Letter to Ben

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

 

Acacia tree in the rain on the Eje Ambiental ('10)

Girl with umbrella walks in the rain along the Eje Ambiental (’10).

 

Hello! I’ve  been thinking over our recent Facebook exchange and I want to amend myself somewhat.

I have a Kodak Z981 digital camera which I bought because of its truly awesome lens–a Schneider Kreuznach Variogon with ED glass lens groups. I would LOVE to have a Schneider APO 50 mm enlarging lens (39 mm thread), currently priced at USD 880 at B&H, but. . .!

Then I discovered some pretty cool features on the Kodak (e.g., black and white @ ISO 64–to DIE FOR!!!) that no one else offers (or they do, but way beyond my price range).

I also own two Epson photo printers (both need fresh inks) and they give me excellent prints. I have Photoshop Elements 6 on the “vintage 2009” Dell laptop and had PE 9 on the  other Dell that I sold because I was broke. I had an Epson Photo scanner, too. Need to replace all this, but anyway, I do have experience with digital.

I learned over time that it takes as long to create an outstanding digital print as it does to create a darkroom version. The difference is mostly economic–chemicals and paper are cheaper (even when I import the paper from the US) than inks and the extremely LIMITED selection of digital paper available here.

And I have produced outstanding images in both media.

I enjoy looking at a well-crafted print.

What I see more and more, however, is technical virtuosity trying to hide an intellectual, philosophical and aesthetic DESERT. With American art, it boils down to conformity in a grisly way–Joe’s work looks like Mary’s work which looks like Steve’s which is a sorry imitation of Walker Evans, who is probably glad he doesn’t have to look at this crap (since he’s dead). For this reason alone, I’m tempted to suggest you take a sabbatical and spend a year in Japan (or wherever) developing your personal vision. For film–stop by B&H and pick up a few bricks (packs of 50 rolls) of film.

But now I’m really going to go out on a limb. What I want to say is based on personal experience, personal history and art history. I will probably sound like your crazy old aunt meddling in your life, but I’m offering this as just something to think about.

I think the photos show that the little boy with spectacular drawing skills is starting to emerge. Maybe instead of B&H Photo Video you need to play touchy-feely at the nearest art supply store. Is there a Utrecht or Pearl Paint in the Boston area? They have good selections of brands at reasonable prices.

Please don’t order this online. Every manufacturer has a formula for colors and consistencies. Europeans favor a slightly warmer palette while Americans lean toward a neutral-clean “purity” (e.g., Cadmium Red Medium is a strong pure RED producing a different purple when mixed with the American version of Ultramarine Blue). Roy Lichtenstein’s work best expresses what I mean.

Once you have some materials, lock yourself in a room with your favorite music. I’m serious about locking the door and turning off your phone. This is scary–you’re really alone with what’s going on in your head. It’s a very intimate dialogue.

Then start drawing, add color, let the canvas or paper talk to you. Don’t stop til it tells you it’s time to stop (at least for the day).

Oh yeah–I forgot this part–

On your way home with art materials, stop and get sweets. Ever get stoned and have the munchies? It’s like that. Also good–pizza (extra cheese) or strong hot chocolate. (If there’s a Latin American neighborhood in Boston, find the tienda or supermercado used by Colombians. Ask for chocolate made by Nacional de Chocolate or Luker. Someone will explain how to prepare hot chocolate with milk using the pastilles. (Or I can, if you prefer.)

I’m digressing. Sorry.

I think you’re using photography as a substitute for drawing and painting. I understand that. It’s a quick fix. I had a student in a photo workshop who started pushing his b&w prints toward their limits and became frustrated when they did not (and could not) match what he saw in his mind. I suggested he take a drawing or painting class because photography has its limitations.

It turned out that he had been drawing and designing and makin jewelry but wasn’t sure if that would lead him where he wanted to go. He applied to Javeriana University’s art school and–out of 83 applicants–he was one of the three new students admitted. I’m still pleased that he got into that program.

But this is why I re-thought my comments about your photography. I know that you know how to draw a full and detailed picture. Photographically you are showing the next step–abstraction. You are reducing something–your idea–to its elements, and this is based on what you did years ago.

Personally, I could do this in my mind but never did it on canvas or paper til I went back to college. That stems from the psychological beating I took from my parents when I started to draw when I was 12 or so. In college I not only had to catch up but backtract in my memories. Very time-consuming.

At the same time I overheard (okay, eavesdropped) on a casual conversation between my painting prof, Jim Adley (who is English) and a student who asked if the prof had always painted, always been an artist. “Oh no, no,” came the candid reply. “My mother held onto my drawings from school and thought perhaps it might be nice if I were to become an artist. And I did attend art school and I painted, but then. . .” He paused, thinking. “Well, there was the War, you know. . . Um-m-m-m. . . But then I became an accountant, if you can imagine that. . .” he chuckled. “For, um-m-m. . .let’s see, ten?. . . Twelve?. . . Yes, about twelve years. I didn’t paint at all. Nothing. And then one day, I found a drawing my mother had kept. . . I couldn’t BELIEVE she still had it. . .” His voice trailed off.

“So I stopped the accounting and applied to an MFA program here in America, in Philadelphia, as they hadn’t anything like it in England at the time, and my wife and I came over for that. Then I started teaching and, you know, that was that.”

So, Ben, if you haven’t seriously drawn in a while on a conscious level, your subconscious and the “art part” of your brain has been developing anyway. You’re in your 40’s–just about the time Gauguin gave up banking. (Please read a solid biography of his life. It was much more complex than my summation.) Therefore, I am only suggesting that you first let the gifted child emerge–the abstract photos on Facebook are the manifestation of a developed eye expressing itself with the medium at hand. After you and the child get re-acquainted, you will figure out what’s your next step.

I can not apologize for the psychoanalytical approach I take on this or any other subject. Thanks to Mommie and Daddy Dearests, I’ve had six psychiatrists and a clinical psychologist. I analyze so much and so often it actually gets in the way when I want to write or paint or sometimes even take pictures.

But this is also why my critique of your photos sounded so cold. I look first at the work, which is good, but I need to give it context. Overkill? Maybe. But I also believe in a criticism that allows for growth and is constructive–this is where you are now. Where do you want to go?

However, I stand by my comments about the too-perfect exquisiteness of digital images. Eventually I’ll write more about that.

Just not now.

I need some hot chocolate.

Best regards and a belated Happy Easter to Ayako, Ethan and Colin. Take care!

Your aunt,

Metta

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

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Another Saturday

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved 

It’s cold, overcast and starting to drizzle. I’m listening to the Beatles and singing along with most of the lyrics. It’s Saturday afternoon in Bogotá.

In. . . hm…m… m… 1967? Maybe.

Actually?

Actually, 7 March 2015. Yes, I can remember the lyrics because I bought the records and played them endlessly–as did the rest of my generation–and learned the lyrics because they were included somewhere on the album. Sometimes on the back of the album, but more often on the inside sleeve holding the record. In the case of Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club,”  it came out in July 1967. I was in the US because my brother REO was getting married that month and I was going to be a bridesmaid. I bought the LP at the Disc Shop, next to Kewpie’s on Grand River Ave., in East Lansing, and across the street from the MSU campus. Took the record home to my parents’ house and played it, as much as possible. In this case, a lot, really a lot, because my mother and stepfather liked the Beatles, too. My stepfather, in fact, had studied clarinet and was in his high school’s marching band. My mother had studied violin. (And I studied piano and sang in choirs.) REO liked the Beatles, later more drawn to the Rolling Stones and these days, streams The Grateful Dead on his Jeep’s sound system. Whatever blows your hair back, as one of my art teachers used to say.

What fascinated me today, listening to the Beatles on headphones connected to my celular, was how exceptional was their playing. It sounds relatively simple, considering how it was recorded in the Sixties, but  up close, with digital reproduction. . . WOW! Damn good pickin’ there, George! (For those who aren’t familiar with basic rock set-ups in the Sixties, and the Beatles–John was lead guitar, Paul was bass, George was melody guitar and Ringo was drums. Classically stated–John was first violin, George was second; Paul was either viola or cello (depending on the composition) and Ringo was percussion. Some things do not change.) I know I’ve  listened to the Beatles and other British groups from the period hundreds of times in a lot of  moods and using a lot of different equipment. With the Beatles–bought the LP in the US, played it on a German-made stereo in my apartment in Bogotá; said stereo was purchased at Sears (the store) in 1966, and was state-of-the-art at the time. I’d sit on the floor and sing along. The music was on when friends dropped by (kept the volume down, of course). It was on when I wasn’t home in order to keep my dog Mariposa company. (The radio, not the stereo.) These days, I tend to listen to classical music and opera, but the music is on just the same. But the question becomes–why do we keep listening to this? Why does it still sound so G-O-O-D!?!?!?

Personally, I think it’s because, until very recently, musicians and other artists really cared about their craft. No offense, but what is Beyoncé’s craft, exactly–shakin’ her booty in front of a bunch of drunk horny guys? Lying to younger women that her bump-and-grind is a liberation for women? (Really? Is that why Salomé danced?) Craft is caring about what you do and  how you do it. It’s why people outside the arts consider all artists (regardless of medium) whiny prima donnas. The Beatles cared a great deal about what they did and then had the truly great good fortune to work with a man whose musical experience included producing classical music albums, especially Baroque. His name was George Martin. Other  rockers from the Sixties (Zeppelin comes to mind, and then Queen in the late Seventies) cared just as much and–like the Beatles–it still shows. I’ve seen the Beatles and Queen live in concert and their perfectionism carries over onto the stage. The tickets were worth the price. And you know what? Their lyrics were good–not offensive nor insulting nor threatening. These days, groups like these find themselves categorized as “Christian” or are considered so bland they don’t even get contracts or air time. The American group Iron Butterfly would still be playing in dives and bars today, their classic 17-minute piece Inna-gadda-da-vida virtually unknown. (Look it up on Google! The composer was the son of an organist at a Lutheran church in the Midwest. You can hear Bach in it.)

So there we were on the Eje Ambiental this afternoon, Friday and Fabiana and me, in the light drizzle forming little rings on the surface of the Río San Francisco,  TransMilenio buses rumbling by, and I was singing along to the Beatles. I know I wasn’t singing very loudly because no one paid attention to us (fortunately; my voice isn’t all that good any more). But that music sounded as good this afternoon as it did in  the Sixties when I first heard it and first bought the LPs. Javeriana Stereo is right on this point–this music has become classic, not  because of its age, but because of the craft behind it. It’s worth listening to, over and over and over again.

I have a friend who was only 7 when Sargent Pepper came out. He became a musician. I have to wonder what would have happened if he’d been able to listen to this music before he started classes (at age 8) at the Conservatorio del Tolima. That’s just a thought. . .

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson – All Rights Reserved

 

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This is not happening. Yes, it is.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved

On Becoming a Bum

I sat on the nice couch yesterday in a nice apartment in Chapinero, and burst into tears. I felt deeply embarrassed, humiliated and shrinking into nothingness. Across from me sat Martha, a friend since 1968, and we were discussing my options for survival, which are almost nil.

Martha’s summation of events leading to my current situation was concise and balanced. No Social Security, no welfare, no job, no husband, no children. Living in a hostal at USD 15/night, little food, my dogs cared for by others, my personal property (including clothes) locked up by someone who simply got mad at me.

Once upon a time, I lived in nice apartments in Chapinero, a now-classic residential-but-going-too-commercial neighborhood in Bogota. I had nice clothes. I had plans and hopes for the future. I had friends. I wrote my mother twice a month, my father once a month, and they wrote back. This was years before direct long distance dialing although we kept writing regardless of phone service. I was writing and in the Seventies began to start painting and take my photography more seriously. I was beginning to become an artist.

In the US, my brother and sisters went to college, got married, had children, etc. I went to REO’s first wedding because his fiancee asked me to be a bridesmaid. That was in 1967, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Lansing, Michigan, on a warm July evening.

Last family wedding I ever attended. I was invited to Debbie’s wedding, received an announcement about Katrina’s, and was openly excluded from my niece Heather’s hippie-dippie-in-a-field wedding in the 1980s. My mother had a fit about that, but by then, exclusion from family events had become standard practice. I was out of sight, therefore out of mind. Only letters from Mom or Dad let me know about family events.

Flash forward – 2003.  My father died around noon on Friday, 21 February 2003. My brother REO lived about 80 miles away. He was notified with a message left on his answering machine at 6 p.m. on Saturday, 22 Feb., which he heard at 11 p.m. that night. According to his second wife, he went so ballistic that he was still incoherent on Sunday morning when she called me in Houston, Texas. I was there to help my mother whose sister had died two weeks earlier.

The memorial service for Dad was scheduled for the following Tuesday morning. I was there, with REO and his family, to everyone’s obvious surprise. He and I, as Episcopalians and as Olds Anderson’s oldest children, made sure we were first in line to take communion at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, where Dad had sung in the choir. (His widow and their daughters were/are Christian Scientists.) The British minister emphasized how well-liked and respected Mr. Anderson was at the church.

Later we learned Dad had almost cut us out of his Will, in favor of his widow and their daughters. The provisions, according to his lawyer (so embarrassed he could barely look me in the eye), were very specific. 1. Mr. Anderson left a small fixed amount to each child. 2.The bulk of his estate went to his wife and their daughters. 3. Any claim against the estate protesting this distribution would automatically exclude the protester from future distribution of said estate.

May 2006 — REO calls to say, “Just thought you should know Mom died yesterday and I had her cremated. She didn’t leave any written instructions about her things so–” he snickered “I can do what I want.” And he did.

Flash Forward and Backward — When Doris Berkey Davis became Mrs. R E Olds Anderson, she acquired me and REO as stepchildren, like it or not. We had been born during his marriage to Elizabeth Faye Powers between 1943 and 1948. None of the parties involved may have liked the situation, but being a “step-something” is a legality. No big deal.

Doris had a daughter, Diane, by her first marriage, who was legally adopted by the new husband. Then they had two more daughters.

November 2012 — Doris B. Anderson dies of natural causes (age 92).

Mid-year 2014 — Metta Jane Anderson, out of curiosity, stumbles across the tidbit that the woman who had been such a part of her life since 1946, had died on November 25, 2012. In an obituary in The Lansing State Journal, Metta Jane is listed as a surviving stepdaughter (and REO as a surviving stepson).

I sent a short and nasty note to REO–“I guess you were so overcome with grief over Doris’s death that you forgot to tell me.”

His reply–“Diane said she was going to tell you.”

Yeah? Since when are these two such close and trusting friends?

Meanwhile, and since 2012, I have been having serious financial trouble. I have asked for help from “the family.” There are four of them. One of me. I suggested that any economic aid be divided among the four, e.g., USD 250.00 per person per month.

Nothin’ doin’.

Instead of help, I get a sadistic and very unrealistic version of “tough love.”  In synthesis– Proposition Number 1. I get rid of everything–dogs, books, bed (an inherited antique), photo equipment, art materials, etc. I will be given a one-way economy class ticket to wherever I want to live IN THE US. REO and Diane will support me while I get a job paying roughly USD 3000 to USD 5000/month or til I qualify for welfare. (The figures for my support come from the US Consulate in Bogota. They feel the wiser plan would be to leave me here and pay my rent. Total Cost per month–USD 1500 to USD 2500/month. This is rent, utilities and some food. The rest would come from teaching and selling my art.)

Proposition Number 2.  Now in effect. No one sends me anything. So far, REO has had no problems with that. Diane relented somewhat–she sent money to cover the replacements for my visa and my Colombian ID (called a cedula), but not the passport. The US Consulate informed her that the passport is required for the other documents. She refused to change her mind so I had to find someone else to pay for it (USD 135.00).  And since I’m living in a hostal, I used the rest to keep a roof over my head.

Diane also sent some money at Christmas. It went to the hostal as well.

So I have come down to this–I am a beggar. I used to have clean clothes, decent food, live in a decent apartment with my dogs.  Now, USD 15/night separates me from sleeping in the street and not smelling. USD 20 (that’s five dollars for food per day) feeds me.

I do not qualify for Social Security, but that’s another story for another day.

I do not qualify for welfare either in Colombia or in the US. They use identical qualifying systems. I have a college degree, I do not have any handicaps and I do not have minor children. I am not a caretaker (caregiver?) for handicapped children or adults.

My family’s supposed “tough love” approach puts my entire life in serious jeopardy and is also illegal in the US as well as in Colombia. It’s called “abandonment of a senior citizen” (rough translation).

What my family is doing is to reject the educated adult artist and writer I am while attempting to exercise a control that has never been in their power before. That this causes me enormous emotional and physical pain as well as psychological damage does not interest them in the slightest. It also leaves them blind to other consequences–e.g., if they refuse to help me where I am now, how can I trust them to help me in the US?

Second, I speak “legalese” in two languages. How quickly do you think I’d get a lawyer in Michigan or any other part of the US and sue them for damages (pain and suffering caused by their negligence)?

Third, I am a very good writer. How would they feel about a tell-all novel making them look worse than they are?

So there I sat, crying on Martha’s shoulder, seriously talking about suicide as my only alternative. I’ve lived in Bogota for 48 years (49 in March). This is home. Even a first year psychiatric student could tell  you how damaging it would be to uproot me and force me into an environment so different from the one I’ve witnessed change from backward to futuristic in barely a generation.

I cried too because the woman sitting across from Martha is not the confident, nicely-dressed and relaxed woman she met years ago. That woman has become a bum, deprived of a decent place to live and work, deprived of decent food, deprived of her clothes and her dogs, deprived of her art materials (and therefore deprived of her ability to earn a living, which is a felony crime in Colombia), and deprived of tomorrow.

All this because a very well-educated and well-to-do family still lives in 1960 in East Lansing, Michigan, and insists that I do the same.

(C) 2015 by Metta Anderson. All Rights Reserved.

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 240 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Casa de Moneda

(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson

The sound
is
eternal

Rain

Softly splashing
in the courtyard
in the fountain
in the evening
in the Casa de Moneda

the same sound
heard
by everyone

The Spanish
the Indians
the "everyone else"
Listening or not
has heard this sound

For a few moments
past/present/future
occupy one
time zone

Stopped
in a sense
all around me

Then a sigh
and time
fanned out
again
into

past

present

future

(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson 

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C not yet

(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson


C is
the symphony
not composed
not arranged
not played
not heard
not known

not 
yet

(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson

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Tu Orquesta

(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson



Tóqueme
diríjame
hazme
tu orquesta

Percusión
y violín
y piano en
diálogo

Con vientos
y luego
cuerdas
así te sale
conversatorio

II
Nacen de mi
los sonidos
que tallas
sonidos vueltos
esculturas
creadas
por tus manos
y 
tu corazón

Tu 
hecho música
sonriente
elevado
por tus alas
bailando
como siempre
en el sol


(C) 2014 by Metta Anderson


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