Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cute - Or What?

Mars and I came back to Wethersfield, Connecticut from Santa Fe with several Virgins of Guadalupe, two Red Onions, and a Jackalope.  The V.O.G.s were expected.  She is our favorite icon.  The latter two were total surprises.

For the past several Christmases Mars and I have spent the holidays in New Mexico’s capitol city visiting Monica and Bram (daughter-in-law and son).  (It is one place in the world where we feel at home, and we plan on making it our real home eventually.  For now we visit often, and surround ourselves with as much of its ambience as we can fit into our small New England Colonial house.)  The last couple of times there we all four were guests on a local public radio “foodie” program called “Mouth of Wonder” hosted by M & B’s friend Stacy. 

As a project for our local historical society in 2011, Mars had edited a cookbook ofWethersfield family recipes and the stories that went with them.  She gave Stacy a copy of the publication – and on the air, talked about some of the dishes and told the story of the Red Onion – the official emblem of our hometown.  Wethersfield is Connecticut’s oldest established town and was once the leading grower and exporter of the edible bulb in the entire world.  The crop was harvested by “onion maidens” – young women who, town lore says –  "weeded and wept," as they reaped the onions for the reward of a silk dress.

On this visit the timing was wrong to do the show.   But on December 25th, as we did in the past – after our sunrise eggnog latte stroll; then breakfast, gifts and hanging out with Monica and Bram – we got together with Stacy, her husband Jim, her mother Bernice, and a few others for dinner and gift exchanging to celebrate what you might call Christmas with a lower case “c”.  (I’m not quite sure what else to describe it as, even though my Word word-processor on the Mac will not let me type christmas without a fight.) 

Stacy and Bernice are New York Jewish –  “Noo Yawk, as in "Get outa hea", "Fawget aboutit", "Ahrite ahready" and "Lawn Guyland" – but they say they stopped being Jewish when they moved to Santa Fe. 

The four of us – Mars, Monica, Bram and me – are, I guess, a-religious.  New Mexico however has a unique culture and style in which the peasant Catholic religious iconography and tradition overlaps with and infuses the secular Hispanic.   And I find myself being drawn towards sacred symbols and objects that wouldn’t even be on my radar in another environment.  In this land of adobe brown and turquoise nothing is black and white. 

There were green and red “Happy Birthday Jesus” cocktail napkins at Stacy’s party.  So maybe it is more rightly called “Jewish Christmas”. – The online “urban dictionary” says, “Jewish Christmas costs less than twenty bucks per head and you're not stuck with crappy gifts.” – although I think it was referring to the folklore (or fact) that Jews tend to celebrate the holiday at Chinese restaurants.

 We did exchange gifts – one of which was a pair of embroidered Red onion pillow cases for Mars and me – suggested by Monica and Bram, designed by Stacy, and executed by Bernice.  Thank you all.

The next afternoon we bought our Jackalope.  This was our day for gallery-hiking Canyon Road.  Mars and I spent an hour or so working our way up the street then met Bram for lunch at a teahouse located at the border line of retail and residential.  After our meal we wandered with him back to a gallery owned by B., an acquaintance of his, at which we had made an acquisition last Christmas.
As we entered B. was busily in conversation with a thirty-something woman who turned out to be one of the artists that he represented.  Bram said quietly, “She’s one of my favorite painters.”  B. stopped to greet us, introduced Amy Ringholz, and told us that she had literally just dropped off some new pieces “with the paint still wet”.  The works were casually lined up on the floor, leaning on the wall. 

 Amy’s subject matter is mostly the animals of the west painted in large, angular (but realistic) lines, in dreamlike colors.  One of her “still wet” pieces was a Jackalope – an antlered species of rabbit that is a cross between a hare and an antelope, unique to the imaginations of residents of the western United States.  Live ones are rarely (some would say never) sighted but taxidermy models, tall-tales, and paintings abound.

 Mars and I both independently and immediately liked it.  Mars even told Amy that she thought it was cute.  I privately agreed – especially since I find most images of the creature to be freaky scary.  The two of us conferred in another room while pretending to look at the other artists on display and decided to buy it – and to wait for the colors to set before it was shipped to us.  Amy signed the back of the canvas, Mars signed the credit card slip, we took some photos, complimented B. on his sales techniques and resumed our trek down Canyon Road and back to our casita.
 A symbol of where we are and a sign of where we are going, each made expressly for us (one intentionally, one not), and both exactly where they were meant to be (or will be when the paint dries.)


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