"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A train in the rain and the Prix de West

I completed a watercolor tonight...the first in over a month.

Earlier I read Pablo Neruda's The Book of Questions, and several stuck in my mind, but this one stood out: "Hay algo mas triste en el mundo que un tren inmovil in la lluvia?" "Is there anything in the world sadder than a train standing in the rain?"
I'm a train person, have been ever since I can remember, and I could see this image.

Now I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't been fortunate to attend the Prix de West art show and weekend at National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum over the weekend. Immersed in really great art, talking to and watching great artists, covering speeches and demonstrations as a real journalist for Persimmon Hill, the museum's magazine.

You come out of there inspired, astounded and humbled by art greater than anything I can do. Thankful to be blessed by such an experience. I knew my dormant art would rise, but it needed a spark, and the poem was it.

So I've done this 7 inch by 9 inch painting on d'Arches 140 pound rough paper of an old steam engine at a depot, steam rising from the smokestack, waiting, almost all grey, its blurred reflection in a pool of water in the foreground. Yellow light from the depot window on the right,and in the cab, with a little red under the boiler.

The reflection is blurry, as in the rain. The sky is a mottled deep grey. An old water tower is blurred by the rain behind it to the left.

I'm waiting on it to dry to see if I can put a downpour of water over the whole scene without ruining it. It's a question, like the poem. It's not Prix de West, but it is who I am, at this moment.

In fact, almost all art is a question, or a lot of questions, and as a journalist I'm supposed to be an expert at asking questions. Answering them is another matter.

Neruda's questions are disturbing, vibrant, provoking, many imagistic. They're like the people you know and value most, deeper than the surface.

"Where is the child I was,
deep inside me or gone?
Why did we spend so much time
growing up only to separate?"

Or,

The one that seems to fit my life at the moment:

"Is what I see from afar
what I have not yet lived?"

My sad train stands in the rain, without an answer.

Ursa th' professa"

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