Monday, July 25, 2011

A Short One ...

So I'm out the other day with Bob Grebe shooting a short feature on the nearly 100-degree weather. We go to the Mill Mountain star, which has an overlook providing a perfect view of the haze hanging over Roanoke below.

On the deck, among other signs, there's a small one giving the address for a webcam attached to the star, which provides a view of the deck. Bob calls his Mom in Pennsylvania, who goes to the site. As I'm shooting the view, I hear this in the background:

"No, it's just me and my photographer ... Yes, he's wearing a jacket ... No, I don't know why."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Way I Live Now ...

So I'm in Cy Twombly's studio, but I'm forbidden to make any pictures. I think my head might explode.

Twombly, if you don't know, is one of the great artists of the 20th Century, friend and equal of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. He died July 5 in Rome, his home as far as many knew, but I knew differently. Twombly spent about half the year here in Lexington, Virginia, his home town.

I knew he had friends here, a house and a studio. He did many paintings here, and sculptures. He was a regular in local restaurants, and visited openings at local galleries, including one for a show by my wife. He signed the book, and returned later to tell the gallery owner of his particular affection for one of her photographs. (It now hangs at the local hospital, having been bought by the art committee there...)

When I heard of his death, I knew that this was the opportunity to do something right, and I put out a Facebook appeal and started making calls. Eventually, they led me to Butch, Cy's assistant here in Lexington. He painted backgrounds, and did financial stuff, and drove him around (most think Cy never learned to drive), an generally maintained him when in Lexington.

Butch describes himself as a typical Rockbridge redneck, and I think he's not far off. I take real joy in the simple honesty that describes, and Butch is a good symbol for it, even at 62.

He took my call, as he took the call from the local newspaper, and he agreed to meet in the studio itself for an interview. But he said the lawyers had forbidden any pictures of the studio itself. We shot in front of a blank wall, spattered with paint obviously run over the edge of canvas. Naming a local journalist for the weekly paper, he laughingly noted how they would kill to be where we were. "That's not gonna' happen," he said.

It had been a dentist's office in the old days, basically two rooms -- one in front and one in back. In the front, behind tightly shut venetian blinds, roughly eight sculptures stood, painted white like all the others. A large piece laid on a table, painted gold, resembling a tribal mask about --what -- two-and-a-half-feet tall? On one wall, four elevations of a museum in Texas that features Twombly's art.

It was almost more than I could grasp.

Tables filled the remaining crowded space in the front room. Jars of paint of various colors covered the tabletops, about three deep. A palate with paint smeared on it. In the smaller back room, an Indian (?) wardrobe, still in its dark, natural wood color. And the wall where I interviewed Butch, clearly the place where ... well, let's just lay it out there. It was where the Great Man made his Art.

White, it was splattered with paint of various colors. Sharp edges marked where the canvas had been. This was where he painted the giant canvases.

Butch was generous with his time, as everyone who knew Cy had been. And it made for a nice little piece.