Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brother, can you spare a smile?!

Today my thoughts center around problem-solving---make that "puzzle"-solving. The word "puzzle" is much more optimistic. It implies a definite solution. The word "problem" does not. So, I'm wondering (I seem to wonder again and again) about possible solutions to the multitude of troubles facing our endangered WORLD. On this beautiful Earth Day morning, having saluted lovely Venus and the exquisite sliver of moon--a glorious gift to the early risers who looked to the East--I am searching for a clear and righteous question. I'm searching for a question to pose to myself and the Universe...the kind of question that will lead to the kind of answer that will lead us to the kinds of beauty, safety, happiness and opportunities that we ALL seek. I think we all do seek our own kinds of beauty, safety, happiness and opportunities.

I'm envisioning a growing, world-wide acknowledgement of the strength and fragility of our planet. "Envisioning" works better (for me) than praying. When I envision, I can "actually" see; when I pray, I can only hope!

Everything about our global community seems both fragile and strong these days---environmentally, socially, politically, spiritually, emotionally. Some people look at what's working, what is fixed or (relatively) pure and say things like "it's all okay...don't problem." Other members of this World of ours point to the terrible poverty, wars, pollution and ignorance that threaten our health, livelihood and Peace...and they weep or tear their hair or rant or cry out about our threatened wilderness, our unhealthy children, our homeless, hungry...

In this country, these days, I sense so much isolation---between us, among us, within us. How is it that so many "citizens" who live somewhere between "the redwood forests" and "the gulf stream waters" fail to find pride in this country! What has befallen the people of these United States to cause us to thwart the many opportunities to join with others to celebrate what's right about America and Americans and to work to fix what is wrong about this country of countless possibilities?

My question is: Given that I believe that power, opportunity and solutions can be found in those places where opposites meet (friend/foe; right/left, light/dark, big/small, strong/weak...) how can I (and how can we and how can the World) meet the important issues of our time on those lines in order to solve the issues that threaten the life, liberty and happiness of ALL?

Naivete is one of my strengths. It seems to me that when one is too naive to believe that something can't be done, one just might envision it being done and one just might work to make a difference. A positive difference.

I read a poem (a jingle, actually) long ago. It stays with me to this day: "The World would stop if it were run by those who say 'it can't be done.'"

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A few thoughts on Architecture

Today I will participate in a distinguished panel on Architecture. I am the only non-architect on the panel. The most famous panelist is Ricardo Legoretta! It's the second time this panel has convened. The first time was to choose the recipient of the 2008 Jeff Harnar Award for excellence in Architecture (we did not award the award!!). Today we meet to talk about excellence in architecture in front of a few hundred interested (??) people. I wrote the following a few months ago...but thought it was time to share it.

THE HARNAR AWARD: It was with curiosity and a soupcon of trepidation that I drove up the driveway to Lori Harnar’s house, parked my car and found my way through the tunnel and up the winding staircase to the living quarters where the Jurors for the Harnar Award, as well as those who had organized the events and those who were facilitating, had gathered. It was not my first time in a Harnar house but it was my first time in Harnar’s house. It was remarkable! And yet, something bothered me. I was uncomfortable in the structure…It took a while to realize that the house was not designed for such a gathering…Oh, yes, everyone was accommodated---but in the process of accommodating them, the house was…and I use this word with hesitancy…abused. This house, in my opinion, was designed for Jeff and Lori. It is a highly personal expression. Far more than personal: it is a brilliant, sculptural object in which a private couple could dwell! A sanctuary. A respite from the outside world. The Harnar House is a thoughtfully conceived, creatively designed, masterfully sited and constructed personal monument to a set of ideals. No wonder Garrett Thornburg, who lives in a Harnar designed home, was moved to establish the Harnar Award for Excellence in Architecture in honor of Mr Harnar’s life and in celebration of his work. In 2007, a Jury Awarded the Harnar prize to Suby Bowden. Although I was not on the jury, I know the property and I know Ms. Bowden’s work. She was a most appropriate and most deserving recipient of the first Harnar Prize.

This year seven applicants presented their submissions for this award. After our first review of the material in the folders and the power point presentations, I had troubling thoughts. Where was the remarkable (and sexy) innovation that I experienced in the Harnar properties? Where was the superior design, the careful attention to site, the special use of materials? In short, where was the innovation?
I am not an architect. I am a Dealer of fine contemporary art. My life is about considering ideas, form, geometry, color, originality, execution, truth, beauty and the relationship of these elements with the whole. My responses are more intuitive than intellectual, more emotional than practical. With that caveat in place, I state that, from my vantage point, not one of the submissions came close to meeting the criteria for the Harnar Award. From first view of the seven submitted projects, I felt that no award should be given. To select the best of the uninspired would be to do a disservice to Harnar’s work and memory and to reduce significantly the honor that was given to last year’s honoree.

“Science works with chunks and bits and pieces of things with the continuity presumed, and (the artist) works only with the continuities of things with the chunks and bits and pieces presumed.”

---Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The connections between art and architecture---like the connections between aesthetics and ethics---are subtly present in all sorts of contrasts and comparisons. One can be found inside the other, or enfolding the other, or supporting or confounding the other. Architecture is the new glamour career, the new passion, fad and/or hobby. Everyone is an expert. Everyone has an opinion. Today the interested public is easily (all but blindly) lured or swayed by the hype that surrounds the creations of certain “famous” architects. Some architectural projects turn into sightseeing wonders---sometimes at the expense of their implied or original function. Some new museums eclipse or outshine the art in their collections. Some simply do a disservice to the collections by flaunting faux architectural genius above function. Not that form must always strictly follow function but shouldn’t it do more than merely pay lip service to it? But where is the dialogue? Where are the arbiters of taste or should there be no arbiters of taste.
Here in Santa Fe, architecture has been turned into a game: how many ways can adobes (and faux adobe walls) vigas, portals, copings, small windows, latillas, Mexican tiles…be designed/ assembled, re-designed/re-assembled to create an original look in the historic zone!

It seems that this current, all-consuming culture of ours, is embracing the idea of art and architecture more and more but ignoring the study of aesthetics and authenticity. We have lowered out standards of excellence. We “worship” the big and strange and famous and hyped at the expense of simple genius and elegance. Ersatz satisfies! There is not enough general education available or desired---education that would give people the tools to see rather than just look. We have become addicted to "syte bytes" rather than sites and sights. To consider excellence takes time. One must look at details. Not everything can be seen and appreciated in an instant.
We have the start of the slow food movement…now we need the slow observing movement.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To Wisconsin (an infinitive)

Picture this, if you dare: It's late at night. I am in a small, meticulously appointed room in an over-the-top quaint Victorian bed and breakfast inn in Whitewater Wisconsin. I am the only guest and I have not seen the proprietors of the establishment for forty-eight hours. I have nothing to read but a week old Newsweek magazine...There is no television, no radio and I have a full-blown case of insomnia. Maddeningly, there is a gospel tune stuck in my head and I can't stop singing it: "Oh, Sisters let's go down, let's go down, don't ya wanna go down, oh, Sisters let's go down, down in the river to pray..."

I am tired. I have just finished two long (albeit rewarding and great) days lecturing in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater. I keep singing (ahhrghh) and reviewing the high points of those high point-filled days...My flight to Minneapolis--connecting to Albuquerque--leaves Milwaukee at 8:40 am. Milwaukee is more than an hour away. Do the math.

"As I went down in the river to pray, studyin' about that good old way..."

Fortunately, I am able to sing and think at the same time. It's a multi-tasking trick that has served me well on the countless occasions when I've been caught in a sleepless, bookless, conversationless state. This time it's the State of Wisconsin.

And so, I think!
What made me fall in love with Whitewater, Wisconsin, I ask myself--because I am clearly, clearly (double "clearly" intentional) smitten with everything Whitewater-ish. I'm moved by the kindness and friendliness of everyone. I'm in love with five or six brilliant and engaged members of the faculty of the Art and English Departments. I'm crazy about the students. And (surprise, surprise) some of the Art is almost remarkable. However, most of the food is not very good---which may be why I'm wide awake singing and recalling the mistake that was the penne pasta with chicken cubes and some kind of flour-y cheese paste.

There is a special sort of delight in finding oneself somewhere one has never fantasized about going and finding that that "somewhere" has a headful of surprises to bestow on the aforementioned self. To lose the ignorant (yes, let's call it ignorant) notion that one knows where the artistic excitement, cultural relevance, sophistication, pleasure and authenticity can be found is to lose a notion so narrow, so parochial, so self-defeating as to be intellectually crippling. I lost such a notion.
I went to Whitewater, Wisconsin to share some of my professional experience and knowledge (and to collect a small honorarium). I returned rested and renewed (yes, I slept on both planes). I returned home with a more open heart and with a secret embarrassment (now shared with you) regarding my narrow preconceived notions about things I should refrain from preconceiving--if I ever hope to become any sort of enlightened individual!

"...and who shall wear the robe and crown, Good Lord, show me the way..."

The infinitive "to Wisconsin" is newly defined as the ability to find inspiration, satisfaction, wisdom and/or love in an unexpected place. Wishing you "Wisconsin"!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


For someone who claims to use her Gallery as a "vehicle for communication" this writer has experienced some recent (and lamentable) communication failures (mishaps, tragedies, frustrations...).
Subject: my participation in a Code Pink/U.N. supported Delegation to Gaza to celebrate International Women's Day with the women of Gaza and to witness the results of the December/January attacks by Israel on the children, buildings, families, farms, animals, businesses, schools, hospitals, vehicles, and very livelihood of the captive humans on that small strip of land...
Okay, I do see a smidgen of Palestinian-leaning attitude here. However, I didn't have the"attitude" when I embarked on the trip. I was simply curious, adventurous, mildly informed and able to scrape together enough money to make the trip. The attitude definitely built while I was in Rafah, Gaza City and Jabaliya. It continued to build while I participated in meetings with psychologists, relief workers, teachers, lawyers and a wide variety of Palestinians imprisoned by the power of the mightier, the angrier, the crueler Israeli Military. My attitude of the unfairness of it all built in me as my days of witnessing in Gaza passed---wrenchingly, horrifyingly. I was emotionally destroyed by the (first hand) reality of the profound and utter destruction of lives, liberty and the pursuit of basic happiness. But that is not my only area of "attitude."
Not at all!...I have never failed to take into consideration the many Israeli lives that have been greatly harmed as a result of this seemingly endless war of anger, aggression, fear, ignorance and revenge. Revenge! What a futile, senseless way of life! Last week The Santa Fe Reporter published snippets of a long interview with me that a conscientious writer had conducted a few days after my return from Gaza. At one point, she included a list of events from that trip--including my (true) statement that I attended a presentation by two Palestinian women who were arrested and imprisoned (for years) in Israel and...tortured. I didn't make it up. In fact, someone filmed it and I think it can be found on YouTube. The next day, my Staff and I had the unpleasant opportunity of listening to a voice message from an enraged woman--telling me that I had no proof of the torture and that I was causing problems by speaking such nonsense and that I should not meddle in politics and I should stay in my gallery with the horrible grenade. She said she was a woman of peace. And since I too am a woman of peace, I called her to attempt a conversation for clarity. A woman with the same voice as the woman who left the message said that she was the cousin and that the person who called me had gone to Europe that morning and would be gone for months. chance of a peaceful reconciliation there, I guess. At least not for a while. This week The Reporter printed a letter to the editor from a man who seems to be accusing me of not having sympathy for an Israeli family whose 13 year old boy had been "hacked to death by a Palestinian terrorist" recently! He further suggested that my "Code Pink colleagues" and I would not find the torture of a Rabbi and his pregnant wife by "jihadi terrorists in Dubai" reprehensible. Not stopping there, he thinks my colleagues and I would not cry at the horrors of human annihilation in the Sudan. Now, why would he think that my crying over the cruelty delivered upon the of lives and land of Gaza and Gazans (indiscriminate bombing and bulldozing, injuries, death and destruction from white phosphorous) would preclude my crying over cruelty anywhere?! In The Sudan, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar...wherever the powerful prey on the weak...wherever Evil harms the Innocent...wherever sociopaths and psychopaths harm children and destroy lives, I stand and object. And, I weep!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In The Answers Are The Questions! In The Solutions Are The Problems!

Back in the 80’s, when interest rates on bank loans were sky high, I experienced a dark period in the early life of my Gallery. I recall spending night after sleepless night and day after stress-filled day searching for ways to pay off a two hundred thousand dollar loan that was (fast) coming due. It was a most uncomfortable time for my fledgling business and for me! I was a foolish young woman intent on the pursuit of “a highly improbable fantasy”--or so I was told by many a would-be expert. Yes, I risked expensive money on a dream that was not based on super sound financial thinking. And yes, I was a naïve, cockeyed optimist---willing to live with whatever consequences came my way. Daily, I chased wild fears from my thoughts. Nightly I counted them like so many sheep: abject failure, humiliation, banishment, bankruptcy, public embarrassment, disappointed children, loss of friends, debtors’ prison…
During one of those dark days (and there were many), my friend Deirdre, a single mother raising two small boys alone, called me in a panic. She was completely and utterly distraught because she owed five hundred dollars and she didn’t have it and she didn’t know how to get it…I tried to comfort her with my much larger tale of woe—to no avail, I’m sure.
That night I spoke to a successful businessman, a savvy mentor of mine. I told him about my friend who was worried about her measly five hundred dollar debt. I made light of it---comparing it to the far more serious situation of my frighteningly significant two hundred thousand dollar debt. The businessman looked at me with a knowing smile. After a long pause, he confessed that he owed two and a half million dollars and he didn’t know where to find it. He needed it by the end of the following week!
And…then I got it!
It’s all relative! The nervousness, the sleepless nights, the fears, the impending embarrassment…it is all the same. If a young single mother owes five hundred dollars and can’t pay it, it’s no less disturbing to her than owing two hundred thousand dollars is to a struggling, inexperienced entrepreneur who doesn’t have it and doesn’t know how to find it. Moreover, the mature investor, caught in a two point five million dollar money bind, is surely not experiencing any greater anxiety than the aforementioned.
It’s all relative!
But not particularly comforting!

This, I think, is how it is now---now, in the economic weirdness that is 2009:
Banks aren’t lending. Workers are struggling. Small businesses are in trouble. Newspapers are folding. (no pun intended) Restaurants are closing. Automobile plants are shutting down. Investment firms are laying off workers. Real estate is soft. Rich people aren’t buying art.
Where is the money? Where did it go? When will it come back? Will any of it come my way? How will I keep my commitments? How will you keep yours? Who (or what) is in charge? What can I do to alleviate my own quiet anxiety? Can I (possibly) assuage the anxiety (I see it on the faces, I hear it in the voices) of the people I meet? What would make me think I could? Why do I have so much? How can I lighten my footprint on the planet? Why are people mean? Who are the fear mongers? How can we disappear them? Why is my country still funding evil war machines? Is this what God intended? Maybe there is no God. How did it all begin? Where and when and how will it end?
And what’s all this about a “new paradigm”???
In The End Is The Beginning…

Friday, April 3, 2009

Taking a Chance on Truth

…I’m searching for the theme of these current days of mine. Various themes are suggested by this middle of the night mind of mine. The theme is a cocktail of sorts, a recipe, a formula; one not worth recreating in any kitchen or laboratory. It proves nothing and it’s hard to swallow. It’s life, I guess. Just life.

Sadness. Loneliness. Loss. Forgiveness. Abandonment. Discovery. Redemption.

My Life
Once upon a time there was a lonely woman who lived in the middle of a lot of people. She had grown to maturity through a million mistakes. Mistakes made every day, at every turn. And, at all those turns, she judged herself. There were the superficial judgments (too short, too thin, too dumb) and there were the more profound judgments (too insignificant, too misguided, too dangerous, too undesirable, too unforgivable).
Everyone knew her. And no one knew her. She knew she didn’t know herself.

Her Life in “The Oughts”
Wake up. Feed the dog, the cat, the fish, the birds. Take a short walk. Read the paper. Listen to the radio. Drink some tea or coffee. Check e-mail. Water the plants. Do some laundry. Take a shower. Get dressed. Pay bills. Go to work. Figure it out, figure it out. Try to figure it out. Keep going. Keep going. Keep trying to keep going. Smile. Pay attention. Say thank you. Say yes. Say no thank you. Say enough. Say too much. Say it again. Say it too quickly, too softly, too harshly. Say can you see…

It dawns on me…
Tomorrow and tomorrow…petty pace…last syllable…out…out…walking shadow…poor player…fools…dusty death…no more…

Something like that. Something like nothing. Nothing special.

“I am special, ” the ingénue says in the Fantastiks. “Please God please” she implores, “don’t let me be normal.” But she is normal. She is some kind of normal. She is aspects of normal. Normal says, “Don’t let me be normal.”

I’m thinking about everyone. Right now, in the middle of the night, having over-eaten and having drunk a bit of wine, I’m thinking about the everyone-ness of us. Everyone. The people who are lonely and the people who don’t know that they are lonely. And the lonely people who don’t know that the people they know are lonely people. No one says so. No. Say it isn’t so.

There are lonely people who appear…Wait. Wait a minute. I am no Eleanor fucking Rigby. I’m not lonely. I’m simply alone. No, not simply alone. Profoundly alone. And sad. But not the kind of sad that can be erased with a song or a few comforting words. And not the kind of sad that can be fixed with a fortune or a soul mate. Profoundly and unalterably sad.

Telling the Truth
Speaking truth to loneliness. It’s okay. It is, after all, next to Godliness. Loneliness is.
Lonely as a cloud. Lonely like a cloud: just vapor and fluff, floating in and around, changing shape, blown by this and that, affected/not affected by this and that. Formed. Unformed. Uninformed. Uniformed.
See…don’t see.
See the shining sea!
Sea of possibilities. See the possibilities.
Sea of change. Change of scene. Scene of destruction.

See, this is a place in my mind, a moment in time. In impatient syncopation.
A bit out of step. But in the flow.
Too sensitive. Too insensitive. What’s the difference? Both are problematic.
The best becomes the worst. The inside is the outside. Still and always, the energy is on the line where opposites meet. Where they fight or join or retreat or disappear. Where the enemy becomes the friend. Where the weak inherit the earth.

I live on the line between old and young, between dark and light, between evil and good, between transparent and opaque. In my solitude, I curse myself, I amuse myself, I forgive myself, I encounter myself. I erase myself and re-draw myself.
In encountering myself, I discover that I feel disappointed. That is all there is. This is all there is. It all means something. It all means nothing. All and Everything. Being and Nothingness. It’s all been said and read and written and forgotten. Before. And after. And here I am in the middle of the night, tap, tap, tapping on the bones of the misbegotten. Tugging on my own bones. Stretching. Longing to figure out the unfigureoutable. Finding myself in the darkness of my knowing. It is over. It is beginning. It is continuing. It is continuing to be over. It is beginning to continue.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


For days, I have been attempting to write about a memorable afternoon in Gaza. I have been struggling to find the words to describe the remarkable Women of Rafah who greeted four fortunate foreigners from the Code Pink Delegation. I want to share with others (with the World, actually) just how important this day was for me. I need to find the words and the tone to communicate the warmth and love of those special hours, with those gentle women. Usually words come easily to me. But no, not this time. Because this experience, for me, was transformational! Too big for easy words!


In a matter of minutes, upon entering a compound in Rafah, Gaza on International Women's Day, I fell in love. First, I fell in love with a dozen women who sat in the sand around a fire making bread and showing me how to make bread the Gazan way. I tried my hand at the technique. It was not as easy as it looked. (It's all in the wrist and in the timing!) Next, I fell in love with the seventy-five women (+/-) in the community room---who greeted me with applause and smiles and then with embraces and kisses. I fell in love with the day, with the palpable joy in the air and with the immediate sense of sisterhood that filled the room and filled my heart. In that place, I experienced a kind of loving friendship that (frankly, sadly) I had never experienced before. Not in any family gatherings. Not in any long ago middle school girls' groups. Not in any of my various workplaces. Not in dance classes. Not in consciousness-raising groups. Never! Nowhere! I don't ever recall experiencing the instantaneous, magical love that I experienced in Rafah, on Sunday, March 8th 2009.

Later that day, in the lobby of the Gaza City hotel, I wrote in my journal: "This day was worth the whole trip."

In the all-purpose room, of the local center, in a shabby part of the prison that is the Gaza Strip, in the company of Muslim women of all ages, I found a true and complete sense of sisterhood. In the happy company of scores of women in all manner of dress---from the fully veiled consevative abayas some women wore to the stylish contemporary outfits of many of the younger women----I experienced a deep feeling of belonging. Renewal. Truth. Connection. Love.

On impulse, I gave a short speech that one of the Palestinian women translated for me. It went something like this: "On this special day, dedicated to the honor of women everywhere in the world, I am grateful to have the opportunity to thank you for your kind invitation and to acknowledge the warm bond of understanding among us that has been clearly evident from the moment we got off the bus and entered this place. As daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and grandmothers, (and I have been all of those) we dedicate ourselves to the never-ending responsibility and opportunity of bestowing our love and nurturing on our families, neighbors and communities. I am very happy to be with you today to celebrate all that we are and all that we share and all that we want for our families. We want simple things: safety, shelter, nourishing food, clean water, health care, access to information and education and the opportunity to worship and celebrate in our chosen ways. I'm sure I speak for my Code Pink colleagues when I say, 'Shokron, shokron!' We are thankful for your warm and welcoming hospitality! Happy International Women's Day!"

The Women of Gaza have lost so much. They have suffered for so long. Their homes have been damaged or destroyed. Their husbands, brothers and children have been killed. Supplies for the basics of life are difficult to obtain. Unemployment is at 80%...

One of the high points in an afternoon of high points, was watching the play that the women had created and rehearsed to present to us on International Women's Day. Their unknown audience was a group of Code Pink Women who, as they were told, might or might not succeed in getting across the closed border with Egypt and who might or might not be able to share the day with them. The women were hopeful, prepared and enthusiastic. Just four members of the fifty-eight person Delegation (facilitated by the United Nations Relief Workers Agency) had the privilege, the honor and the remarkable opportunity of being part of that audience--part of that laughing, dancing example of feminie solidarity.

I am imagining a reverse situation---a situation in which several women from Gaza come to my city---guests of a women's organization in my town. I imagine the courteous cordiality, the little cookies, the polite greetings, the proffered gift, the pleasant curiosity...But I can't imagine an outpouring of love from typical club women in this country. I can't imagine the sincere embraces and the kisses, kisses, kisses...

Why? Where are we hiding our capacity for grace and our willingness to approach others with our hearts fully open and our guards down? Is it these current and challenging days of ours that shrink our genuine openness? Have we closed down our main conduits for true connection with others? Connections to those deep and true places of love? Have I? I have. Perhaps, somewhere along the many years I've spent in this body, in my on-going experience as a woman of a certain age (and social and political persuasions) perhaps I shut down--or never opened to certain kinds of love...But things are different. The Women of Gaza have connected me to a part of myself that I want to value, celebrate and cherish.

Yes, Cherish is the word!