Thursday, September 26, 2013

Laura Was Often Accused of Seeing the World Through Her Groin

In June of 2013 I made a trip out to Valley Ridge Art Studio in southwestern Wisconsin to take the Sumptuous Sirens and Botanical Beauties classes with Andrea Matus deMeng.

I took this class because for a year at Valley Ridge I had been staring at this

which was a work by Andrea called Seadusa created to advertise a workshop on the East Coast.  Since I had no idea how to collage, no idea how to paint and no idea how she combined those two things to make a beautiful work of art like this, I thought I ought to take the class.

I am not sure I have ever been this nervous to take a class.  This is way out of my box.  I can honestly say that Andrea is a patience well-prepared teacher and somehow she got me to actually make one of these huge collage posters.

The basic idea behind this work is that you start with a 4’ X 2’ hunk of unstretched canvas and then prime it with gesso on one side.  Then on that you paint a base coat of color.

Then you start laying down your main collage.  Then more paint.

Then some magical special Andrea Matus deMeng techniques and the next thing you know:  you have a huge piece of art all to your own.

Once done, the whole class assembled for a critique of each student's work.  I learned so much from Andrea but also from the work of my fellow students and the critique's of their works.

So a big thank you to Andrea for working me through all my issues and helping me make this huge poster that I call "Laura Was Often Accused of Seeing the World Through Her Groin."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


And now for the last leg of my trip to Cuba.

On day seven, it is time to leave the Hotel Jagua and Cienfuegos to return to Havana by bus.  And you know what that means--it is the last round of Fuzzy Out the Window shots.

Along the highway we made a stop at a wayside restaurant where most of us indulged in a light lunch.  The wayside had a cool old industrial locomotive parked there.

 Engineer Catherine Hansen

When we arrived back in Havana, we had a choice of what to do.  I find it interesting that I knew where I wanted to go and so did a few others:  we wanted to return to the Old Havana square and the used book dealers.  Perhaps I identify so much of what I do by shopping but there was some connectivity to Cubans in this market that was lacking in some of the experiences I had.  Buying things created a communication on a level that was missing in some of the tours that we did.  In the square, it was a collective of all types of cultures.

We ate stopped for drinks at a cafe off the square where this accordion player was entertaining the lunch crowd.  When he wandered over to table, he asked us where we were from.  We announced, "Estados Unitos".  "I do not like Estados Unitos," he said and then added, "I like Americans but I don't like Estados Unitos."  Thank you, point taken.    

While we were drinking a small troop of entertainers appeared in the square.  

Here is a painter who was working on the square.  We talked a bit through his grandson(?) who spoke English.

I bought this piece.

Another walk about the hotel led to these car photos.

I paid my respects for the last time to the hotel cat to insure permanent international solidarity on the feline level.

Dinner that night was a light affair on the veranda of the hotel where we were serenaded by a trio of Cuban musicians.

Being always restless (ADD!), I decided after dark on Saturday night that I was not going to leave Cuba without riding in a cool old American car.  When I suggested we all go, only Catherine Hansen was up to the task.  Outside the hotel, there were a number of taxis parked but I selected the 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible for my chariot.  This appeared to create a bit of Cuban taxi driver negotiations as it was not the first vehicle in line.  But, our driver prevailed when I made it clear it was this car I wanted, and off we went on a 45 minute nighttime tour of Havana.

Our driver introduced himself, in English, as "Mario...Super Mario!!"  He asked us if we wanted to hear some music and for the rest of the trip we were serenaded by...Barry White!

At the Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Plaza) we made a cool discovery--the building sculpture is lit up at night.  How cool is that?

 Catherine Hansen

And so my last night in Havana ended with a taxi ride under a Havana Moon, Havana Moon.  

Wait for, I was not done yet.  After saying good night to Catherine I walked out onto the veranda one more time and noticed the sign I had been seeing all week.  The sign was an ad for the Hotel Nacional house band:  The Buena Vista Social Club. I went down to the venue, arriving just as the last customers were being seated.  I asked the maitre d if they "uno" ticket left.  The answer was si and the next thing I knew I was sitting by myself at a table in the front row, stage right, for an evening of Cuban music. The original members of the band are dead or retired so the band that plays at the hotel appears to be an ensemble of musicians carrying on the tradition.  I have to say that I enjoyed the whole night of music and dance with a few of the players being outstanding.  Thinking like an American, I left my camera in my hotel room so there are no photographs but everyone else in the joint was firing away like crazy including using their flashes.  So, I just have the memories and this photo I stole off the Internet (thanks, Virgin Atlantic) to give you an idea of what it looked like.  Not only is this the band I saw but the photographer could have been standing behind my table when he took the photo.

So, after the concert, I finally went to bed on my last night in Cuba.

Day eight, our last day on the island of Cuba, was Sunday, February 24th. Like all trips it came down to goodbyes with hugs and a promise to stay in touch.  I want to take this opportunity (in case the email works and he can see these photos) to thank our guide Eric Garcia.  He was a true professional and a wonderful guide.
Eric Garcia with Kamuela Ka'Ahanui

At the airport, we had some time to kill so I wandered around and took some last photos of Havana.  

One of the first photographs I took in Cuba was this shot out of the bus window of Che.

I like the closure of taking this photograph on my last day.  I walked across the street from the airport to take the time to get it right.

The quote translates as

Each day we see you pure as a child or as a pure man.
Commander Che, friend.  

Everyday in Cuban schools, the children begin their day with a pledge:  "Seremos como el Che" (We want to be like Che).

The truth of Cuba is not for me to judge having seen only a little of the entire country.  What I can say with confidence is that whether I was in The People's Republic of China, the Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca, Mexico or on the island of Cuba--people are people.  It would be better if we could all live in peace and understanding--and take lots of photographs of each other along the way.

For a complete set of all the photos from this trip, please visit me at