Sweet Honey of the Rocks
Honey is all over the floor. She is painting with her toes in the
dust. Her mother, Faith Gay, buzzes around dberman gallery’s exhibition
space, stacking into sculptural form the chromatically pyrotechnic
rocks she makes by encrusting big balls of paper with just about everything
from neon post-it notes to “on sale” dot stickers, all scrimmed in
a translucent sheen of clear packing tape. Meanwhile, Honey’s feet
are dancing with the shafts of sunlight that smile through the windows
and dapple the floor in the corner. The bright rays highlight an already
radiant circle of tiny footprints, kinetic like a dandelion ball of
fuzz about to burst.
I’m there to buy a sculpture, but I can’t stop playing with Honey.
After I anoint her precious three-year-old head with a handful of
invisible but very powerful fairy dust, she sprouts wings and takes
off flying around the entire space, grabbing anything … a pencil,
a postcard, a delicate Lance Letcher piece not yet framed … and bringing
them back to look at. “Look!” “Look at this!” “Look!!!”
The first and most elemental act of communion with art. To look. And,
if you want to have any fun with it, to look with enthusiasm and joy.
Most people look at art with either a kind of intellectual reverence
or a presumptive disdain, both emanating from a subconscious sense
of intimidation that really messes with one of the best possibilities
of art, which is to let it simply light up our lives. Art can do many
powerful things, and most contemporary art these days strives to “challenge”
us and to push boundaries. Still, I have a soft spot for art that
is just beautiful, cheerful, illuminating in some warm way or just
Once Rachel Koper, director of Gallery Lombardi and the Coolest Woman
in Austin, asked if she could use my home for a reception after the
opening of a major graffiti art exhibit. I said hell yes, of course.
As the kegs ran low, apparently Matthew Rodriguez partook of the Red
Stripes in my fridge. Not that I missed the Red Stripes, but the next
morning, my eggs were making all sorts of faces at me.
Matthew is my favorite graffiti artist in town. He doesn’t just work
with surface and paint and text, but with narrative and character.
His smiling Halloween candy corns or crying teardrops on little stick
legs pop up all over town, morphing over time as he revisits them,
engaging them with garrulous talking alphabet letters or attacking
them with bandito exclamation points. Anyhow, he must have noticed
that I had a couple of eggs with simple smiley faces made with Sharpies
because that is how I indicate to my kids which eggs are hard-boiled.
That Saturday morning, however, a symphony of egg emotions greeted
me, from Grumpy to Bashful. On the shelf below, Mr. Acorn Squash had
the furrowed brow and serious visage of a very old green man. Later,
I even found a forlorn cracked egg with chattering teeth in the freezer.
Best of all, however, were the witty narrative notes my daughters
found in their drawers not long after. “Make me into a paper airplane
and let’s blow this joint.” “I am where your story begins.”
Later that year, we hosted the 5th grade graduation party at our house,
and about sixty girls danced gleefully with about six brave young
men while all the other boys ran in nervous circles around the playhouse.
I noticed that they were playing with a green Nerf football. Then,
I remembered that we don’t own a green Nerf football. I discovered
that they had grabbed the top rock off of the Faith Gay sculpture
I had purchased. One sixth of an $1,800 work of art was getting manhandled
… I mean, boyhandled … but, the elegant green lump was fine after
one wet wipe and I thought, “That’s my kind of art.”
Down in San Antonio, on the side of an old warehouse, somebody has
arranged parts of old restaurant signs to quote Theodore Dreiser.
“ART is THE STORED HONEY of the HUMAN soul .”
They placed a scavenged “m” over the middle “n” of a placard from
a Hunan Chinese joint. The weathered “honey” board must have spent
years attached to the back of a pickup truck out of which an old farmer
sold mason jars filled with sticky heaven alongside some farm to market
road. The underlining of “soul” indicates that it had once been paired
Soul Food. Sweet sustenance. Art. At Faith’s opening at dberman that
night, Honey’s footprints had been carefully framed on the floor with
masking tape. Every last person who looked at them smiled.
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