Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Duplicity

Duplicity:  Deliberate deceptiveness in behavior or speech.  The Free Dictionary

I find it interesting, now, 18 years after making the Seven Deadly Sins, that I had both deceit and duplicity on my list.  They are really almost interchangeable.  Duplicity is about deliberately misleading someone and deceit is the practice of deceiving or misleading.  When I think back to what was happening that would cause me such distress, I realize that it's all about my experience with a New York Gallery which happened over about five years, from 1989-1994.

The gallery was in a beautiful space in Soho, and was owned by a small woman with jet black, very big hair piled on top of her head and curling down the sides of her face(a wig I later learned) . Always stylishly dressed, she was the epitome of what the New York Art Scene was all about: power, money, and attitude. I had two one- person shows with her over the four years she represented my work.  Her stable of artists was impressive, and I was proud to be  part of her gallery.  .

However, there was one problem, and that problem was that just because she sold our work, that didn't necessarily mean that we ended up with any money. She thought it enough that we were in her beautiful gallery and that she worked so hard for us, plus she was allowing us to be part of the New York City Art Scene, no small matter.  And she did work hard, placing my work in numerous private and public collections and traveling with it to Europe for the art fairs there.  There was just that tiny problem of her not liking to part with "her" money. 

After several years of "the checks in the mail" promises and me not receiving anything, I finally pulled my work out of the gallery with her owing me quite a bit of money.  I wrote her a long letter and got an immediate reply back from her lawyer telling me they would take me to court if I acted on my threat of exposing her to the art world.  I got my father to write a lawyerly letter which she ignored.  In desperation,  I went to a friend  in Chicago who was an important photography collector and told him my story.  He listened carefully, then put a call through to her gallery.  He and the gallery owner chatted for a short while making pleasantries, then in his wonderful, crinkly, old man voice, he mentioned that he had Holly Roberts sitting here in his office and that I had mentioned that the gallery owner owed me quite a bit of money.  Over the phone, they worked out a deal so that I would be paid $500 per month until the debt was paid off.  About a year after she had finished paying me off, he called me from Chicago to tell me that she had declared bankruptcy and that the gallery was no longer in existence. *

*Having just googled her name, I found that she is back up and running a gallery in NYC that is"more private in nature without a public space" and that she is a "private dealer and consultant with public visibility".  Beware!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Indifference

indifference:  lack of interest, concern, or sympathy  google
We all adored this man.  He was handsome and capable, and took time to be with us, taking us on horseback rides and camping trips.  There were eight of us, all girls, varying in age from seven to twelve.  Two of the girls were his daughters and they lived with him and their mother on a small ranch with a few horses and some cattle.  The neighborhood was rural, and most of us had horses, but the ranch was the real thing.  He was a WWW II vet, and had been in the Bataan Death March.  I remember one story he told us about the March that involved having a meal of some one's finger and not knowing it.  He always had lots of great stories to tell us.
This man molested me the night his wife was buried after a slow death from cancer.  I don't  know if his daughters, asleep in the same bunk bed with me, were aware of what was going on.  I didn't tell anyone about it until years later, when I was a young adult.  The person I told, a woman who knew this man, responded that he "bothered everyone", including her, and that was the end of our discussion.  Not long after that I brought it up  with one of the other members of our group, now a young woman in her twenties, who was several years older than I. Sure enough, he had molested her numerous times and had done things to her that were far worse than what had happened to me.  We thought it probable that he had molested all eight of us, including his daughters. But what I hadn't thought of, until recently, was the fact that he had probably made indecent advances to all of the adult women in the neighborhood as well, including our mothers, all friends.  It was a small and close knit community, yet no one ever seemed to put the dots together.  They must never have talked about it, nor considered it odd that he spent so much time with a group of young girls. Certainly they never thought to keep this monster away from us. Recently I asked the woman I had first told about being molested if  this man had "bothered" her a lot, and she said, "No, after that first time I just made sure I kept my distance".  I wondered why it had never crossed her mind that perhaps the little girls of the neighborhood might have needed some help in keeping their distances as well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Disappearance

To disappear 1. To pass out of sight; vanish.  2. To cease to exist. thefreedictionary.com

I've always had a terrible time with people that don't make themselves available to me. One of the hardest things for me to endure is when I've called or emailed someone with something important, and then don't get a response.  My stomache churns and clenches as the time goes by and it becomes clear to me that no answer is coming.  A few days ago I dropped by a new neighbor's house to welcome them and to gather information so that I could add them to our neighborhood contact list. I rang the doorbell and waited, then rang it again after I got no response.  I felt awkward and embarrassed, like a Jehovah's witness or a Mormon "Elder".  Dogs barked and scrabbled around inside, and I knew someone was there.  I knocked a last time, and with still no response, I left.  The experience bothered me for the rest of the day, nagging away at that fragile part of my self that doesn't know if I really matter or not.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Denial

My Aunt Beth was an important person for me.  She was my mother's older sister by 12 years, and was a twin.  She and her family lived in Colorado Springs, and some of my earliest memories are of waking up surrounded by looms in their strange and wonderful home.  A weaver by trade, Aunt Beth was a consummate crafts person.  She was feisty and energetic, and with her quick mind and strong sense of humor, she was fun to be with.   She bought an RV, and became a snowbird, driving from Colorado to Arizona every fall and returning in the spring.  She would stop to stay with us on her way and kept us updated on the ins and outs of her life.  But there was one problem:  she smoked. 

Her health began to deteriorate.  She had a terrible cough, and because of it, became incontinent.  She often smelled of urine.  When she would visit, I would make her go outside to smoke, and she would stand at the open door, inches from the screen, continuing her conversation with me, all the while puffing away.  Diagnosed with emphysema, she started using oxygen on a regular basis.  She could no longer make the trips to Arizona, and we stopped seeing her as much.  The last time I saw her she had two small, clear tubes coming from her nostrils attached to a tank of oxygen and she reeked of urine.  As we talked, she  carefully turned off her oxygen so she could light up, and then explained to me how all of this bad health had come about, not because of her smoking, but because of ozone depletion in the atmosphere.  She died a few years later from complications of the emphysema. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Neglect

Neglect: to be remiss in the care or treatment of.  Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary.

Shonto Boarding School:  Rural, Remote Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster.

My first class was with  fourth graders.  Normally, nine year olds are wonderful human beings to teach:  not yet adults, they are capable, open, friendly, and curious, and, of course, love anything to do with art.   In this case, the minute I walked into the classroom I knew things were wrong.  Children were racing around the room, screaming.  Desks were overturned, and one boy stood on top of a small table throwing erasers at the other kids as they tore by.  His aim was good; a girl stood and cried loudly, chalk dust covering her face. There seemed to be no one in charge.  At first the kids didn't see me, then, as my presence became known, they began to shift their attention, slowing down a little.  It was unsettling.  I thought of Lord of the Flies and wondered just how much worse it could get. I asked one of the children where their teacher was.  The room became completely silent and I could hear a pounding coming from behind a closed door in the room.  I went to open it and a short, older, very overweight woman with  dry, broken, gray  hair shot out of out of a small closet, "Okay you kids. I know who did this.  Bryson you get over here.  I'm going to paddle your butt 'till it bleeds and I mean it!" The kids watched her for a few minutes, then took off again-- running, screaming, shouting.  The woman grabbed the arm of one of the boys that ran by her but he easily shook her off and continued to run. I thought I should intervene;
"Mrs. Kaufman, I'm Holly Roberts and I'm here to teach art for the week".
She turned to me, and replied;
 "You can have the little devils."
With that, she left the room, handing over 36 nine year old Navajo students to me.  These same 36 nine year old students would go every night, not home to their mothers and fathers, but to a dorm, and these same students would spend five days a week, seven hours a day for the rest of the school term with Mrs. Kaufman guiding  them through their fourth grade year.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins: Deceit

Deceit: the act or practice of deceiving; concealment or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading; duplicity; fraud; cheating.  

My life is about honesty:  honesty in my relationships with others, honesty in my words and actions, and honesty in making images that are truthful.  Deceit is the flip side of all of that, and it hurts and offends me.  When I  first painted Deceit, I was thinking specifically of a gallery dealer in New York who sold my work, then tried to get out of paying me by telling me half truths and lies.  Now, almost twenty years later,  when I think of deceit I don't think of it affecting me personally as much as how it affects us all:  leaders who say one thing and do another; people who say they are "good Christians" (or Muslims or Jews)but then seem to do everything that isn't spiritual or even just good;  physicians who provide care for their patients as much to be able to reccomend tests or procedures that they can bill for as to help those patients with their health issues. 

I have never been able to do anything about people being deceitful around me, not even in my own family.  I don't think things will change much in that way, but I do know that I can continue to try to be honest, and certainly, when I see and recognize honesty in the people around me, take great pleasure in that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Seven Deadly Sins 1994

The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices (part of Christian ethics) that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin. The currently recognized version of the sins are usually given as wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.

I'm not sure what lodged in my unconscious that urged me to do an artist's book about the seven deadly sins, but lodge it did.  I looked up the sins and found that they had little relevance to me or my life.  I was guilty of having been possessed by all seven, but I didn't think of them as especially sinful.  Envy was probably my biggest and most consistent "sin", but I just tended to think of it as an annoying emotion that I had to put up with, kind of like an old, overweight, male relative who repeats the same not at all funny jokes and is just this side of being a pederast.

What I decided was that I would come up with my own seven deadly sins, not sins that I had committed, rather sins that were committed against me.  This is the title page for the book, with the/my seven deadly sins to follow.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fenix 2009

The Phoenix  is described as a bird with a colorful plumage and a tail of gold and scarlet (or purple, blue, and green according to some legends.  It has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self.  The Phoenix's ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal, though in some stories the new Phoenix is merely the offspring of the older one.   Wikkipedia

It's been a long and hot summer so far for most of the country.  However, for those of us in the West it's been a little more intense. On the news a few nights ago a graphic was shown with little orange flames on a map of the United States indicating where fires burned.  At that point, there were 53 fires burning from Montana to New Mexico.  It made an alarming sight.  In New Mexico we had the largest forest fire in the state's history, the White-Water Baldy Fire in the Southwestern part of the state.  Closer to home, the Romero Fire burned at the North end of the village of Corrales, where we live, jumping the Rio Grande River to destroy almost 400 acres. We dodged a bullet-the expected high wind gusts of up to 50 mph never happened and the fire was contained within a few days with no destruction to homes.  The air can be thick and soupy with smoke.  At times we can't see to the end of our road, and it's not unusual to wake in the morning and find ashes covering everything outdoors.  My body responds with a polite, dry, hacking little cough that never seems quite to go away.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Addendum to Girl with Yellow Braids

I just found and added the picture I have been looking for since I posted Girl Yellow with Braids.  I thought it lost, but sure enough, just hidden in the morass of all of our stuff. http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2517043060746292743#editor/target=post;postID=8317346987886766161