LOST PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER


ACRYLIC ON CANVAS BY CHERYL LYLES SMITH

Some of you may remember my writing about the loss of my sister’s and brother-in-law’s home by fire the morning before Hurricane Harvey hit.  My brother-in-law had called me to invite us out to stay with them if we did not want to ride out the storm here on the coast.  They lived eighty miles west of here on the family ranch and in the house that I grew up in.

The above portrait of my father was painted by their daughter (my niece) who died of cancer at age 57 in 2012.  The  painting was done from a small photo of him in exactly the same pose taken probably in the late 1950s.  It hung in the entrance to her parents’ home.  A few years ago when we were visiting I had Husband take a photo of it because it was very special to me.  Now I am so grateful that he did as the painting was destroyed in the fire along with everything in the house.  Perhaps I should explain the painting for those of you not familiar with the practice of burning prickly pear cactus.

In the painting my father is filling up his pear burner with butane from the tank in the pick-up.  He would then strap it across his shoulder and go out into the pasture where there was plenty of prickly pear cactus.  As he turned it on fire would come out of the end of it and he would burn or singe the thorns off the cactus.  With the large thorns gone the cattle would eagerly eat the cactus as a good source of protein and contained water.  During times of drought when there might be little for the cattle to eat and feeding hay might be too expensive for a rancher, this method would help to get through the lean times.  Burning pear was most common in the fall and winter, but I have seen my father burn pear into the spring and fall if it was a really dry year.

Today times have changed and few people burn prickly pear.  The pear burner was invented in 1914 by John Bunyan Blackwell.  A photo of one can be seen at the Bullock Museum website.

As a footnote, my sister and brother-in-law built a new house on the same spot as the one that burned and were able to move in just before Christmas.  Husband and I went out Christmas Eve to see it and to celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.  I had prints made from the photo Husband took as gifts for family members.  Life goes on.

       Here is a close-up of prickly pear cactus so you can see the sharp thorns.

 

Here is a cluster of them together with the red fruit or tuna.

MONDAY MADNESS: The Light in the Tunnel


 

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Photo by Son

Husband and  I are silhouetted in the James Turrell  tunnel, “The Light Inside,” at the  Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.

The tunnel connects two buildings of the museum and seems a fairly normal route  for pedestrian traffic at first.  Then we were enveloped in a light that challenged  reality and space as darkness beckoned from either side while the black-clad museum guard urged us to stay on the black walkway.  I had visions of the River Styx and was grateful to find that the other side merely led to more museum exhibits with normal lighting.

Learn more about American artist James Turrell’s obsession with light and space here.

FRIDAY FOTO: Monterrey, Mexico, June 1991


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In June of 1991 Husband and I took a train from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to Monterrey, Mexico.  The cars were not air-conditioned except for the club car where it was cool and the cervazas were cold.

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Husband reluctantly  posing for me between cars.

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View of Saddleback Mountain from the roof of our hotel.

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Neptune Fountain at the Gran Plaza or Macroplaza

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Faro del Comercio (Lighthouse of Commerce), a column 230 feet high and 40 feet wide erected to commemorate 100 years of the founding of the Monterrey Chamber of Commerce.   At night it was lit by laser.

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Note the admonition on the building to “Vote like this – PRI – on July 7.”  The  Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) continued to hold political power in Mexico for seventy years until 2000 when Vicente Fox with PAN (National Action Party ) was elected President of Mexico.  Today the PRI has gained back some power with the election of President Enrique Pena Nieto.1991 06 Monterrey Mexico 016

The Bishop’s Palace sits on a  hill in heart of the city.    Built in 1787-90 it was involved in the Mexican-American War as U.S. forces under General Zachary Taylor stormed up the steep hill  and overwhelmed the Mexican garrison at the top on September 22, 1846.  Now it is a museum – The Regional History Museum.  One can drive or walk up to it.  We walked and the view of the city was worth it.

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Courtyard inside the Bishop’s Palace

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The white in the distance is a cemetery.  Beyond that is the industrial part of Monterrey.

Andy Warhol: Back on the Bay with Myths and Legends


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Andy Warhol is back on the bay – at least his art is back.

Warhol and his art are were here 43 years ago at the opening of the Art Museum of South Texas.  I moved to Corpus Christi that year (1972) but did not see the exhibit.

The building was designed by modern architect Philip Johnson and was built at the entrance to the Port of Corpus Christi.  At the time it was a stark contrast from the modest neighborhoods that were nearby.

The museum’s website describes it perfectly.  “Constructed entirely out of white shellcrete and plaster, it seems to radiate with the strong South Texas heat and light. This was the purpose, as stated by Philip Johnson: ‘Light is the essence, and light coming in from all sides is especially bathing and soothing.’ The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a spectacular view of Corpus Christi Bay as well as the Harbor Bridge.”

The Art Museum of South Texas in 1972

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Today we have Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, Harbor Playhouse, Museum of Asian Culture, Whataburger FieldAmerican Bank Center , Solomon P. Ortiz International Center, and Hurricane Alley all nestled and thriving in the shadow the Harbor Bridge.

The museum as it is today.

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The original on the right is the one Philip Johnson designed.  In 2006 the space was doubled with an addition designed by Mexican architects Ricardo Legorreta and his son Victor Legorreta and features 13 distinctive pyramids.  Ricardo Legorreta died in 2011 at age 80.

A current exhibit is “Warhol:  Myths and Legends, from the Cochran Collection” and will be on display until July 19.  The museum brochure describes it this way.  “Wesley and Missy Cochran of LaGrange, Georgia, share their collection of 36 of Warhol’s signature silkscreens.  The silkscreens were created starting in 1974 to just months before Warhol’s death in 1987 and include complete sets of his Cowboys and Indians and Myths series as well as celebrity images.”

The poured white concrete and shell aggregate walls of the museum were the perfect background for these iconic pops of color images of John F. Kennedy, John Wayne,  Mickey Mouse, Santa Clause, Sitting Bull, Warhol himself and others.  My favorites were those sprinkled partially with diamond dust.

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In a small alcove off the main exhibit were black and white photos of the construction and opening of the museum that also featured works of Jasper Johns and Frank Stella. Installed was a video interview of Warhol with a camera around his neck; he often kept a camera with him.  He would have undoubtedly embraced cell phones and the other devices we have today to capture each other as we all have our “fifteen minutes of fame.”

Reflected selfie of Crone, Husband and Son outside the museum.

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A PLEDGE FOR EARTH DAY


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“Wintering in Port Aransas” by Steve Russell

 I Pledge Allegiance to the Earth
And to the Universal Spirit
Which gives us Life;
One Planet, Indivisible
Peace and Justice for Us All.

I Pledge to do my Best
To uphold the Trust bestowed
In the Gift of my Life;
To care for Our Planet
And our Atmosphere,
To Respect and Honor
All her Inhabitants,
All People, Animals,
Plants and Resources,
To Create a Legacy
For Our Children
And Our Children’s Children
In a World of Harmony and Love.

I Pledge Allegiance
To the Universal Spirit,
By whatever Name it may be called.
I align my Life
With the ongoing Process
of Creation;
To grow Myself with Care,
To Act from My Own Integrity,
To Be for Others
How I would want them
To Be for Me.

Together
May We carry this Vision
Into our Hearts,
Into our Daily Choices,
And through Our
Expanding Consciousness
Within and Beyond Our Planet.

Edna Reitz, 1988

 NOTE: Several months ago I found this pledge from a 2011 post on the blog, The Native HeartLight, and saved it for an Earth Day post.  Since then I have not been able to find out anything more about Edna Reitz ,who was given credit for it on a poster, or the pledge itself.  Perhaps she got it from someone else.  I attempted to contact the author of the blog but never received an answer. If anyone knows anything about it, please share.  I still liked it and wanted to share it.

GEORGIA O’KEEFFE IN RED, WHITE AND BLUE


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“THE FLAG” 1918
by GEORGIA O’KEEFFE

A profoundly humane treatment of O’Keeffe and all the people who figured prominently in her long life.” 
Los Angeles Times

     The above quotation from the Los Angeles Times is on the cover of Roxana Robinson’s book, “Georgia O’Keeffe:  A Life.”  Before I read it recently I did not know that much about this artist’s personal life other than that she was married to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz and spent her last years in New Mexico.  Robinson begins with the first O’Keeffes who emigrated from Ireland and settled in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1848 and ends with her death in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1996 at the age of 98.  In the pages between she reveals the life of the artist sometimes most know for her large flowers and her vision of the Southwest that included animal skulls.

     For her time even as a young woman she was quite liberated as she pursued her education and art and dressed as she pleased.  She moved to New York where she studied art and met Alfred Stieglitz for the first time.  For a time she taught art in Amarillo, Texas and apparently fell in love with the desolate landscape.  A few years later she fell in love with Stieglitz.

     From reading this biography it seems to me that O’Keeffe struggled to balance her need for independence and her passion for creating art (she called it her “work) with the obligations of married life.  She and Stieglitz had no children together so she did not have to factor in the responsibilities of motherhood.

     Although her marriage was unconventional, perhaps she was no different from women today who have to make choices about career, marriage and children.  It takes a strong woman to make the difficult choices; Georgia O’Keeffe must have been a strong woman.

Georgia O’Keeffe
1887 – 1996

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