Saturday, January 12, 2008

City of Rosenaks (and chocolaty snacks)

Why do I love Portland? Because David Rosenak called me yesterday.

Summer 2006: I go to the Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum. Most of the stuff I find underwhelming, but there are a few artists who really stick out in my mind. The person who made the big bang out of gummi candies. The person who created the interior of a donut store by carving out vinyl contact paper. And the guy who made these quiet, stunning, totally representational small paintings of Portland backyards.

Late 2006/Early 2007: I want to buy my honey a present. Something really special. And I can't get those paintings out of my head. I've never bought a painting before. So this is a big deal. This could mean I am a grown up. Not to mention on my way to being a Medici, a patron of the arts.

I try googling the artist, but all the links seem to be for the artistic director of the performing space at Bloomfield College in New Jersey. Not my guy. I go to PAM, comb the giftshop for the Biennial catalog, discover I have the artist's name right, but there is no gallery or other contact info for him. The woman at the giftshop takes my name and number, checks with someone in curatorial, calls back to say they don't know if he's represented. Finally I call the only person with the name in the Portland phone book, and leave a voicemail saying, "I'm hoping this is the the same David Rosenak who is a painter. Whose work I saw in the Oregon Biennial. I really liked it. I'd like to maybe buy a piece." More than Medici am I! No mere patron of the arts. I am a STALKER of the arts.

Within a few hours, I get a voicemail back. It's the right guy. He's flattered. But he doesn't sell his work. He doesn't get to paint very much, and it takes him so long to amass work, and so he likes to hold onto it.

(This, btw, is the one advantage of being a writer. You can have my work and I can too. If someone would publish my novel, then hopefully everyone including Oprah could have a copy, and it wouldn't be any less in my possession. But not so for visual artists - they sell it, and it's gone - someone else has it. Of course, that beats the performance artists. They perform it, and it's gone - and nobody has it.)

David Rosenak does invite me to come by his studio sometime, if I want. Which I never do. I save the message for a while, thinking maybe I will go, but at some point the voicemail somehow gets deleted.

And then yesterday, a year later, David Rosenak calls. Because he's saved my message all this time. And he's calling to ask if maybe I wouldn't mind him putting me on the mailing list he has, for when he shows work. Which he hardly ever does, so it wouldn't be so burdensome to be on the list. He also apologizes for leaving me a message before, rather than waiting to speak to me directly.

Last night we went to a tamale party. The party was packed. The serving platters were not. Tamales were coming out in batches of 25 tamales every 30 minutes. You have never seen a ravaging bunch of tamale waiting like this in your life. I've been to true East LA tamale parties, pots that cook a hundred unbelievably spicy good tamales at once. In Portland, the tamales are slower coming, and while they were lovingly handcrafted and perfectly fine to eat, they weren't hot tamales in any sense of spice or excitement.

But while we were waiting for those tamales, we all talked. Old friends and complete strangers, everyone talked to everyone. I talked to a chocolatier about literature about the holocaust, great places for a ladies' weekend away, and her mother's recent trip to the ER. I talked to a school nurse about an artist who handcrafts viewmaster reels. I talked to a politician about the time he hitchhiked through Newfoundland during a winterbreak in college.

I talked to a lawyer in the juvenile justice system about being a starving artist. She was asking about my writing, and telling me about when she used to be an actress. It turns out she and I lived in the same neighborhood in LA, during the same gang war. We compared notes - her block got strafed in some of the drive-bys. Our alley was used to dump bodies. With tamales nowhere in sight, I ate a big piece of chocolate cake (think of it as "pressert," the hostess, who was enjoying a corn-infused facial steam in the kitchen, said), and thought about why I love Portland.

And then I came home to David Rosenak's email:
You've probably received this note because you gave me an email address when you visited my studio recently when Troy Studios had an open house. I thought I'd let you know that one of the paintings you saw (crummy jpeg attached) will be displayed as part of the annual unjuried City/County employee art show "All The Art That Fits" in the Portland Building's lobby exhibition space from December 20th through January 25th. (I'd tell you who the other participating artist are, but I won't know until the show opens on Thursday). It's true that you just saw this painting but I don't show much so I'm plugging it for all it's worth (besides, this is the first time I've assembled an art notification list and I want to try out my new toy). The painting was unframed when you saw it and now it's framed and looks sharp, if I may say so, if that helps (it may also be unfinished, but that's another story).

I may have mentioned this, but in case I didn't: a couple of my paintings are now hanging with the Portland Art Museum's permanent collection of contemporary Northwest art on the 4th floor of the old wing (across from a couple of pieces by the great Michael Brophy, I'm happy to say). You may remember these paintings from the Biennial if you caught it last year.

Okay. Anyway, thanks for your interest -- the open house was fun and I'll let you know when it comes around again (though you are welcome to visit anytime). When it does I won't have made much progress in the studio but at least I'll have snacks -- chocolaty snacks.

City of Roses and Rosenak and such, how I love thee. And chocolate.

1 comment:

Hilary Pfeifer said...

Hey--you might want to listen to this great interview with Rosenak on KBOO the other day.

(great blog entry, by the way. Not only am I a fan of Rosenak, I am also a fan of tamales.)