Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July 27, Missoula to Oakland

July 27, Missoula - Oakland

Quotes of the day:

Some guys practice like all-Americans but they can't play!

As the bus pulls off to roll into a truck weighing area, THB yells out: “When I’m on vacation, I never get on a scale!” Ahhhhh, he sings, one more pastry before I go to the valley below…

Pics: Some bizarre knob and sign in the shower; the Doubletree fitness center and their sponsor (great equipment, well maintained); Clay Studio sign; graffiti; painted utility box; a Bike bike rack; air clawing; pepsi bottle on E-Bay video; kayaking UPSTREAM in downtown Missoula; THB back in his element

Arghhhhhhh; if I want to exercise and not be rushed for packing and breakfast, I gotta get up early. Soooooo, I get up at 6:30 and go ride the elliptical. Huge mistake. Well, not the exercise. Not getting enough sleep.

Breakfast: we share French toast and berries, best decision we’ve made in a week. Easy packing, time even to do some blogging (hmmmmm….if July 26 doesn’t make sense, this is the reason, and the time, when it was created).

Ten am and we up and on the bus, heading to the Clay Studio. The good news: we get to give up our plates and cups from the Ten Spoons benefit for group shipping. The bad news: one tour around and I am on the bench outside trying to focus. Once again some of the group does shopping, this is a great group for spreading California wealth in Montana.

Back downtown and a visit to the hip Brink gallery where the following items are out:
- A video of a an air claw, with the air claw attached to an air compressor (See pics of DB and THB being air clawed)
- Two paintings for sale and if you buy one you get a free I-Pad
- A video in the front window (and you can hear it outside of the gallery 24/7) of a guy doing a mock rant, on and on
- A video of a couple of artists that take found objects (like an old Pepsi bottle) and create a back story for the objects and then post them on E-Bay for sale; so far they’ve sold 15 of the 20 items!
Not bad for out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere Missoula!

We don’t wander far, just into the knitting store next to the gallery, where THB quickly settles into the BF chair while DB begins a hunt for a project. Looks like THB is getting a nice cardigan for the holidays.

Wander a bit around town and the river, where a guy is practicing his whitewater techniques in a mini-kayak; much jealousy, though today is way cooler than the last few, maybe in the low 80s, and overcast.

Lunch at Scotty’s: mole’ quesadilla for DB, artichoke heart sandwich for THB (excellent, on grilled sourdough), and Big Dipper vanilla ice cream (out of huckleberry, the local specialty) and a chocolate torte. Good combo! Service is very slow and sporadic, and the food is quite good. That seemed pretty consistent throughout our trip, and the food was definitely a notch up in Missoula. Only Caffe Dolce hit the daily double of good food and really good service: they are the Winnah of the Joe Montana quote book!

Short ride to the airport, then a scenic flight (propellers on the plane…) to Seattle, and now coasting past Mt. Shasta and back to the lovely confines of E-ville.

Next (substantial) trip: starting September 12, National Parks (and a few state parks) between here and Denver with a side trip to Des Moines and Omaha with the Oakland Museum. Home around the end of October, just in time to watch the playoffs as the A’s and Giants work their respective ways to the World Series.

Yes, it’s true, THB has hit his dessert limit (see quote), and will be cutting back upon return to E-ville.

July 26, Missoula

July 26, Missoula

Quote of the day: Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live.

Pics: Gold duck by Trey hill; Cyclist by David Regan; boats in driveway next to Beth Lo’s house (not fast enough to get the old Rolls Royce on the other side of her) house; deer acting like pets in a backyard; Rudy Autio piece behind a Voulkos bronze, on the front porch; Autio piece maybe made in California (will it end up at Oakland Museum?); Missoula utility box art; our conveyance for the day; dinner spot; collector’s house, guest house, gallery and pics of another Turrell visit for DB and THB this year!

Up on the elliptical, after a slow start to the day. Doesn’t help, we’re late to breakfast and eat a rushed meal. I get the granola, yogurt and fruit concoction, approximately enough to feed a family of four.

First stop, local ceramicist and teacher Trey Hill’s house/studio. He’s a bit out of town, and since he is also a fly fisherman (like about 85% of the population here it seems), he’s only a quarter mile away from his fave spot. His studio is under construction, it’s got a gigantic hole at one end to allow him to wheel his big pieces right from the studio to a kiln he’s planning to construct. For now, he has to load his big pieces in a truck, carefully cart them to the university and then into a kiln there.

He has a few pieces on display, gives a very articulate explanation about his work. One of the tour buys a piece (these are bargains, great value for quality). Good news: Trey is coming with us the rest of the day as our local guide.

We pull up in a quiet residential neighborhood, walk down an alley, and crowd in at the door of David Regan’s studio. Well, his barely-one-car garage (with no car), which is his studio. He is a guy that works on one piece for a long time. He shows us the current piece in progress (since last October!), a trio of bicyclists (representing motion) and the pictures he is etching (really sgraffito, I think) into the surface, many meticulous episodes. He’s a mountain biker, so this is a combination of his exercise pastime and his work.

David also makes tiles, and as he is passing one around someone asks if he works by photography transfer. No. When the piece comes to me, I’d swear he has taken a high quality photograph and using a decal method, transferred it to the tile. He etches the surface at various depths, and the glaze creates the impression of sharpness in the foreground and blurriness in the background. What a shock, this guy is a genius working in what must be a very old-fashioned style. Very impressive! All in a very small garage. I chat him up near the end, he thinks Alberto should’ve waited for Andy.

Lunch is at Pearl’s caf├ę: a nice gazpacho, good local bread, and a salad nicoise (heavily dressed and overdone tuna), and fruit sorbet in a thin cookie-cup. This is one of the better places in town, opened just to accommodate our group. During lunch, a William Clark impersonator gives an overview of the Lewis and Clark exploration. Mildly entertaining.

Trey is still with us, and off we go to one of his co-teachers at the U, Beth Lo. Beth is out of town at a funeral, so her husband (in midst of giving a guitar lesson) and Trey do their best to describe what we are seeing in the house/studio (maybe another converted garage, this one a two car version?). She works all the way from salt and pepper shakers to conceptual installation work. Without her there, we don’t get quite as much of the explanation that we get from other studio visits. Nevertheless, our group does its best to buy what’s on hand, her work is pretty well known to the group (we own a piece, and are now considering another). She’s born in Indiana to first generation Chinese, and there are numerous mah jongg references in her work!

Right down the street is the house and studio of Lela Autio, widow of Rudy Autio. Rudy was one of the early co-directors of the Bray along with Voulkos. Many of his sculptures are around the house and in the gallery out back. Lela is also an artist, and we get a visit to her studio (upstairs in a room sort of between the garage/studio and the house; the garage is a workshop for at least one their kids, who is also doing art). Note the picture where a large Voulkos bronze and a large piece by Rudy are on the front porch. What you don’t see is a 7 foot tall Jun Kaneko dongo, another very impressive piece. Quite a porch for you big-time ceramics fans. You can take this one in with a driveby and catch three superior museum-quality pieces.

Back to the hotel, another dip in the Clark Fork, and rest up for dinner. We’re eating quite a ways out of town at the Ekstrom’s Stage Station (a spot where the cross-country stage used to stop in the 1800s). Very good ribeye steak (DB has prime rib), Moose Drool beer, pickled watermelon rind (not bad!), and a coffee ice cream mud pie for dessert.

Through our connections with MAM, Laura the director has arranged a visit to a local collector. They own a valley (yes, the whole valley; money comes from mining and precious metals) just up from Ekstrom’s, and they have three similarly-designed unusual semi-circular structures on the property (and not close to each other). All have huge logs tilting up like they are leaning on the facades, with a trellis like covering on the upright beams (that I guess are hiding inside). The semi-circle optimizes multiple views out the front, and the back of the buildings are built up earthenworks (to help environmentally).

The only real difference in the buildings is the size: main house, guest house and baby bear (gallery). The main house is two stories, in a size that would fit four stories easily. Not a lot of art, most of it sizable and quite good (Warhol, Rauschenberg, Gehry, Ruscha).

Then we bus up to the guest house, a slow 10 minutes away. This is a about a quarter of the main house, also with impressive art and a bad smell (septic system problems?). Right outside and dug down into the hillside outside the front, is a Turrell skyspace (skyscape?) piece, similar to several we’ve seen (and not quite like those we encountered in Japan). The LED system is not working very strongly, so we don’t get the changing light effects we had in several spots in Japan. And the night sky is slowly slowly slowly fading to dark. Not fast enough to really get the darkness effect, and it is overcast so we aren’t getting any stars either. Still, another impressive installation, the site is spectacular.

Then we bus down to the gallery, one large space filled with LeWitt wall piece, another Rauschenberg, and several other large pieces including one by an artist we did a studio visit with when we were on the NY-Long Island Oakland Museum trip a year and half ago.

Okay, time to go, finessing the gravel road back to the main highway. Six miles, or 30 minutes…now it’s plenty dark. Another half hour to the hotel, and in bed after midnight. A long and fascinating day chasing art.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 25, Helena to Missoula

July 25, Helena to Missoula

Quotes of the day:

You must be in the right frame of mind to assemble the grill

Quality is a direct experience independent of and prior to intellectual abstractions.

Pics: Bob DeWeese (doubly famous); floor mosaic at Caffe Dolce; graffiti in Missoula (overall, very little graffiti around here, and usually in obscure spots); in and around the Clay Studio benefit at Ten Spoons Winery (including an action shot of our bus)

At the Bray auction, I chat up Josh DeWeese, the ceramicist that we visited a few days ago and then he accompanied us to Butterfield and Buck’s compound/studio visit. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (supposedly the largest selling book of philosophy ever, and a personal fave of THB), there is a scene (in Bozeman, I think) where the narrator is chatting away of an evening and included in the discussion are the DeWeeses. So, I ask Josh, any relation? Yessssssssss! And, per Josh, Pirsig got his dad just right and missed his mom by a mile. And, Josh is upset; he was there and didn’t get a mention. Ah, the lengths THB will go to bring you verisimilitude in fiction!

Another glorious, warm day. Starts with the elliptical, then we share epi (scissor baguette) bread from the Park Ave Bakery and cherries from the previous day’s farmers market.

Then we head to Missoula, with a stop at the Continental Divide (pictures already posted). In Missoula, we head to the Caffe Dolce. The main room is massive, the ceilings must be thirty feet high (see pic of mosaic painted on floor – can a mosaic be painted?). I asked, the building was completed three years ago just for the restaurant, so not a rehab. Nice area outside under umbrellas; since it is over 80 by now, way too hot for this group (and THB).

Lunch is brunch, it’s Sunday, and I have a spinach and prosciutto omelet with good home fries and slice of sourdough toast. DB has a grilled chicken with bacon that she relates is quite good (they threw in a few lunch items for us because it might make it easier for the group to find things to eat…I was thrilled with freshly cooked eggs!). One of our tour member is celebrating his 90th, so a nice lemon cake is served, THB manages one and a half pieces.

We bus over to the Missoula Art Museum (MAM) for a meet-up with the director and chief curator. Get the overview and start to wander; excellent shows of cast iron work (with lots of humor), work by a well-known Indian painter, Kevin Red Star, and work by some famous Montanans. There is a piece by Bob DeWeese (Josh’s dad) and then a picture of Bob with the piece hanging next to it. So, I have posted a picture of Bob holding a piece of his art.

After MAM, we are on our way to the Doubletree…uh oh, the parking lot has sheds, what look like unused vans, and rooms overlooking the parking lot. WRONG! Our room is overlooking the river, which is right out the back of the hotel. And, there are hundreds of people floating down right off our deck. Quickly change, head out for a dip.

One of our party has already been in and out, she advises to keep my flip-flops on cuz the rocks are slick right at the shoreline. Good advice! The current is so strong, basically I get in to my knees, slow dive into the water, and then a few strong strokes to hold my place in the current, give up and head to shore. VERY REFRESHING!!!!!!!! It’s close to 95 out, this is about as good as it gets. Guys are diving in off the short bridge – 15 feet – and maybe even the roadway above, 30 feet. Quite the summer party here.

That finished off the “rest” period! No blogging by THB. Then we hit the bus for a trip to Ten Spoons Winery in Rattlesnake Valley for an all organic wine and dinner benefit for the Clay Studio. Note the pictures on or near Ten Spoons: bear warnings; poison free (!!), a shot of the bus heading in (THB was walking in); and shot of the “Bear Warning” (same-same but different from Yosemite).

Here we get to pick our plates and cups, made by Clay Studio artists (who have joined us for dinner), and take them home with us. Hmmmmmm…these puppies are heavy and awkward, so a quick request is honored for us to group our plates and cups together and during our visit on Tuesday to add our names and do a group ship back to the Bay Area. Great suggestion!

It’s hot…VERY HOT! We’re in the sun…and searching for shade! Small slivers appear and we quickly shuffle benches and chairs over. I start with lemonade (hey, it’s a winery, yet THB cannot see starting with white wine this early in such intense heat and brightness). Then I switch to lemonade and mango ice tea mix. Eat a few appetizer spreads, walnut and tomato based, on good bread. More Arnold Palmers. Finally try the local white: pinot gris/gew├╝rztraminer blend called Getaway; okay. I never get to the reds: a cherry wine and Beaujolais nouveau, called Range Rider. Instead I switch over to Trout Slayer IPA.

Dinner is a very healthy salad followed by a buffet of sausage in zucchini (THB’s least favorite food, so I cannot comment on the zucchini; the sausage was good!), caprese salad, mixed grilled veggies (no comment on the squash), with a small Provence cake with lemon icing and scoop lavender ice cream. THB resists finishing the other servings at the table, not too hard because everyone has scarfed theirs down as well.

Temp range: low of 53 and high of 95!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, Pictures

Quote of the day:

Confidence is a very fragile thing.


Continental Divide: Flowers (including the wild continental divide rose) and a fire tower

Missoula: The Clark Fork River outside the Doubletree Hotel. Note the splash in one of the pictures, guys were jumping off one of the two levels of bridge into the water. The guy showing great enter-a-cold-river-on-slippery-rocks-technique is one of our braver tour members.