Perspective in art and life
February 1, 2013
They are about the same size, I think, around four by six inches. Miniature paintings. One is an oil in bright, southwest colors. The other is a watercolor in gentle, muted colors.
They both need to be framed.
The bright one I purchased on my last trip to Santa Fe over a year ago. The weather was rotten and forced me mostly to explore indoors. But one blustery day, when there was no rain or snow, I ventured down to the historic square where, for over 400 years, Indians of various tribes have sold their creations. There, I found an older man who had magical, tiny paintings of the Southwest. The sheepherder riding his horse against the red/orange cliffs against the bright blue sky with the abstract sheep was so simple and stunning, I bought it on the spot. It was less than the price of a nice dinner.
And I have meant for over a year, to find a proper frame for it.
The second was handed to me last summer in a sealed envelope. I suspected it a thank-you card for some concert tickets I had arranged for a friend. I tucked "the card" into my bag. I forgot it until I took out that same bag a week later. When I opened the envelope, I saw at once the back of "the card." It said, "Old friends are the best friends, thx, Ted."
When I turned it over I found a beautiful watercolor of Turtle Beach, at Poipu Park in Hawaii. I was immediately embarrassed for treating the "card" so casually. And I loved the abstract of the stormy beach with the cloudy sky and dots of turtles hugging the rocks in a place I had visited with my children decades ago. My friend Ted made his living as an architect, but he was, in his heart, an artist. He was well read and he understood perspective, in art and in life.
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Two decades ago a group of us traveled up to Ennis, Montana, for a weekend, to celebrate former Mayor Hal Taylor’s significant birthday. Hal had suffered a stroke and made a remarkable recovery and his wife Judy, wanted to surprise him with a small dinner of friends at the Sportsman Lodge in the fishing paradise off the Madison River, where Hal loved to fish.
We took an oath about much of that weekend, but I can share that the day started out at the Blue Moon Saloon in the tiny town of Cameron, which consisted of a couple of cabins, the post office and the Blue Moon Saloon. Ted, with his artist’s eye, pointed out to me the nuances of the bar and its tender, the colorful characters who came and went and the even the kindly police officer who followed each of our cars back to our separate hotels at the end of the long night of celebrating.
Years later, when I was writing an article about outdoor art in Park City, Ted took the time to talk to me about unintended art. It was his way of seeing. He thought the multiple stop signs, located where the National Ability Center had been built, were a great abstract creation. I never drive past them when I don’t think of those many red and white alerts as more sculpture than signage.
Ted was the first president of the Park City Rotary Club. As Park City was gaining in popularity and personal success, he saw a need for a place where men (yes, it was only men then) could gather besides a bar. And the need to lay down some lifestyle guidelines that included, at its very core, service above self. The club distinguished itself in creating a park, in painting the homes of senior citizens, in creating the landscaping for the Peace House when it was first built. The group of civic leaders still takes pride in doing good works.
Ted achieved senior status a number of years ago and his health started to dominate his activities, but when he showed up and told us some story, it would be with his dry, dry sense of humor, often with an underlying cautionary tale. He was a wise, thoughtful, gentle man, who loved his Indian motorcycle and never set on his laurels of having designed so many of the iconic buildings that define Park City still, from the Yarrow Hotel, to the Motherlode condos, to so many projects in and around Deer Valley.
He passed away a few weeks ago, not unexpectedly, after his years of struggle. He was surrounded by his loving family, wife Lisa and sons Cordell (and his wife, Karen) and Riley. In his final weeks, he had been visited often by his friends and fellow Rotarians. He had a full life and, at his memorial this week, there were great stories of road trips and concerts and cigarettes and motorcycles and his love of his family. The hundreds of people there were the very people who won and lost fortunes in those early years of growth in the late ’70s/early ’80s, not unlike those miners a hundred years before them. And even though it was in the lodge at Deer Valley, there was something holy about the evening.
When I drove home later on the snowy night and walked into the same home I have lived in here since 1980, I was lost in a mood of tender thoughts. When I entered the bedroom my eyes landed on the long side table there, which is a bit of a catch-all for things-that-need-attention. The two tiny paintings were on the edge. They are both so very valuable and they deserve proper frames and places. Tiny pieces of art. Large representations of life. Worth displaying and admiring the lives that created brush strokes that created the art. I will look for just the right place to hang them soon, maybe this very Sunday in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.