Jen­nifer Goes to Things and Does Stuff

Pasatiempo - - ON THE COVER -

Jen­nifer Levin takes in Art Santa Fe

I be­lieve that art, like beauty, is largely in the eye of the be­holder. What might seem trite to me might be some­one else’s trea­sure. I have strong crit­i­cal opin­ions, but I try to en­ter ev­ery art space open to hav­ing my per­spec­tive broad­ened or rad­i­cally al­tered. This was my out­look on Art Santa Fe, which I at­tended with my hus­band, Wil­liam, on Satur­day, July 15. It was the third day of the four-day in­ter­na­tional fine-art fes­ti­val at the Santa Fe Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, which has been held in town an­nu­ally for 17 years. The show is known for in­clud­ing works with a broad ar­ray of aes­thet­ics. My as­sign­ment was to look for a piece of art, priced at $1,000 or un­der, that could be­come the foun­da­tion of the col­lec­tion Wil­liam and I might start. Said “as­sign­ment” was the­o­ret­i­cal, as we were sadly not pro­vided with any cash with which to pur­chase what­ever we found to love.

It was quickly clear that $1,000 would only buy us work un­der a cer­tain size — which was fine be­cause many more ex­pen­sive paint­ings were much too large for any wall in our house. There was a fair amount avail­able in the $600 to $1,000 range that in­ter­ested us, in­clud­ing small paint­ings of war­riors by Shozo Koy­anagi of Gal­ley Edel in Ja­pan and a gor­geous green vase by Korean ce­ram­i­cist Bok­sik Ji from Icheon Ce­ram­ics Vil­lage. (Given what I have been see­ing lately from Icheon, Wil­liam and I would ea­gerly start col­lect­ing Korean ce­ram­ics.) We also grav­i­tated to paint­ings by Ser­gio Valen­zuela, known as Valenz, a Gu­atemalan artist rep­re­sented by Arte Col­lec­tive in Mi­ami. His chair and lad­der im­agery seems to rep­re­sent lev­els of aware­ness and ex­is­tence, cir­cus­like yet ar­chi­tec­tural, with a de­cep­tively loose, naive style. Out­side of our bud­get were in­tri­cately wo­ven bas­kets made by indige­nous women from the Darien rain­for­est in Panama, and cheeky steam­punk-style clock as­sem­blages by Van­de­graaff Gear­heardt of Es­con­dido, Cal­i­for­nia. Welde Carmichael, a Santa Fean who was named Art Santa Fe’s 2017 Launch­pad Artist, had a few small, evoca­tive ab­stract en­caus­tic paint­ings that were well within our bud­get. And we kept com­ing back to the booth of Laura Balom­bini and Red Paint Stu­dio, from Cor­rales. Balom­bini’s rich and col­or­ful paint­ings had a pure­ness and au­then­tic­ity of vi­sion I re­ally re­sponded to; of a styl­ized paint­ing of two men in the dark, she said she’d been in­spired by talk­ing to some dancers she’d seen get­ting off a bus in Al­bu­querque at night.

For bet­ter or for worse, Art Santa Fe is my ver­sion of a car­ni­val, where truly stun­ning works of art stand side by side with some of the most per­plex­ing cre­ations I’ve ever seen.

ex­e­cuted, and deeply ironic that I hes­i­tate to call it “good” or “bad.” The oil por­trait cap­tures Trump’s sig­na­ture smug ex­pres­sion as well as that of a con­fused, un­sure lit­tle boy. It is big and bold and im­pres­sive enough that Trump would prob­a­bly want to hang it in one of his ho­tels — and in this there is an steely irony, be­cause The New Long Walk has the dis­tinct air of the kind of art of­ten sold in ho­tel ball­rooms for “starv­ing-artist prices.” I re­ally want to be­lieve that my ob­ser­va­tions and per­cep­tions are ac­cu­rate — that all of this was pur­pose­ful on the artist’s part. I need to use the most ex­treme words to de­scribe the jum­ble of emo­tions I had while look­ing at it. This is pos­si­bly pro­foundly ter­ri­ble, I thought, but it is just as likely a work of stag­ger­ing ge­nius, some preter­nat­u­ral abil­ity of the artist to elicit si­mul­ta­ne­ous em­pa­thy and re­vul­sion from the viewer. And then I won­dered if I’d stum­bled upon the true mean­ing of “cov­fefe,” the leader of the free world’s mid­night Twit­ter-typo that con­fused the na­tion ear­lier this sum­mer. Maybe cov­fefe means “pity-in­duc­ing dan­ger­ous ab­sur­dity.” (Con­tacted by email, Jiang said the $40,000 ask­ing price for The New

Long Walk will be do­nated to a school in sup­port of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.) I want art to in­spire cu­rios­ity in me, as well as em­pa­thy, won­der, joy, and anger. I don’t re­ally care if I can af­ford any of it. Art Santa Fe was a per­sonal bo­nanza that ended with me stand­ing un­der the flu­o­res­cent lights of the con­ven­tion cen­ter, star­ing into the soul of an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.

The draw­back of look­ing at art in a con­ven­tion cen­ter is un­pleas­ant over­head light­ing, but the ad­van­tage — and this can­not be over­stated — is that Art Santa Fe is air-con­di­tioned. The maze of booths can be dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate, so we de­cided to work our way from left to right, stop­ping in the cen­ter to buy bot­tles of wa­ter and look for a place to rest. (The set-up could use more chairs for this pur­pose.) This might re­veal too much about me, but I ac­tively en­joy pe­rus­ing art so medi­ocre or out­landish that I make up sto­ries in my head about what in­spired it. I like talk­ing about work that is al­most good but took a wrong turn. I could say it hones my crit­i­cal skills, but frankly it’s just a way Wil­liam and I have fun to­gether. We ini­tially bonded decades ago over a shared leer­i­ness of the last­ing ef­fects of Beat po­etry on the lit­er­ary world, and our long­time fa­vorite game is “re-cast this sub­par movie we just saw.”

For bet­ter or for worse, Art Santa Fe is my ver­sion of a car­ni­val, where truly stun­ning works of art stand side by side with some of the most per­plex­ing cre­ations I’ve ever seen. I could talk at length about the glit­ter Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe — which is not to be con­fused with the Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe made from hand-carved, gold-painted block stamps, which was thrilling in its ex­e­cu­tion — or the high vol­ume of rein­vented Frida Kahlo faces com­mit­ted to can­vas, as well as those of John Len­non and James Dean. There was the gaudy mo­saic of bro­ken English china and doll heads that gave me a not-un­pleas­ant haunted feel­ing, and the hot-pink still life of flow­ers that I loved but bored Wil­liam, who did not see the painterly lay­ers and emo­tional chaos that I did. But it was the enor­mous vis­age of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that truly had me trans­fixed.

In The New Long Walk, Ray Jiang, from Hous­ton, has cre­ated some­thing so un­nerv­ing, sad, tech­ni­cally well

Shozo Koy­anagi: A War­rior, acrylic min­eral pig­ment, gold paint on can­vas

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