Weather Watch: California Weird

As has become the pattern in Southern California, September has brought triple-digit heat to inland areas. Kevin reports triple-digits in San Jose, but it was Greg’s report that made me pause: triple-digit heat in Berkeley. Berkeley!

Port Hueneme has been spared the worst. I’ve been crediting Hurricane Lidia – though you’d think that overcast would cover more of Southern California. Along with the cool air, we’ve had some fantastic sunsets:

LidiaSunset

Many will recognize these clouds, of course: warm, humid air condensing as the sun sets, with rain overnight, and possibly thunderstorms.

So I guess that I shouldn’t have been surprised this afternoon.

It was hot at 9AM in Oxnard, forcing the passengers under the overpass while waiting for the train to arrive. The bike ride through Santa Barbara to Ecstatic Dance was also sweltering. After the dance, the gentle slope toward the shore was a relief, and after lunch a cool breeze blew in my face as I rode down to the Art Walk.

After a quick stop an John Grandfield’s booth, I found a wonderful surprise at Steve Richardson’s booth. He found inspiration in the legend of the Black Madonna, and I bought two pieces that I’ll write up after he brings them down on Tuesday. While I was talking to Steve, Mandy Starr was packing up her booth, looking at the gray wall heading down from the hills. Steve and I teased her, but she had the right idea.

Guessing that the Art Walk would be rolling up, I rushed down to Neal Crosbie’s booth. I had just arrived when the rain started. It was a downpour reminiscent of a Hawaiian squall. I tried to help Neal keep the water from splashing on his work, and then realized that my bike was getting soaked – along with the backpack in the basket. I had just pulled it under the tarp when the wind hit, the gust blowing over most of the stands.

It was a funnel: dirty water came down in sheets. Half of the tarp blew off, and we were both soaked to the skin in ten seconds. I tried to hold the tarp down over the art as Neal loosened the stays. With the art covered, we were left unprotected in the deluge. Two minutes later, the black, foamy water was up to the curb. In retrospect, it was shore water lifted by the funnel and thrown back onto land.

Neal was stranded, his wife having taken the car in to work that afternoon, so I abandoned him to find some cover. While I didn’t see any downed power lines, a number of anchor cables had snapped off the poles. The entire downtown area was without power. This was a typical scene:

WaterFunnelAftermath

I passed one young lady walking in a single sandal. She had been on the beach when the funnel hit, and the second had blown into the harbor. I had word from Steve later that they fished fifty-six people out of the water – I would guess many from overturned boats and kayaks.

When I got back to the train station, I discovered a downed light stanchion and fallen tree over the near tracks. I walked my bike into the stall in the men’s room and wrung out my clothes. My train ticket was soaked with muddy water in the bottom of the bike basket, but fortunately the water had not reached my spare shirt.

The station crew cleared the rail blockage and the north-bound rolled in around 2:45. I biked back to the Art Walk to check on my friends. The oil painters hadn’t lost much, but Ping’s rice-paper water colors were a complete loss from exposure to the filthy water.

Arriving back at the station around 3:30, I looked up the tracks to see the north-bound stalled just outside the station. Blocked by fallen trees, it backed up, and around 4:40 become the south-bound 1790. I don’t know what happened to the north-bound passengers in Santa Barbara, but I arrived back in Oxnard around 6PM.

I’m supposed to be up in Pinecrest for the Soul Play Fall Fest from 9/13 to 9/19. I’m hoping that things will have quieted on the weather front. Greg says that temperatures in Berkeley are supposed to drop back into the 70s by mid-week. But I remember several years back when SoCal had temperatures in the 90’s into December. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but without expectations. Just as long as I don’t find myself driving into a forest fire, I guess that I’ll be all right.

Speaks to Me

The painters at the Sunday Art Walk in Santa Barbara have adjusted themselves to my visits. I don’t know whether my criticism is of value to them, or whether they benefit commercially  from the spectacle of a spirited discussion.

Of recent, I’ve been following three of the artists. I admire John Grandfield’s sagebrush landscapes, but I can’t afford the larger pieces that capture the spirit of the land. His combed acrylic landscapes are more affordable, and the first that I saw was perfect for the site header out at Love Returns. As well as suggesting the elements of the creation story from Genesis, the piece conveys my sense that the angels perceive through a veil – albeit an exquisite veil – the sensory experience of living creatures.

I’ve had rather longer conversations with Steve Richardson, whose oeuvre defies characterization. His original sensibilities appear to be present in his harmonious landscapes, reminiscent of the middle work of George Inness. He fights against that tenderness in landscapes that suggest the battle between fog, light and vegetation in the tidal sloughs around Santa Barbara. Steve also paints the local monuments with a painterly verve, the travels of the brush and palette knife laid bare for our examination.

I first resolved that I would purchase a piece from him when struck by a speckled oak tree. The effect was as though falling through the silhouette into spatter paint drops that could be both atoms and galaxies. I enthused that I had been wrestling with the idea that our material forms were metaphors for spiritual evolution. I left him to consider whether he could create the same effect in larger format, only to be told a month later that he was giving up the style for safety reasons (the drops are created by striking the brush, which can send paint into the eyes).SoulSails.png

When I stopped by today, I knew immediately that I would buy the piece anchoring the corner of his exhibit. It has the sense of light from above trying to pierce an oppressive indigo, with the complex and truncated response from the humans in the boats below. This is very much my experience of reaching up to join my intentions with those of Jesus’s “Abba.”

I wish that the photo conveyed the subtlety of the patchy sails.

I’ve also been following the work of Avril (a pseudonym, although as you travel the Walk you’ll recognize her work), a very French woman whose introduction was an aggressive demand for philosophical clarification of the phrase on the back of my Love Returns t-shirt. Avril is one of the few artists on the Art Walk that focuses on the human form. Her most popular works may be her sisterhood cartoons (multigenerational women fishing naked on the pier). She displays a number of linotype nudes, and is particularly aggressive regarding her abstract and collage work.

What captivates me, however, are the acrylic nudes, sinuous spines and generous hips set against abstract pastel tapestries. The figures are not delineated, but ensconced in a penumbra that bespeaks yearning for a caress. Having sublimated the responsive male desire for most of my adult life, I recognize now that I will never know the flower of a woman’s sensuality, that first innocent expression of sexual joy moderated solely by the wisdom that shelters its root in procreation. But it is a power that I need to engage – it is the only power that can heal the world.

Nude

So I bought this piece, a piece that Avril warned me would “talk at night.” I countered that I already have women speaking to me in the middle of the night, and would rather wake to beauty than suffer their drama without reward.