Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday Nostalgia

I walked up to the Art Museum this past Sunday after spending a beautiful afternoon at the Earth Day festivities with some friends at Forest Park. No one else wanted to go, so I went alone which is fine by me and how I usually prefer to do it. I like to take my own time occasionally lingering in favorite galleries, and being the student of art that I am, company tends to cloud my thoughts. I'm also a loner of sorts.

Max Beckmann's room is always reviewed when I visit. I never get tired of these, huge, dark paintings- they have haunted me for years, and they enchant me in an indescribable way. The meaning of their mysterious narratives elude me, so I must always return to my work at understanding them, hour & hours over the decades I've come to study them. The Beckmann in Paris show I attended  in 1999 really captured me, juxtaposing the artist's work next to that of his contemporaries during his years there. I will never get over that show, his paintings, or his room in the Museum.

Coming out of the Museum and back down the hill I had the most intoxicating whiff of nostalgia, the years of visiting all rushing back to me- when I first came as a St. Louis resident and young painter with big dreams 14 years ago, taking my then 5 yr old niece there to draw, visiting with my college painting class in the early 90's, holding hands with my high school sweetheart wandering through the galleries, visiting as a child with my mother...  I hadn't felt that way in awhile. Maybe it was the warm, sunny afternoon, or freshly mowed grass, or both combined with some favorite old paintings. Whatever it was I was bowled over by it, like my life flashing before my eyes or something. I wish I could bottle that...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Awkward introductions and casual fumbling
Relieve the tension and excuse the shaking girl
Who sat where you belong,
Lovingly weaving the basket I can put my feelings in later.

But I can’t see your simple spring cotton, ordinary beauty, sensible shoes…
Only your North City lights,
“Little lavender colored mints,
Teacups hung on hooks,
And pirate’s flying saucer”-
Because the multicolored jewels that spill from your lips
Make me “feel like I have tears in my eyes”.

So I close them, acquiesce,
To concentrate on your careful telling,
Of  “scribbled notes in dove-blood ink on yellowed vellum”,
Delivered by the harried prophet from outside the cafe,
To you, then me-
Secret whispered from the edge of my memory,
Told softly as Grandmother’s hands, neatly folding linen napkins,
And a with kid’s smile, behind intelligent eyeglasses
Now I know what he said, but won’t repeat,
In a language I can’t speak,
But now understand.

CM Shaw 2011

I took a few lines from St. Louis poet Stefene Russell for this, hence the quotation marks. I did this because the poem is about going to watch her read poetry recently- having a hard time describing the experience, I just started pulling line of hers to use. Listening to Stefene read poetry is akin to opening a box of keepsakes from someones life- her careful enunciation and clear, but soft voice I find very pleasing even when I'm unsure what she's talking about, what the objects in the keepsake box mean all the time. I read this recently at Duff's for the April Chance Operations reading, and was surprised to get a cheer from the back of the room when I tried to explain this! In the few times we've spoken, Stefene has always been really nice to me, too- her and her husband Thom came to my art show at Concrete Ocean last year on a night of a lot of other bigger, more important openings in the area. I was really honored by that. Sorry about the weird sketch of Stefene- I (laughs) can't really explain that :D

Monday, April 11, 2011

For Charlie...

I received a voicemail saying my old boss Charlie Gardner passed away last week. What does that have to do with my art career, you ask? Quite a bit, actually...

When i came to St. Louis 14 years ago (almost to the day), I had no job and so my brother Myles took me into work on the landscaping crew at Fairfield Condominiums and Charlie gave me a job on the spot. It was hard work w/the most motley crew you'd ever seen, but Charlie was great with us- he worked us like mules, and we loved it! I think i was making something like $7.50 an hour. We were lean & mean, and so was Charlie, who worked right along with us. A couple times a week he'd take us out for beer at the Ice & Fuel, where you could get a pint for a buck during happy hour. When he left the bar he'd say "You sonsa bitches get yer asses home! Got work to do tomorrow!" When I got a job actually in the arts just a few months after Charlie hired me, he was genuinely happy for me, and we still saw each other at the bar every week for many years after. He thought Myles & I were a couple rock stars, and encouraged our being working musicians. In fact, the last time I saw Charlie was a couple years ago- at the Ice & Fuel, watching Myles and I playing music!

Charlie had been working like that his whole life, and drinking beer/smoking cigarettes every night after. When he had a stroke a few years back, I don't think he ever really quit. And Myles said Charlie verbalized his chosen fate more than twice since he'd known him, that he'd die in the saddle, so... we were a little blue.

Ironically, I was on a walk that morning I got the call, and had thought of Charlie and my days on the ground crew when I came to St. Louis, how much had happened since... I had been taking some snapshots of springtime arriving in my neighborhood, as well...

These are for you, Charlie- RIP, Friend