Portrait of Fernanda and Notes on Process

This is an edited re-posting of of something I wrote a few days ago, hopefully free of the blather that marked the first post. I picked up a virus from the kids and while they recovered quickly I developed pneumonia, a condition I am predisposed to. The last time this happened my fever spiked at 105.F and I wrote madly from my hospital room, fully under the influence of fever and meds. Alright so far, and then I hit “SEND”. A little later Naomi arrived and confiscated my laptop.

So I should have know better that to write and publish now. I have separated out the con-jumbled issues into two post. This, the first, is on art, Fernanda, her marvelous life, her umbrella full of sunshine, and my marvelous, forgotten pink painting. In the next post will address the discovery of liver cancer and my upcoming need for a transplant.

Fernanda Sosa

A current portrait of Fernanda Fernanda Sosa (a person beyond description or I would try) in her Caracas living room. A most cherished friendship. She is sitting in front of a painting I had almost forgotten; mixed media on printed upholstery fabric. The fabric was a cotton/linen blend of English origin. I wish I could find more.

I painted on the back, where the bleed from the repeated floral print was more subtle and more lovely than the actual print on the face of the linen. The added benefit to working on the back was that there is no Scotchguard to repel my paint. Later I discovered transparent gesso which would have sealed and protected the raw fabric from the materials I used in the painting. In that time concerns about archival quality were not topmost on my mind.

The painting was from a series that I called my “Rockheads”. It was a familiar process that began with unrolling a bolt of raw canvas, (or printed upholstery material) – onto cracked and broken lengths of sidewalk. I would mark out portrait or landscape-oriented rectangles as I went down the line and fill them with charcoal impressions picked up from the sidewalk. From there to the studio walls (I had forty foot long studio walls) and standing back and meditating on suggested images.

These paintings were process pieces that slowly cohered over time. I sharpened suggested images with charcoal, pastels, scrubbed in clear binder, continued with colored latex or acrylic washes. From there to solid color and finally to oils for finishing. Running out of inspiration on one image I would move down the line to work on another until ideas returned. Some of the discreet pictures grew into one another until they became inseparable, more challenging and interesting. When finished I cut them apart and stretched them.

This was a way of working carried over from a childhood of tracing images in the clouds and faces in the wood grain when I should have been focusing on math and science as I sat at my little wooden desk. I have never tired of it.

After reading “The Success and Failure of Picasso”, by John Berger, I went through a time when I looked at my work and judged it rather harshly, seeing it as too facile, too easy.  It was a way of working I enjoyed and that came naturally but my half-WASP background got in the way of total enjoyment and acceptance.

Picasso’s ultimate failure, according to what I took away from Berger, was that in his later years his subject – that being himself – was too small. He needed a larger subject. Not something to go into here but I puzzled over implications for me and my subject. I considered my subject to be my life, my stories, my recovery. My engagement with art was a major part of my recovery from a life that up to a certain point had truly not been very well or wisely lived. Art was essential to my healing and continued emotional and spiritual growth and continued well-being. I let go of the thought that my subject might be too small. It was necessary work that served an essential function.

new studio-56-Ada

How the paintings begin, with Ada at 2 years.

How they progress

How they progress

what they can become, over time

Posted in art, art and alchemy, maria fernanda sosa, painting, portraits, Process, recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Catfish and Snapper

Catfish and Snapper.

A little something from my friend, Don Jorge.

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A little E.R. poem

I spent a little time in the Emergency Room at St. Vincent’s this morning. They found some pneumonia and I’m at home with good company (Broadus) and antibiotics. It turns out my ER Doc, Jamie Gagan, is a practicing artist disguised in a white coat. Here is a link to some of her work.

For what it’s worth here is a little poem I wrote on my phone as I lay on my back in my sick bed in my little cubicle. Thinking about… I don’t know, just thinking, making stuff up.

Every breath is a moment in time
a breath of yours is a breath of mine
Under the hill and far away
the children come the children play
Dusk brings a weekend of song and dream
Night is the home to which we all wing
Most awaken with the coming of dawn
And some remain at the fountain of song.

Here is a picture of some flowers Broadus brought me when I returned home. His eye was drawn to the identical yellows in the two different flowers and he made me a present.

Broadus brings flowersNot Hiroshi’s hands, but a kid’s refined hands already doing interesting work. He is just beginning his artistic journey. These are the hands of a 6’2″ fifteen year old finishing his first year at the New Mexico School for the Arts here in Santa Fe.

And here is a picture of the acequia running at the border of our back yard, and why I can call our place waterfront property. If it were not for this occasional storm-driven acequia flow creating a dense green swath through the city I would feel much less at home here in our High Desert setting.

Green Zone

Posted in 'tis a gift to be simple, acequia, art, broadus, callings, Dr. Jamie Gagan, nmsu, poetry, stories | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Hiroshi Sueyoshi and Jane on their swing through Santa Fe

I guess how to do this will come back to me as I write. And I need to write. First though, I am transferring my facebook post about Hiroshi and Jane’s visit over to this site. Because I know how to work with this one and I find facebook hectic, and when I want to think about things out loud I want a little quiet space to do it in. I do think I’ll start a new blog though. This is too cluttered, and I want to tell stories. Maybe over the weekend.

Here are the notes on Hiroshi’s visit.

I took these pictures of Hiroshi Sueyoshi’s hands today. He is holding a (as yet unidentified) black clay pot with a large center opening and a smaller opening at the top of the handle. A lamp? It is a Goodwill find I passed on to Hiroshi. Jane and Hiroshi are finishing the first leg of their Western Tour. It is a pleasure to see them again. Hiroshi was the first person I met on my first pass through Wilmington in 1978 when he was the Artist-in-Residence at CFCC. I was exploring the decommissioned WW2 floating torpedo repair factory the school was using for marine tech classrooms and I stumbled into his studio. I remember him as soft spoken and kind, a light in his eyes and the hint of a smile. I was in need of a friend at the time. The light is still there, so is the smile, so is the friend.

Jane cajoled Ada, our 6 year old, to bring out her cello and play for us. Jane played first and knew all Ada’s tunes. It was a pleasure to see them together. Yesterday Broadus, Hiroshi, Jane and I went to brunch outside of Santa Fe at the San Marcos Feed Store and Cafe. Afterwards, in the Hardware store that is also part of the Feed Store and Cafe, Hiroshi bought horseshoes of various sizes, some brass hardware and a pair of spurs. Not silver, but very pretty.

Thanks to Jane Base, who emailed ahead to say they were coming. I hope to see Wilmington folks when we are back the last two weeks of July.

For those who do not know Hiroshi here is a link to his website and to an article about him and his work.



Rick Mobbs's photo.
Rick Mobbs's photo.

Ada plays for Jane and Hiroshi. Jane, who teaches violin and piano, knew all the songs.

Rick Mobbs's photo.

Scrolling through the “Likes”(on Facebook) I see so many familiar names and faces. I have missed North Carolina, Wilmington friends and the water in particular. We have been living in a parched landscape – beautiful in its way – at 7,000 feet above my comfort zone for the last 8 years. We have added two mountain girls to our family, Ada Corrina Meridian Swinton, 6.5 years old, and Calliope Roselma Pearl, age 2, – Swinton, I beieve, but maybe Swinton-Mobbs. I forget, but I think the girls have both our names, just the reverse order from Broadus Mobbs, 15.5 years. We are a trip at the border, sorting it all out. We bought a house in Santa Fe in the Fall of ’14 and moved most of us down from the UWC-USA campus. Naomi still works there and commutes down with Calliope. She will soon be wearing other hats there though and will live with us in SF. We found a waterfront property. We back up to an Acequia, remnants of the old Spanish irrigation system. The water still flows during snow runoff, heavy rains in the mountains, and during the Monsoon season in July and August.

The Acequia Madre – the “Mother Acequia” – is a few blocks west. It runs torrents when it runs, the Flash Floods we are warned against. Our acequia doesn’t run dangerously though. Up to the knee on me. Calliope can’t play on her own but Broadus and Ada can build dams and bridges and float sticks and leaves. Even unused now the acequias still create thin green lines overgrown with grasses and trees across the city. We are five minutes from the old Plaza but we are in a bird paradise, the trees muffle the sounds of the city, we have two goats in the yard (life used to be so hard, now everything is easy because of you). Broadus wants baby chicks. Next week we will go back to the San Marcos Feed Store and Cafe, and pick out the ones he likes. I’ll rent a rototiller and till an area back by the acequia. A gentleman farmer I am not, but the assignment to Half-way house garden in Dorchester Mass saved my life and sanity once and I would like to return to the serenity, creativity, and spell-bound awe of those days. My feelings about living in NM have turned 180 degrees since moving to Santa Fe.
This feels like home. Quiet, and the screen of Chinese Elms spreading like live oaks. We found a sprawling place that needs work. There is a casita – a little house – for those of you who would like to visit and bring tidings from the East Coast or points more or less distant. The house is in Casa Alegre, one of several unbelievably sweet neighborhoods built by a guy named Stamm in the 50’s and 60’s.The 70’s too, but we are in a house built in the 50’s. Small, by today’s standards. Especially considering the converted garage I set up as a makeshift studio has been taken over by the three younger creatives living here. I’ll have to build a studio in the backyard. In the meantime I’ll used the breezeway, the interconnected porches of the houses. I will be exiting the movie business soon and be back to making stuff, the thing that has always felt like my natural calling. Anybody out there know how to make a living from Art? Hiroshi’s visit has brought up a creative surge. Facebook is such an odd way to keep up with people but sometimes it does feel good. This is better for me though.
Posted in a living treasure, Ada Swinton, art, awakening, Broadus Mobbs, cello, ceramics, friendship, getting the hell out of the movies, Hiroshi Sueyoshi, naomi swinton, writing to make sense of a life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Broken Angel (Last Call)

What I have been up to. Beside being a daddy, working in the movies and etc. Here is a picture of a work-in-progress. Wax at this point, about 22 inches tall, ready to gate and vent and cast in bronze at the NMHU foundry. I think of it as a broken angel, or maybe a Wild Hunt survivor.  This is the third iteration as it has fallen apart or broken three times during making, gating and venting, and the work has been interrupted two or three times by out-of-town movies. I hope to finish and cast it over the summer. In the meantime Calliope has turned one, Broadus has turned fourteen. Ada will be six on the fourth of July and I’ll be one hundred and six in February. Naomi is, as always, timeless.   broken angel

Posted in "...where danger is there arises salvation also...", ada corinna, Broadus Mobbs, Calliope Zelma Pearl Swinton Mobbs, naomi swinton, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

living with one bowl?

Putting back more than I take? Good Orderly Direction? Not things I’ve been thinking about. A lot of bowls would have to go. I try to back to life. Good Orderly Direction? No. Maybe time for inventory? Look at who I am again. After all these years.

Posted in first steps, issues of long term sobriety | Leave a comment

Coal Miner’s Granddaughter

Looking over these photos I posted elsewhere I thought they might be of interest to some of you.

The photos are from a movie called “Country Justice”, filmed in Tazewell Virginia. (For a while it was known as “Coal Miner’s Grand-daughter”.) This was George C. Scott’s last movie. I was Scenic Charge, responsible for interviewing miners and collecting reference photos inside a working West Virginia low seam coal mine. This required traveling two miles inside the mountain, the ceiling never more than four feet above the floor. The miners spent their working lives crouched, crawling and shifting. I directed a crew of scenic artists and foam carvers in making a modified replication of what I saw in the mine. Our work was above ground, and light, compared to theirs.

A miner on his mining machine. (In West Virginia, across the state line from Tazewell, Virginia)

A miner on his mining machine. The grinding head is in the nose of the machine, about fifteen feet in front of the miner. The miners follow the coal seam, leaving pillars of coal to hold up the ceiling. Once the seam is exhausted the miners back out, collapsing the pillars and collecting the coal as they go.

Should the ceiling collapse on the miner, rescuers will dig in and grapple onto the back of the drilling machine and pull it out. It will quickly return to service, controlled, very likely, by another driver.  As you can see there is no overhead protection for the man.

This photo shows the actual West Virginia miners.

Despite the working conditions they were a hardy, cheerful lot.

A crew photo in the re-imagined mine.

Taswell Virginia had one motel at the time. Crew (and leads who wished) were housed with mining families. We were well fed and cared for. The local and family histories we heard did give us cause for reflection; me anyway. Generations of men worked the mines and everyone had lost someone to accident, black-lung, cave-ins, methane explosions which turned mine shafts into canon barrels, shooting miners across the valley to crash into the opposing mountain. We learned of strikes and shut-outs, shoot-outs and union-busting; the times and the economic hardships; the lack of choices for the young people. But there were also music, cheer, laughter and comfort to be shared. People are people, where ever we go. I’m glad I took this gig.
The set rigged for cave in.

Five thousand gallons of water rushed in on the actors. Among them was George C. Scott, who had to leave his oxygen bottle whenever he worked. A strong union guy, he refused to cross a picket line during the show. The production backed down.

Another shot of the real mine.

We prettied things up a bit.

Another wing of the set. When the shooting was over people from the community asked us to please leave the set in place. (We used a large municipal warehouse for Art Department and set construction.) Production agreed. We learned that for all the generations of men that had worked the mines, the women -wives, mothers, sisters, daughters – had never seen the inside of a mine, the places where their men spent their working lives. Viewing the sets gave them some idea of their loved ones working environments. A very approximate idea, as you can tell from the pictures. For other set pictures and examples of movie work – backdrops, etc. – please visit New Mexico Storyboards and Art to Go.

Posted in "...where danger is there arises salvation also...", "Country Justice" movie, Coal Miner's Granddaughter, george c. scott, lead scenic, low seam coal mines, scenic artist, set building foam carving, set painting, Tazewell Virginia, West Virginia coal miners | Leave a comment