Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Few Stories

Story Number One  Yesterday was the palette auction in Hammondsport. Three friends of mine had painted palettes and we were all anxious to see how it would go. This is the third year of the event. In the spring artists are asked to paint or sculpt anything they want on a giant palette (guessing 3x4 feet?). Then a local business displays the palettes for the summer. At the end of the summer they're auctioned off in the town square. Half the selling price goes to the artist; the other half goes to support and promote local art. 

My friend Jackie had done a beautiful portrait of Dr. Frank (local celebrity who 'discovered' wine-growing/selling in the Finger Lakes region.)  Jackie spent a lot of time on her palette - a lot. Bruce and I saw the process. She stretched and glued Claessens over the surface, painted a grisaille and finished off with a beautiful rendering. It was on display at Dr. Konstantin Frank's vineyard all summer. 

Bruce had an outstanding lake scene. Dustin Boutwell had a top-notch still-life of grapes, wineglass and opener. Knowing how much time was put into the paintings I expected them to easily break $1000 and that wouldn't have been enough. There were a few other notables, especially Ron Dixon's. 

To make a long story short - none of them broke $1000. Jackie's went for about 2/3 of that and it would have gone lower except Bruce bid on it and won. I've never seen Bruce angry before. Really . Yesterday, like Mrs. PotatoHead, he had his angry eyes out. 

Some bystanders were overheard saying they thought the prices for the palettes this year were much more reasonable than last. Not a chance. Setting aside the time put into the paintings, they should have gone for more money based on just the quality.  Perhaps its the economy, perhaps it was the rain yesterday... still it's a shame....

Story Number Two   A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with my brother. We don't get together much. He's a simple man and I mean that in the best sense. He likes his meat and potatoes, a good book, and a beer with friends. He cuts trees for a living and is good at it. He knows his stuff. He can also tell a great story. When he's 'on' he'll have you spitting out your nose.

This summer my brother did some work at the home of Bronson Pinchot.  Mr. Pinchot, also a funny guy, has a home on the NY/PA border. That's pretty much "God's Country" and needless to say there's been a bit of a culture clash. As my brother quotes Mr. Pinchot, "They hate me. They really do and I don't care."  

I can't do my brother's story justice. You had to be there.  My brother was cutting trees for him and deep in thought walked around a corner. He came face-to-face with this celebrity, surprising them both. Mr. Pinchot recovered first and said, "A paddy face! I just came from Ireland and I saw lots of paddy faces!"

My mother and I locked eyes and I said to him, "You know he insulted you?" She seconded it. My brother didn't care. He shrugged it off thinking it was pretty funny. I guess we do have 'paddy faces' and there's no getting around it. We've too many Finegans, Killeens and Kellys in our genes.

Story Number Three  A retired friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous) was filling in at a local general store in Pine Creek, PA. this summer. A gaggle of college girls came in asking directions to a remote waterfall. Since it was the end of his shift he volunteered to lead them there. This place was really remote and directions would probably have been useless for anyone not familiar with the area. 

After a forty-five minute hike they arrived at said waterfall. The young women expressed some disappointment, expecting it to be a fairy-tale pool with a thundering cataract.  My friend told them there was another waterfall above the first that was really beautiful, but it was another 15 - 20 minute hike uphill. They wanted to see it.

This second waterfall was magical. Water fell in a thin, cold stream from 40 feet into a deep, green pool laced with ferns. The young women stripped down to bikinis right there in front of him and plunged in.

 I thought the story ended there.  With a twinkle in his eye my friend said he waved good-bye as they shouted their thanks. He looked at me and said, "Jeff, I knew what was going to happen the moment I was out of sight. I knew." So he snuck back around and hid behind a tree.

Sure enough when the coast was clear the bikinis came off. He said it was one of the most wondrous sights his tired, old eyes had ever witnessed.  I can only imagine. With envy. 

Some readers will be offended by this story. Some readers will think my friend should have been turned into a stag right then and there, to be ripped apart by his own dogs. But before you go all Actaeon on us let me say this: I have some female friends who if the situation had been reversed, if these had been buff college guys, they would have felt no shame whatsoever in creeping back around to hide behind that tree.

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About Me

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Elmira, New York, United States
In many ways I think like a photographer. The image itself is becoming more and more important to me; the actual application of paint less and less. Blasphemy in some painterly circles. I choose to paint figures and portraits because I consider them the most difficult subject.