Gypsy Camp, Potato Diggers, and Muddy Fields

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show ‘Beyond the Iron Curtain,’ verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 6-9pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Gypsy Camp
There is a man who thinks he knows everything, because he has everything. Gypsies clean the man’s stables and cook his meals for a pittance. Poor gypsies, he thinks, what were their lives before I came along? The man eats bland food and never indulges in wine, afraid if the gypsies realize the extent of his riches they will demand more for their labor. He convinces himself they cannot see him when, while in their camp a short distance away, singing and dancing and playing their music, bouncing their grandchildren on their knees, gorging on spicy food, drinking wine and making love, the man sneaks away to dig up his lock-box and pray over his money. But the gypsies could have stolen his money a thousand times; in fact they have taken some of it, but only what they need to eat and drink and laugh and sing and play and make love.

The Potato Diggers
It is not a burden
Rising with the sun
Digging forks into the dirt
The glances cousin Aleksandr throws our way

It is not a burden
Hoisting endlessly filled sacks
Old Mare baring her teeth each time we approach the wagon
Sister Mika being promised to the butcher

It is not a burden
Clumps the size of river pebbles clinging to our boots
Whispering where is handsome young Achilles today?
Papa watching us crossly

It is not a burden
Giggling like little girls
Old Mare testing her traces against her burden
Carrying more sacks because Mika was not in her bed this morning

It is not a burden
Grandpa snoring over the last morsel of goulash
Mending socks and sacks
Dreaming we could be so brave

Muddy Fields
He photographs a young boy and his father unhooking their wagon and harnessing a single metal plowshare to their stallion. Their women harvest earth’s precious bounty and the plow turns the soil row after row, season after season. A teenage girl in a thick skirt, her legs warm in wool and rubber boots, heaves a bulging bag onto her back, high-steps over the soft clodded earth, and pieces it into the puzzle of the wagon.
He wonders if she will stay or go. It is one thing to romanticize a way of life, to allow old timers to feel better about the way they’ve lived. But what happens when someone tears a knee ligament? Where does a parent turn when a child is born with a deformity? He struggles to remember seeing anyone in the village with a handicap.
The horse and plowman turn at the end of the row. The sun fails to shine through the clouds. He is certain; this simple, self-sustaining life will soon not be possible. They are all in this together, one big village.
The family re-harnesses the horse and somehow gets the plowshare and everyone onto the wagon. He takes another photo, checks it on the digital screen. In an attempt to capture everything he has zoomed so far away he does not recognize what he is witnessing. Maybe it is one of those scenes that needs to be a painting.
(From Peter’s novel The Age of Certainty)

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Coming Into Transylvania; Those Silly Trees; Romanian Haystacks

From Peggy McGivern’s Beyond the Iron Curtain, verse by Peter Stravlo, Opening Reception March 20, 5-8pm, Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver, CO. Eastern Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thomps

Coming into Transylvania
Tulip heads mounted on trunks of trees
Like vampires in a wagon of novel
Ideas darkening the road
For tourists seeking an infamous castle
In the depths of titillating fears
Where three seductive sister brides drink the blood
Of our gypsy imagination
24 x 48“, Oil

Those Silly Trees
Unusual shapes are disconcerting
Tones slightly different than your comfort zone
Walking under thin branches makes you skittish
Brittle sticks swaying wide and leafless over your head
So open your eyes, your ears, let the foreign air seep into your pores
Step by step, a few blocks, pause to take in the view, reminiscent of a childhood memory
You think the dining room walls would look great in those colors
Now you are in stride
A breeze plays with the branches
Their song stuck in your head
Those Silly Trees will flourish in your backyard

Romanian Haystacks
I want to lose myself in the billowing white clouds, how easy it should be they call to me so.
Scramble up haystacks like a child- surely I do not weigh too much in my imagination- into fairytale
golden-straw towers hosting dreamy trampoline slumber parties overlooking the promised land-scape
so perfect it must be real, with gingerbread houses and sugar-tree cookies and sailboats swimming in
the sky, roller-coaster buggies drawn by merry-go-round horses through almond tasting wind laughing
a meringue patchwork never daring to go gray.

Saturday Night in Lunca, Dinner, and Road to the Truffle Restaurant

Satruday Night in Porec
A cell tower sits bored against the low sun’s chill
Cowbells clang like toddlers learning to play the xylophone
See his blue coat against the dark plaster wall
Before the longing pattern of light and shadow like live leather
Reminding him tonight is a glass, maybe two, of plum brandy
Rush hour before the Sabbath, watch where you step

(Scroll down to see Dinner and Road to the Truffle Restaurant)

Please attend the Opening of Beyond the Iron Curtain, paintings by Peggy McGivern and verse by Peter Stravlo, with music based on eastern European folk tunes by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson. March 20th, 5-8pm, at Abend Gallery, Colfax and York, Denver CO

Dinner

No hurry, the wine is either red or white. A simple luxury, this fairytale home-restaurant tangled in the roots of cedars like truffles. Leftover tablecloths red checked clean faded stained and beautifully threadbare. The waiter has his own agenda, the menu indecipherable; we do not yet speak the language. Sip and wait, wait and sip. Until, silver headed and winking, as if we always knew it was worth the wait, dinner arrives.

RoadToTruffleRestaurant11-22-14

Imagine a two-seater
Fenders like sumptuous thighs
Playing nostalgically over cobblestones
Top down falling
Left into dark pine scents
Engine purring right
Up lush gear pattern
Worn smooth from shifting
Breezes overpowering
Straightaways nonexistent

Our own truffle Sommelier
Sniffed out of roots
By hounds barking through mists
Like souvenir volcanic rocks
Black and rarer White
In the birthplace of Mario Andretti

PAUSING TO TAKE IN THE VIEW

Featured image

How many times
We watch a woman, children
A man, grandma
Grandpa, beast of burden
Pausing to take in the view

How many times
Can the same scene inspire
How many times
Can a view not grow stale

Maybe it is an excuse
To rest
Aching muscles
Aging bones
Hope

Maybe the grass is greener
Or it is wistful
Wishful thinking

How many times
Do we not pause to take in the view

Beyond the Iron Curtain: Solo Exhibit by Peggy McGivern, Verse by Peter Stravlo

Beyond the Iron Curtain: Reflections in Paint and Verse
Peggy McGivern Solo Exhibition
Verse by Peter Stravlo

Mar 20 – Apr 17, 2015
Opening Reception: Mar 20, 6-9 pm

Artist Statement:

I have found in people all over the world that same native self reliance I feel deep within myself. The Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, Chilean Mestizos, or Gypsies in Romania, as unique as we all are, I see myself in them, and whatever it is, it colors my work.

It has taken years to formulate this show, for the paintings and poems to help resolve our feelings about the people and places. Now we invite you to join us for Poetry and Paintings and listen to hauntingly beautiful Eastern European folk music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson played on the traditional Romanian Bouzouki instrument, so you too, can travel Beyond the Iron Curtain.

Please email us at info@abendgallery.com to be put on the early preview list.

Adumbrate

PeggyAbstractLandscapeDixonInProgressArt 118

Adumbrate is to darken or conceal partially, to faintly foreshadow or resemble.
Starting thinking about adumbration while reading Bruno Schulz’s Sanatorium Under The Sign Of The Hourglass. His writing is the closest thing I’ve found to my experiments with abstract writing; way more so than Magical Realism, either Garcia or Llosa.
Schulz gives me some sense of the difficulty in reading such abstractions. It’s not that the storyline is not there at all, not like some abstract paintings that are purely emotion; color and form and structure only. At this point I have doubts that writing could successfully reach the levels of abstraction that visual arts are privileged to. So far my pure abstract writing falls off the cliff of prose into the labyrinth of poetry, and as much as I love poetry that is not what this search is, not what these experiments are about.
To read Sanatorium is demanding, enjoyable work; it’s a challenge to follow Shlulz’s mind. To follow I must give up some control, allow my preconceptions to melt away. Here in a passage from a chapter called The Age Of Genius, the main character Joseph reels me in, insists I see with a child’s unbiased eye:
We stood in the semidarkness of my vast room, elongated in perspective toward the window opening on the square. Waves of air reached us in gentle pulsations, settling down on the silence. Each wave brought a new load of silence, seasoned with the colors of distance, as if the previous load had already been used up and exhausted. That dark room came to life only by the reflections of the houses far beyond the window, showing their colors in its depth as in a camera obscura. Through the window one could see, as through a telescope, the pigeons on the roof of the police station, puffed up and walking along the cornice of the attic. At times they rose up all at once and flew in a semicircle over the square. The room brightened for a moment with their fluttering wings, broadened with the echo of their flight, and then darkened when they settled down again.
The narrative is simple: a boy and his older cousin are looking at the boy’s drawings in his room, a window opens onto a square. At the end of the square are houses and a police station with pigeons on its roof doing what pigeons do. Breezes pulsate through the window.
Yet the passage is about perspective and causation more than how the relationship between the boy and his cousin advance the narrative. Breezes are calmed by silence and bear reflections of the distant houses into the room and give it its color. The fluttering of pigeons wings brightens and darkens. For the boy colors are reflections, wind determines sound, space is broadened by echoes and movement; his room, his necessarily limited world, our necessarily limited world, is a camera obscura. And it’s because of these limitations that it’s a wondrous place, a world of mystery and danger, surrounded by unknowns because anything is possible.
Drilling into a short passage like this is rewarding, fun, insightful, like a poem. The work is not too arduous because it does not take long. But it becomes tiresome at length, when the narrative and action must be subjectively gleaned from dreamy paragraphs of sparse action with unclear causes.
Here’s Ethan in Steinbeck’s The Winter Of Our Discontent expressing similar sentiments when confronted with his son’s interest in the contents of their attic:
I guess we’re all, or most of us, the wards of that nineteenth-century science which denied existence to anything it could not measure or explain. The things we couldn’t explain went right on but surely not with our blessing. We did not see what we couldn’t explain, and meanwhile a great part of the world was abandoned to children, insane people, fools, and mystics, who were more interested in what is than in why it is. So many old and lovely things are stored in the world’s attic, because we don’t want them around us and we don’t dare throw them out.
See the similarities of the above passages with my character Reuel as a naïve teenager:
Reuel loved mysteries and romances, so when for the first time ever his parents left him alone to go to his mother’s special appointment he climbed the narrow staircase from the basement and rummaged through their bedroom. It made him feel the way Merci, his mother, looks when she carefully teases tangled necklaces out of little cubbies in her heart-adorned ashen jewelry box. He arranged two gold necklaces on the glass-topped dressing table, admired in the mirror their delicacy, how they floated in the frame of chubby pink cherubs and grinning green sprites. Marbles of pearl he fenced in the chains of gold, tarnished silver-plated unicorn and satyr and elfin totems frolicked in a canyon turquoise bracelet, sparkling zirconia and ruby-like pebbles lay scattered in a glittering piece of time.
In the drawer of Merci’s nightstand Reuel sifted through silky things that had never been mentioned and discovered a blue-clothed diary secured with a lace strap and precious silver lock. He retrieved a thin skeleton key from inside the sparkling piece of time. The book fell open as if it had been waiting for him. He looked into the mirror, imagined flying out the window, over his neighborhood’s pitched rooftops, watched a perfect teenage girl perform a triple somersault into a backyard pool with scarcely a ripple, a handsome new father pick money like acorns from a stoic old oak, and a smiling gray-haired woman delight her fairytale grandchildren with stories of what she always imagined her life to be.
Here’s Reuel as an adult, an artist who never grew up:
Father Malley perambulated around the strange artist he tried to remember and watched him work. The priest squinted though the sun was at their backs, tried to make figures or images out of dripping blocks of orange and magenta and translucent green that could be rebirth or decay, and thin black and white lines teasing his eye from a lavender background. His gaze was mesmerized, and after some indeterminate moments Father caught a hint of himself in a triangle of gray-black swirling around the meal tent. The fajita grill’s smoke made him blink, charred beef teased his tongue and nose, onions and guacamole on a fresh tortilla formed to the top of his mouth. It was so real Father feared the painting was casting a spell, casting in a way The Shadow of the Cross, the mystery painting he charged tourists to view, seldom achieved.
Orange washed to sun-tinged gold under Reuel’s touch. Father finally recognized his San Francisco De Asis Mission Church amongst the blocks of color, the way the texture of the paint mimicked the texture of the drying plaster. Shadows lengthened and the walls of the church glowed. Uncertainty crept up his spine. He’d been in Taos almost thirty years and knew it would be several minutes before the setting sun made the walls of the church glow like the church on Reuel’s board. How could such a man understand this glow and Father not know him?
And finally Reuel as Steinbeck’s insane mystical child, more interested in what is than in why it is:
Reuel set up his easel high on Taos Mountain, overlooking the Pueblo. His brush flourished in the clear, thin air. Flute melodies filled his head and attracted many creatures. He painted cautious, delicate bodies with spindly legs and furry white butts, parents with their doe; tangled antlers hovered over a harem of sturdy, buckskinned torsos; and two anxious hooked lines the color of yellowed parchment coyotes skulked behind flamboyant strokes of pale green chamisa waving in the hint of a blue breeze. Reuel enjoyed his goose bumps.
Small black and white stripes of chipmunks clacked at Reuel from the safety of twisted gray piñon. At first the chipmunks were unsure of the scene he was creating. But soon they were chattering to the flutish melodies, munching on nut-shaped twists of Reuel’s brush, and flitting in fits and starts across the canvas. On the ridge above the gathering a hairy sling of black bear rummaged through unripe flashes of Indian plum. She stayed uphill and downwind, not wanting to scare her fellow Taosenos away on such a lovely day.
I want to push myself to write an entire novel the way a painter paints an abstract painting. It’s probably not fair to ask a reader to work so hard for so long, to follow a narrative that makes no distinction between characters’ imagination, dreams, and perceptions; a narrative structured only by form, color, shape, and emotion.
Yet I think to write such a novel would be an accomplishment. It would teach me about art, and not only the process, but the instinct, that primordial human spark that left its mark in the caves of Lascaux and El Castillo, the inspiration for jewelry and to knap a more perfect arrowhead.
There’s a common thread of humanity that the impulse to abstraction reaches back towards. It’s mysterious, anxious, frightening, full of doubt. It’s also the impulse that both makes us most human and ties us to other creatures, to whatever it is we share with all forms of life. It’s unregulated Time, Space torn free of measurement, freedom in its purest form allowing one to open Pandora’s box and not blink.
Writing is an art like visual arts because it can never be exact, no words, even in symbolic logic, are defined so rigidly that the beauty of ambiguity is completely absent.
Art is not the antithesis of science, as science itself is an art. This fact is not an indictment of science, but a reminder that its work, like creating art itself, will never be done.
And I want to write an abstract painting. I want to create my own Matisse, one time overcome that doubt that is the essence of abstract art.