outsider recovery art
Saturday, December 4 2010
After another day of applying odd little pieces of Durock and Portland cemnent to the greenhouse and felling evergreens south of the house, Gretchen and I headed out for another "first Saturday" down at KMOCA on the Rondout (run, in part, by our friend Deborah). We stopped first at Ray and Nancy's house to pick them up, coming in (as always) through the back door. But today that was a mistake. Ray and Nancy had a housepainter houseguest named Eric staying with them, and he'd just painted that back door white. So the first order of business at Ray and Nancy's house was to wash white paint off our black winter coats and trousers. Just when we'd thought we'd gotten it all, we'd find a little more that had already spread to other places. They'd known we were coming; why had they not put up a sign or something? For the rest of the evening I had to walk around with a big wet spot on my trousers and and a wet sleave on my jacket.
We all carpooled to the Rondout with Ray at the wheel. KMOCA's exhibit this week featured the work of the mentally-handicapped and recovering addicts of the Waryas House Group Home. (All the actual artists were long-gone by the time we arrived; they had dinner at five o'clock sharp back at the group home.) They proved to be an amazingly prolific group, having created a quantity ofart too vast to fit on KMOCA's walls. It tended to be colorful and surpringly well-composed. Many of the artists had used stencils to help them with depicting parts of their images, so they had the appearance of clip art, though often with crafty ornamentation such as pointillism and wood burning (or woodburning pointillism). The biggest user of that last technique was an artist named Angel, and we liked a lot of his work. Since it was all so affordable, we ended up buying a painting and a piece of furniture he'd decorated. We also got a packet of postcards made by a variety of group home artists. Nancy bought a painting Angel had made of a fish swimming in a translucent media that looked like granite. Since the artists had all been recovering addicts, there had been no wine at the opening. But once they were gone and we (some us being non-recovering addicts) showed up, Deborah busted out a bottle of red from the reserves.
As the show wound down, all of us except for Deborah (who had to close down the gallery) went up the street towards Armadillo to maybe get a drink. We only pass about three addresses on the way, but one of those was a brand new gallery in a lovely old rambling building of the sort Kingston is so full of. We went back in there and found a series of little worlds, each with one or two small artists' studios on the side, some unremarkable art, and glorious flourishes of architecture that only exist as artifacts. At the very back was a small kitchen table being used as a bar, where people were sitting around drinking and smoking cigarettes. It was as if we were in a different country.
At the Armadillo, we gradually descended on the bar, taking seats as they became available. I ended up near the restaurant's nixie bulb menorrah, which I surreptitiously advanced two days by screwing in an additional two of its beautiful faux-flame bulbs. I was mostly talking to Eric, both about the ease of being a vegan and my greenhouse.
All of us, including Deborah, went Uptown to our favorite Indian restaurant for dinner. We went in separate cars and ours stopped for beer at the Citgo on Broadway, the one with the flamboyantly-advertised "beer cave." Nancy had never seen a beer cave before and she was delighted and amazed, particularly by its frigid conditions and the indoor masonry wall used to set it off from the rest of the store. Eric bought a 12 of Stella Artois (one of my favorite anemic beers) and it cost $20.
At the Indian restaurant, the choice was obvious when it was between ordering entrées or picking over the hours-old buffet. The look on Eric's face when he saw that none of us would be ordering any meat was a little like the look on my face when I'm with a group of Gretchen's friends and it's clear nobody will be ordering alcoholic drinks (this never happens with my friends). He ended up ordering sag paneer, a cheese dish. And Ray, despite the memo about animal fats that can only come in the form of a triple bypass, couldn't keep himself from having some. For some reason the food was especially good tonight.
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