!!!

Cahoon Museum of American Art

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