Oatmeal, anyone? An Evening with Ottmar Liebert

When my daughter was small, she would refer to Flamenco guitarist, Ottmar Liebert as “Oatmeal”.  “Listening to Oatmeal again, Mom?”  she would ask.

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Last night, we were treated to two hours of this graceful guitarist’s skilled execution of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard.  Liebert was joined by bassist, Jon Gagon and percussionist, Chris Steele.  They had definite chemistry, and put on an ideal show in an intimate Portland venue in the Alberta Arts District.

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© Stacy Alexander

Ottmar Liebert is what guitar playing is all about.  He is in tune with his craft to the point that it seemed, at times, that he and the guitar were one instrument.  He was graceful, and seemed comfortable in his own skin, playing, most of the time, barefoot, with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, riding the waves of his own creations.   I believe he was playing a small DeVoe guitar, but it didn’t have any markings on it that I could see, so I’m not certain that is what it was.

Since 1986 Liebert has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1992 he purchased an “alt-ranchette” just outside the city, with an adobe guesthouse he built as a recording studio.  In May 2006 Liebert was ordained as a Zen monk by Dennis Genpo Merzel at the Kanzeon Zen Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had a very strong presence….one of peace and goodness.  Both John and I sensed this immediately as we watched him.

(I couldn’t get the video of Luna Negra to embed.  This video (above) is an earlier performance.)

I have been unable to find a video of Jon Gagnon, his bassist, but will post one here, if i do later.  He  was simply put, rock solid in every way.  Jon had a huge presence and voice on a 4 string fretless which sang like an baritone opera singer…or, at times, a French horn.  I couldn’t figure out what one of his bass instruments was at all it.  The one shown here was huge, and had a EB-like headstock and a body shape of something like a JP and a morsh.   Its  tone was full of mwah, but soulful and crying. The  fretboard was  coated with something shiny. I’d not seen anything like it before.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.54.47 AMThe drummer, Chris Steele, was not to be believed.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 10.57.15 AMI did find a video of Chris playing, and I encourage you to watch it.  He is truly a unique player, and fantastically talented.

There is a video on YouTube that I couldn’t manage to embed here.  Please look it up.  It is called “Good Drums, Bad Turtleneck” by Chris Steele.  This is the video to watch to really see this man’s talent.  You can find it here:

The Alberta Rose Theater is a sweet little venue….very small and intimate, which was the perfect place to hear a trio such as this.  John and I ate the venue’s delicious  hand pies and sipped Perrier as we basked in the warmth and beauty that these musicians presented to us. We had such a nice evening.   These guys are  true professionals…plain and simple.  They were tight, knew exactly what they were doing, and provided the audience with an amazing show.  ’nuff said.  Well…no….NOT enough said, actually.

As I was sitting there watching these incredible musicians, I though about my dear friend, another musician, and felt so sad that his life has taken the path that it has.  It could have been him up there on that stage last night….but as they say…”When you lie with pigs….”  He has made some not-so-wise choices.   I’ll leave it at that.

Hockney in San Francisco

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A press conference attended by my husband, John, was held today to celebrate the exhibit, David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition, opening on the 26th and staying up through the 20th of January at the De Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

 

The celebrated British artist  talked about his work and how he has embraced new technology to create much of his work on the iPad these days.

Hockney, one of my idols,  is the most influential and best-known British artist of his generation. More than 300 works are being shown in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making this the largest exhibition in the history of the museum.

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This exhibition highlights Hockney’s ability to engage with—and gain mastery of—a wide variety of tools and media. Works range from simple pencil drawings on paper, to Bigger Yosemite, five drawings created on the iPad that capture the majesty of the American West. “Like an artist alchemist, in one minute Hockney uses a fancy digital device to make a colorful iPad drawing; in the next he shows us that he is one of our greatest draftsmen by rendering an exactingly detailed charcoal drawing of a forest scene in East Yorkshire,” notes Richard Benefield, deputy director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and organizer of the exhibition.

Hockey is probably best known for this painting, which I’m sure, many of you will recognize:

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When I heard he was going to be there today, I told John that he MUST go.  He agreed, but when he got there, he learned that it was a Press-only event.  Therefore, he promptly told the keepers of the gate that he was reporting for the Arte California blog and they gave him press credentials and let him in!  That’s my man….always thinking ahead.  🙂

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I regret that I could not be there myself, but it was great that John could attend.  He said that he shot about 12 minutes worth of video which I shall upload once he sends it along to me.

This collage was John’s favorite piece in the show”

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Thrilling experience for John.  I am so glad he got to go!

Anti-Mass at the deYoung

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Ugh!  Look at my messy hair!  Windy, windy day in San Francisco that day! 

As an artist, part of my job is to observe art by others to learn from, be inspired by and humbled by their work.  I will be documenting much of my recent trip to the de Young Museum in San Francisco over time, but today, I want to focus on this piece by Cornelia Parker.

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Titled, “Anti-Mass”   this sculpture was constructed from the remains of a Southern Black Baptist Church destroyed by arsonists.  I was drop-jawed when I saw it….almost moved to tears.  The pieces appear  to defy gravity, suggesting the temporality of everything physical, even as it captures the spirit of the worshippers.

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In the title,  the word “mass” refers to both the elemental substance of the universe, as well as the Catholic sacramental ritual, uniting science and religion in a metaphoric insistence on the triumph of creativity over violence.  It evokes the lost church and congregation through absence more powerfully than could any figurative image.

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I must have sat on the bench in the middle of the room and stared at it for half an hour.  Rarely am I as deeply affected by a piece of art as suddenly and as deeply as this.  I was very surprised when I saw this artist’s photo, revealing, I suppose, my own (shame-worthy) inner-propensity toward stereotyping.   The name Cornelia Parker, coupled with the subject matter of this piece, brought to mind a fierce black woman artist.  Little did I expect her to look like this:

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Parker studied at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1974–75) and Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975–78).   She received her MFA from Reading University in 1982 and honorary doctorates from the University of Wolverhampton in 2000, the University of Birmingham (2005) and the University of Gloucestershire (2008).

In 1997, Cornelia Parker was shortlisted for the Turner Prize along with Christine BorlandAngela Bulloch, and Gillian Wearing (who won the prize).   She is married, has one daughter, and lives and works in London.                 I want to make art that has this same kind of impact!

 

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Day # 15 – ALONE

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Photo a Day – APRIL

Day # 15 – ALONE

© Stacy Alexander