"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Morning road to San Ysidro

5 by 7 watercolor, 140 pound Arches

Head northwest on the road to Jemez, Cuba, Chaco and beyond, and you'll pass these ancient prows of geologic ships  beached forever. One of my favorite New Mexico views.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Landscape I love--for Dad

5 by 7 watercolor, 140 pound arches paper

The landscape northwest of Albuquerque on the road to Chaco is dramatic, captivating with geologic formations and colors you can't imagine. This is near the turnoff to Jemez Pueblo, and is part of the uplift and tilting of once sedimentary rocks by the huge volcanic activity that produced the Jemez caldera. (Pronounced  Ha-mez if you don't know)

It's still a violent and peaceful local...the location of Los Alamos nearby and the development of the A-bomb is symbolic, but not as old as the dances of the Jemez Pueble where you can watch but not take photos nor write nor draw--the descendants of the Anasazi (the old ones) at Chaco ruins who disappeared without a trace 1,000 years ago...and where I camped four years ago, alone and happy and freezing on spring break. Fortunately, I photographed this sentinel on the way up/ The formations remind me of beached WWI battleships...Indeed they are beached in time so old we cannot imagine.

Dad, from you I inherited a small portion of artistic talent, and a huge love for your New Mexico. Happy Father's Day.

My dad had a wooden leg

Dad, at right, with wooden leg. Mom in center, between Jerry and I. Grandmother and husband Worden.Uncle Rex and Edna. Oklahoma summer in the 50s at Thackerville

My dad had a wooden leg.
The Oklahoma teenager was trying to jump a freight train in Tucumcari, New Mexico in the Depression when he slipped or missed the handhold on the boxcar's open door.
The big steel wheels sliced off his right leg between the ankle and the knee and his little finger on the right hand. Somehow he lived, not bleeding to death, not dying from the pain.  I guess you could say he suffered the rest of his life for that moment, though he didn't talk about it much . . . I never asked him.
I remember him talking about coming home  "to die" and about "feeling sorry for himself," until someone chewed him out and got him "back on his feet again."  He hobbled on crutches for awhile and then eventually got a wooden leg.
It must have been quite a shock emotionally, because a few months earlier, he had been "Iron Man Clark" on the Comanche Indian football team.  Short at five foot nine, he was husky, thick-chested.  He played tackle. You didn't get by him on that scrimmage line. He and a friend went to Juarez to celebrate graduation.
And now, well now he was a "cripple."
My uncle Mike, who has two degrees, said he was inspired by Dad to go to college. Mike came up to visit Dad at OU, and there he was, on crutches, pants leg pinned up, washing dishes to pay room and board and tuition.
Later he'd joke that the graduation trip to Juarez was worth it.
But once he learned to walk again, the wooden leg didn't slow him down.
The family was poor, as were most in Oklahoma those days, but despite the leg, he went to college to study his first love . . . art. They said he learned to draw before he learned to walk.  If you see his early work and sketches from art school, you'd believe it.
     Dad specialized in portraits, later at landscapes.  He never completed a degree--probably running out of money, or perhaps just being too interested in art to finish the other requirements.
     He headed west again and earned a bachelor's living in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, Taos, Carlsbad, in bars, hotel lobbies and nightclubs across the state. There he'd do "quick sketches" of whoever would pay, and some who wouldn't.  But 50 cents for a sketch would buy beans and gravy and more in those years and Dad was doing what he liked . . . drawing and traveling and meeting people and talking and living free in "God's Country."
When the War started, instead of going off to fight the enemy like his brothers did in the Pacific, he stayed at home . . . although he tried to enlist.  The Army didn't want a "cripple."  Perhaps the wooden leg saved his life, and is responsible for my brother and I being here. But he did his part, getting a job with Consolidated and North American Aircraft in Fort Worth, doing some of the drafting on the big B-24 Liberator bombers and the sleek P-51 Mustang fighters, aircraft that helped win the war.
And the cripple also drew a portrait of famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle with a background war scene.  That portrait sold a million dollars of War Bonds in Dallas in 1944, and Ernie Pyle autographed the portrait for the "crippled" artist.  The portrait was given to Pyle and ended up in the correspondent's Albuquerque home, where his wife eventually burned it.
Years later, Clark and his family moved back to New Mexico where he could draw and paint landscapes in his leisure time.
His wooden leg became the brunt of jokes, which he enjoyed.  Even though he was a cripple, he went deer hunting in the New Mexico mountains with some archer friends one year. Someone wrote a humorous poem that if Clark didn't kill the deer with his arrows, he could beat it to death with his wooden leg.  He laughed.  We all did.
And the joke was on the others too.  Like the big dog that tried to bite his leg one day when he was riding to work on his motorbike. "You should have seen his expression," Dad laughed.
     Most people didn't know about his leg. But every once in awhile when the wooden leg started acting up or a blister on the stump would form because of a slipped stump sock, he'd have to go to work or to church on crutches, his right trouser leg pinned up. People would stare in horror, thinking that something horrible had happened.
It had, a long time ago, but Dad had learned to live with it and if he was a cripple, it didn't affect the way he lived much.
He was a talented landscape and portrait artist with a keen eye for details, color and realism . . . that was his love, that and the big blue skies and rolling vistas and rugged mesas and mountains of New Mexico.  Everywhere he went there was beauty to be captured by his paints, his pencils.
That was before they had invented the use of the words "handicapped"  or “disabled.” Dad was neither handicapped nor disabled.  He was so nervous that he had to hold his hand still as he painted, but he was not handicapped. Certainly not disabled. He was a cripple, physically, but he worked around it and most people never knew.
With only a small portion of the talent Dad had, and the more I try and study, I'm more and more amazed at what he could do.
There's no disgrace in being a "cripple" or in the word itself.  I look at Dad's paintings and art work every day in my home and my office and see no disgrace, and rarely think of the wooden leg.  "Cripple" may not be a pleasant word--it is jarring, perhaps painfully accurate--but it describes nothing disgraceful.
You see, Dad had a wooden leg.  He was a "cripple."   So what?
Terrence Miller Clark is buried in Fairlawn cemetery at on the north edge of Comanche, just a mile or so from where he was born. On his gravestone: "His spirit lives in his paintings."
Yes, it does.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A logo comes home to roost

l'Twas no ill Eagle
that did something illegal...
a federal crime
without doing time;
using its claws,
ignoring the laws--
airmail with an attitude
in post office spatitudes

(News item--eagles attack people at a post office)


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Feasting on art--part one

The Prix de West show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a world-class feast for me because I get to talk to artists, hear them talk about their craft, see the magnificent works of people who work at it full time, and see the huge prices they demand and get for their work.

Almost all of them studied art when they were younger and they're incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable. So when I attend, I'm going to art school, trying to learn from them. I'm struck by how humble they are, by how humorous they can be about their own work, by their dedication to excellence, by how much they know about art technique and history.

Moab, 16 by 20 oil, by Whitaker--such luminous skin.
Today I got to hear one artist, William Whitaker,  talk about and show mixing his own colors as they did 600 years ago, to get the luminous quality he wants in his portraits. A sculptor was at work down the hall. Yesterday I got to interview  Andy Peters about historic work by Karl Bodmer on a historic trip following Lewis and Clark. He spoke for an hour, no notes, as full of enthusiasm and admiration for one of his "heroes" as a little kid. Whittaker also talked about his heroes. Last year I got to watch and interview a Canadian sculpture creating art from a life Eagle.

I admit, most of the ones I love have southwestern subjects, of my beloved New Mexico and elsewhere.

And I'm always astounded by the watercolors--an envious--when they start at prices of $2,500 and go higher, like this one by Dean Mitchell, a 15" by 10" painting priced at $8,700. And I am stunned by the watercolor work of Sonya Terpening, especially this little girl on the porch:
"I can do that!" 25 by 19

But then there are other favorites, that just make you gasp at their beauty and excellence.

Here are a few--you can see the originals here in Oklahoma City.

Pushing them off the Mesas, 18 by 24, Tim Cox

Through the suburbs of Eden, 28 by 224, Dan Mieduch

Red River Memories, Craig Tenant, 

Bound for Nowhere, 24 by 36, Craig Tennant

Return Procession  on the Night of the Nigh Fires--Taos, 30 by 40, Sherrie McGraw

Next, more paintings, and sculpture and the artist at work

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Paseo festival paintings

My easel in Adelante during the Paseo festival, and some of the watercolor results.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ghosts and legends

The last time they were all together, from left, Terrence Miller (you can see how sick he is in his eyes); Lewis Watts, Cuba John Miller Clark Reasor, Rex Thweatt, Michael Henry and Champ--oldest to youngest. Only Mike is now alive.  Photo from a long time ago in Whitesboro, Tex.,  by Terry.
It's been a week and day of ghosts for me, traveling to see Mike in Walsenburg, Co. It's located on the "Highway of Legends" as they call it in southeast Colorado, and it occurs to me that legends are ghosts.

So today I begin cleaning out the garage, sorting through old boxes  and filling two trash bins. but there is so much you can't throw away--lots of Dad's drawings; letters from grandmother to her sons and from them to her; family history charts; photos of the boys at different stages of their lives; mementos of my own life and children. Lots of things from Mike, after I cleaned out his Santa Fe apartment last year, moving him to a veteran's home. It's sad there is no place but the garage for them, but.... I don't want to dwell in the past, nor to ignore it, and it's good to jog memories, good and bad, hopes and loves and regrets. But. After four hours, I've had about all the ghosts I can handle for one day.

Much more to do--mailing photos to my kids and brother, sorting through the stuff, trying to put it together and tell the stories, the legends of these five boys from the red-dirt poor Comanche, Oklahoma, who all escaped it and the Depression.

But Mike's words to me yesterday stuck with me on the front porch of the veterans home, where he's captive of a wheel chair because he can't walk, the world traveler, now 89. "Terry, enjoy every day you live."

Lots of thoughts and ghosts on the way home, thankfully stopping to play with grand kids and visit daughter and son in law in Amarillo. I traveled 85 years in just a few hours. Mike in the morning, and grandson Max, 4, in the evening.

But today was a good day to start stirring the ghosts, but only a little. Someday someone will be going through my things like I did today. You can't escape the ghosts.