Bucket List, Eigth Wonder of the World, Lipica Pastures

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 European Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Bucket List
The day arrived, dawn white as her hair
Split-rail corrals, giddy soaring spirit
Manure loving
Strict anticipation
Training massive
Lipizzaner stable
Muscles stretching intimidate
Trot to cantor and walk and rein hold up not that much!
Buck and fall
Get back in the saddle wobbly legs
Post and knees and power and majesty
Exhausted smile checked off the Bucket List

Eighth Wonder of the World
As if a herd of mythic white horses gallop by, their little babies black so they cannot be missed. It can only be a child’s fantasy of the divine, their manes riding air that cannot keep up, wild eyes gazing out majestically from some heroic epic. They hug each other at full speed, not deigning to touch the earth, flanks flexing beyond any power of muscle, delicate legs that cannot possibly support such lofty expectations in perfect balance, hooves swirling with unearthly grace in a fog of childish conjuring.
The delightful image rests calmly on the eye. It must be impossible, these Lipizzans, royal steeds born black skinned turned magically white for such a vision. The Eighth Wonder of the World.

Lipica Pastures
A most unexpected pleasure
The Slovenian countryside

Invigorating a path to springtime
With imagical odors of decaying soil

Grain-gold humid and
Black as a fresh colt

Leading like a labyrinth to her bucket list
In Lipica pastures

Field Workers Cabins, Those Silly Trees, Bird Watching

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 European Folk inspired music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson
http://abendgallery.com/html_shows/15-peggy-mcgivern-solo/

Field Workers Cabins
The field workers cabins appeared around a façade of forest, ambled in the clear-cut, curving up up and away over a denuded landscape. Gray wood planks like chicken coops, troughs sloshing with river water. Maybe there had been a fire. Only two faces revealed themselves through the windows, lined and ashen, fearful, shirtless despite the chill. We imagined a sickness, a reason to be there, to look like that. We backed up, turned around, exited the muddy ruts we came in on. Or was it our own reflection we did not want to recognize, a sickness, a reason to be there, to look like that.

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

Bird Watching
Why, when we learned to fly, were feathers not part of the equation?
No flapping quick quick quick or one graceful slow manipulation of air soaring the miracle of feathers into wings.
All those elongated foreheads so soft and innocent like a child you want to reach out and run your fingers.
Beaks smelling and pecking and part-time feet hopping and jumping, but not a plane bouncing rubbery to a stop.
Primary colors much deeper than that.
In awe. A-gape. Agape.
The hair on my arms stand up but I do not leave terra firma.
Birds are not communists or capitalists nor do they share our religions.
Though it is impossible to imagine them without spirit.
My balding head white calves extra chin the curve of my paunch I insist on paving the ground and still wear shoes and the miracle is; we too are the same everywhere.

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)

Crossing the Danube, West Coast of the Black Sea, River Runs Through Onesti, Rovinj

From Peggy McGivern’s solo show at Abend Gallery, March 20, 6-9pm, Colfax and York, Denver. Verse by Peter Stravlo, Eastern European inspired folk music by Mark Dudrow and Chipper Thompson. Dracula’s Blood wine.

Crossing the Danube
Each border guard said the other would let us in, but not out.
You cannot drive here, Croatia says.
You cannot park here, Serbia says.
We thought they had settled all this with a war.

Three hours in no-man’s-land before heading to Belgrade, where scattered lights twinkle like failed constellations, a million falling star headlights racing past. We are lost.

Dawn reveals a merry-go-round of smokestacks, exhaust, oppression, overlapping signs like washed out frescoes on concrete walls. For hours it seems no stars are possible.

Exit and return, exit and return; Belgrade means roundabout in a language we do not fathom. Surely it will be no mistake, to cross the Danube into Transylvania. Can we not at least read each other’s palms?

West Coast of the Black Sea
Feel every angle of the world
Catapulted like languages
Shadows and rooflines
Between Asia and Europe

Taste salty wind
Stinging
A vulnerable cheek
Of indeterminate color

Hear waves of thought
Mingling together
Through straits
Of millennia

See Greek-marbled blue-green
Slavic-jeweled red
Gold Persian myths
Mosaic as Byzantium

Witness galleons, cruise ships, and dreadnoughts
Crashing into dachas
Tourists and religions
On the West Coast of the Black Sea

River Runs Through Onesti
Find a little boat and let us take a fairytale trip
We’ll fall out of the Cuic mountains
Down the Trotus River
Float by exotic oases of history and imagination
Open your eyes
Shhh… the beauty of places so hidden
No one but us will know

Rectangles, triangles, rhombus ribbons and almost perfect circles
Turkish and Gypsy and Greek and Magyar and Serb and Slav
Not quite white, or red or green or yellow
But blue and sienna and ochre and browns of all flavors
Shaped like the people of Ottoman bridges and Greek statues
Welcoming our flotilla of one
With plates of mittitei and pârjoale and you must have a cup of tuica
And another before we flow tipsy into the Siret and start all over again

Rovinj
We like our boundaries, right angles snapped together in overlapping simplicity along an artificial shoreline
Raw sienna and yellow-clay Legos with blue-squares and shadowy reliable passages

Solid little rooms vetted by generations
Miniature green savannahs and forests, contained in comfortable garden beds
Things we can stand on, lean against, grasp, walk around

But be careful, waves form and foam and dissipate
Like reflections in a mirror threatening to swallow, distort, reveal, wash away our beach head
We listen to rhythmic crashing, and imagine standing, leaning, grasping, walking around
As if abstract form meant permanence

Park in Zagreb, Red Bags, Motovun Wedding

From Peggy McGivern’s 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

Park in Zagreb
We only had a few hours
To complete our feelings
Paint and canvas packed away
Pen and spiral temporarily satisfied

A sidewalk café
A glass of white wine
Watching a rendezvous
A cigarette smoking

The best time
To walk away from shopping
A statue of someone we have never heard of
With a pigeon on his head

Unfamiliar leaves
A bench
A bag-lady feeding pigeons
Cobblestones

Our final memory
Park in Zagreb
Where errands lose their purpose
And a cloud plays hide-and-seek with the light

Red Bags

She never minds walking
With a few friendly gestures

It is not that far
Across the cobbles

Up the hill
Dodging lorries

Waving at uniformed children
The occasional cup of tea

And conversation
Better than television

Wedding in Motovun
Ancient stone walls brittle and worn
Tender new buds on every tree
Dancing heels echo in the carefree village
To music so traditional it cannot possibly sound the same
Her virgin face demurs behind the veil
Following steps of countless ancestors
To a Wedding in Motovun

Milk Delivery, Chicken Feed, and New Laying Hen

From Peggy McGivern’s 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

Milk Delivery
Wagon rolling on truck tires
Traces of nostalgia
Mother’s milk at your doorstep
The oldest profession

Personalized service
Hand hewn more collectible
Stonewalling for generations
Offspring replenishing

Hands are a unit of measurement
Distance a measurement of time
Progress a unit of distance
Time a measurement of progress

‘If I were a rich man,’ from Fiddler on the Roof

Peggy recently re-worked Milk Delivery. The image is essentially the same, but she was never happy with the tone of the colors, and I believe she now feels the pallet is truer to her vision. I always loved this piece, it was hanging in our Taos house. I hope it doesn’t sell.

Chicken Feed
It does not cost much to make a game of it, this serious business of feeding
Skip like chicks playing Follow the Leader
Sing the rhythmic pecking of Ring-Around-the-Rosie
Fling Chicken Feed from cockscombed fingers like a magician conjuring money out of thin air
Simon Says cockle-doodle-doo
We all fall down

New Laying Hen
More than a distant cousin having a new baby I love it when Mama has that wrinkled grin. Make sure the coop is warm, it says, and I will bake you a loaf of bread, one that tickles your nose before you open the door. My favorite is fresh yokes sitting high and rounder than a haystack, the whites like a clear skinned girl sizzling in the pan. Maybe in a few weeks Mama will surprise me with a new pair of shoes bought with money from the eggs.

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

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.