09. June 2007 · Comments Off on Art Appreciation · Categories: Ain't That America?, Domestic, General, General Nonsense, World

This has nothing much to do with the topic at hand, but I would like a t-shirt that says “As a matter of fact I am not a $#@!ing tourist, I live here!”… but Blondie says that would be rather too hostile. And what brought that on? Oh, just the experience of going downtown late yesterday morning, intending to partake in the multicultural delights of the Texas Folklife Festival, which we had heard was starting on Friday.

Which it was… but not until Friday afternoon at 5:00 PM. So we decided to prowl the little art galleries and shops in La Villita, instead. It’s a collection of very old houses, nearly the oldest in San Antonio, most of which were restored over the last thirty or forty years or so; electricity and plumbing being added to them with considerable difficulty. A good few have very low doorways, and very thick walls, and once were heated (if at all) with tiny fireplaces. The neighborhood is adjacent to the River Walk, and the Alamo… even if the shops and galleries offer merchandise that is a couple of cuts above the usual tourist tat, it remains that nearly everyone wandering through is in fact most usually…from out of town.

And since it was Friday, and there weren’t too many people wandering around, most of the vendors were a little bored and very friendly, well disposed to be helpful; really this part of the world is a very friendly place. If you are antisocial, you’d have to beat them off with a stick, but about the first thing anyone asked was “So, where are you folks from?” I just got tired of growling “From here!” by the fourth or fifth time; hence, the wish for the tee-shirt.

Blondie bought a silver and garnet ring from a small jewelry and art gallery, and admired a bronze cat statuette, one of an issue of fifty, by an artist who lives in Kerrville; she might very well go back and buy it next month. I fell in love with some paintings by another local artist, who does lovely impressionalist Texas landscapes: great sweeps of meadow, or gently rolling hills… but above them the even bigger clouds, piling up in a clear blue sky. It looked like what I saw out of the car windows on last week’s road-trip, so there was no surprise when the gallery manager said the artist lives in Victoria and paints the countryside thereabouts. Oh, yeah… when I’m a rich and famous writer, I want a couple of those!

I couldn’t afford anything at all yesterday, so I had to get my amusement out of describing my ideal piece of Texas kitsch art: it’s a big-ass painting of a field of bluebonnets, with some longhorn cows, standing knee-deep in them. In the background is a windmill, and a tumbledown old barn with the Texas lone-star flag painted on the roof, and the clouds in the sky form the silhouette of the Alamo! Maybe even on black velvet, too! I’d have it somewhere where I could see people’s faces when they looked at it, and know that if they looked absolutely horrified, then they did know something about art. Alas, irony was taking a vacation somewhere away from La Villita yesterday; most of the people I described this vision to said that it sounded rather nice… and did I want to commission an artist, since all they had in stock along that line were painting of bluebonnets only.

My parents had a painting that performed the same function for them; separating those who really knew something about painting from those who just thought they did. It was a painting that had been done as part of a TV show set design; we actually spotted it, once, on an old rerun of a Perry Mason mystery, in the studio of an artist who was the corpse du-jour, about twenty years after a friend of my parents had given it to them.

It was an oceanscape, in blues and blue-greens; the moon over the ocean, with a pier on one side and some rocks along the other, only the rocks were sort of cubist and blocky, and the pier was vaguely impressionalist, and the water in between kind of blah; anyway the colors were pretty and matched Mom’s dining room décor at the time and for years afterwards. Mom and Dad used it as sort of a gauge of taste. Anyone who admired it extravagantly got points of manners but none for artistic taste. Anyone who sort of winced and looked away obviously knew it was a piece of dreck as art, but was too well brought up to say so. Mom and Dad rather relished anyone who had the nerve to come right out and ask what in heck it was hanging on the wall for: one very dear friend cemented their high estimation of his artistic taste by finally asking if he could sit on the other side of the dinner table so he wouldn’t have to look at it.

Summer is here, it’s hot and the clouds are piling up. Some day, with luck, I’ll walk into that one gallery and buy one of the landscape cloud paintings.

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