Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22, Helena

July 22, Helena

Quotes of the day:

Montana. It's everything Colorado thinks it is.

I am in love with Montana . . . Montana seems to me to be what a small boy would think Texas is like from hearing Texans.

Book Reviews: The Cradle, Patrick Somerville, Kindle Edition. A fast, thoughtful novel about being a foster child and growing up as an adult with the history of abuse. Recommended. Odd Man Out, Matt McCarthy, paperback. Finished before the trip, so a bonus review. A bizarre and entertaining season of minor league baseball by a Yale graduate in the Angels organization. Will make you cringe at the youthfulness of the players AND the infantileness and intensity of the manager (this is single A ball, after all). The good news: Matt realizes he’s maxed out his talent and goes back to medical school. Good move, even for a lefthanded pitcher! Recommended.

Semi-related: Unfortunately for DB, the Helena Brewers are on the road or I would have scheduled a night game for us and she could extend her all-time best of ballparks in a single season. The Brewers suffered their worst loss in quite a few years last night (on the road), 18-2.

Pics: The group at Ann Appleby’s house/studio, view of dead trees, many shots of Archie Bray (including outside wall hangings), a hint of sofa free (taken from the bus as it rolls by quickly), arches and wildflowers and fallen pillars at Robert Harrison’s house/studio, the fabled Park Avenue Bakery, two fellow bakery chasers an a dog (or is it a bear), a park more normally seen in Middletown CT, and Real Foods new location (having moved to let the carpenteria have the prime spot near the Hotel).

First up, there are a lot (I mean a lot, like millions) of dead ponderosa pines in this area. See the picture taken on the way to Ann Appleby’s house/studio. Global warming has eliminated the two weeks of under 20 degree weather that deters the pine bark beetles moving north. This seems even worse than underwater oil spills. So visible, and nothing to be done. The locals trim and cut down the dead trees near their houses, and for a while could sell the dead wood on their property. No longer….too much supply and not enough demand.

Actually, first I work out and then we have the awesome breakfast (included): your choice of four cereals, sweet yogurt, a few bananas (so better than the Four Points Sheraton in Detroit), and make-it-yourself waffles. Oh, and some maybe recently scrambled maybe real eggs and sausage. Cheerios and banana for me, plus a waffle to try.

The group climbs on the bus around 9 and we trek out to Ann’s place, a “newish” house (unfinished inside, bringing out the inner-Habitat in me to grab a hammer and help out). Our local guide is one of the directors of the Bray. The Bray is taking very good care of us while we are in Helena!

See the picture of Ann’s work and the group getting the lowdown on her work approach and intent. She is definitely off the grid, miles from town and then more miles from the main road; she teaches at Stanford so gets her Bay Area fix in periodically. Sitting on her porch is the essence of being in the country air, in style.

Then on to Archie Bray. This is a mecca for ceramics and ceramicists: two year residencies and summer residencies, lots of famous alumni. Peter Voulkos was one of the early directors, during the time (or just before) when he changed from a classic style to the “abstract” slab style of vessel making. Originally tied to a clay and brick production company that went bust in the 60s and somehow the artistic side of things was rescued. Archie Bray was the son of the founder, and his descendents are still around.

We tour, look at items up for sale at the live and silent auctions on Saturday night (so now you know about the timing of our trip), and then tour the store and residencies, meeting with the ceramicists on site. We buy a couple of shallow bowls by Kevin Snipes, we already own a teapot of his from a Phoenix ceramics show a few years ago. Kevin is one of the residences, and DB manages to convince him to sell us one of his pieces in progress (another definition of an obsessive collector: not waiting to see what the end product looks like, nor knowing the price, before purchasing!). He’s a shy guy, so you can see he’s overwhelmed when 5 or 6 of the tour are there in his small space looking for work.

Box lunch: turkey and cheese sandwiches, salad, pb cookie, outside in one of the picnic areas at the Bray.

The afternoon we have two house/studio visits: Richard Notkin and Robert Harrison. Notkin’s work is politically infused, anti-war, anti-bush, anti-nuclear weapons. Harrison is doing arches (see pic of the asphalt laden poles topped by brick arches that is between his house and studio, plus the tumbled down pillars and meadow of lupine, all near/at Robert’s place).

Clearly a theme here is that in this part of the country, living and working in the same spot is the norm. It is very cost-effective to build two adjacent (or one large) buildings and since it can get cold here, makes it relatively easy to get to work. Not a lot of rain, less than 15 inches a year, plenty of cold in the winter!

Back to the hotel, and then a chance to explore town. Well, what can that mean, leaving me to roam around a town. Hey, I know…let’s go find a local baker, and waddaya know, I have a tip: the Park Ave Bakery. Several others come along (see them sitting on the bench with one of those painted dogs – or is it a bear?) to see how this is done. We find the bakery, and proceed to order cookies for the group to be picked up tomorrow. Don’t buy bread, probably a big mistake. They sell something called the Jocko. Turns out to be a sourdough named after Jock, who gave this loaf its distinctive shape. What? Looks like kind of a standard squat Acme bread shape to me. Damn, a new model, the Jocko!

Then on to find the Real Foods in its new location (success: see pic). Then to pick up some California wines for gifts. Finally, hours later, back to the hotel to rest up for dinner.

Tragedy: The bakery calls, the cookies won’t be ready until 9:30…and we leave at 9am again tomorrow. Hmmmmmmm….tbd

Then we are off to a buffet dinner at local collectors who are connected to the Bray. They have a very strong collection of early 20th century pottery (including an early Voulkos before he changes styles) and a lot of early 20th century (or earlier) plein air pictures, mixed in with craftsman style furniture and some current ceramics (many from Bray-residency artists), in a new contemporary house.

Dinner is outside in the front yard or on the back deck. The back deck has a magnificent view of the valley (the Helena valley?). We sit in the front yard, from about 8 until 9:30. No bugs, lots of daylight, warm….all good, along with very good dinner highlighted by a veggie medley and rice-lentil combo, and chocolate torte and marzipan style fruit tart.

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