Thursday, November 06, 2014

Powers Gallery, Acton, Ma

We’ve been going to this gallery for some ten years, I guess. It started as a time filler while Erin took classes nearby. Now we make a point.

A day off for both Beth and me, and a rainy one, so we made a visit today. A store front in one of Acton’s many exciting strip malls formerly housed the gallery. Some years back the gallery moved to an old farmhouse across from yet another gurgling Acton strip mall. Obviously the art is what counts, but the ambiance of the old house adds something to the experience.

The gallery favours largely representational work, a good deal of which could be called nature studies. Fine with me. When I first started taking notice of art as a teenager, the so-called Hudson River School drew me in. I’m not saying anyone at the gallery belongs to that school, just that many try to capture the natural surroundings. Not surprisingly, several show local scenes.

Both Beth and I love the work of Teri Malo, of which the gallery offers numerous selections. We own several of her small seascape studies, delicate, moody exercises. Teri’s blue period. She has quite a few large canvases of waves breaking in lavish form that are quite exultant.

More recently, Teri has turned to pond and forest scenes, shifting her palette into the greens, as well as autumnal oranges. One work is especially impressionistic: orange leaves in the water, really stunning. First look might reveal a cacophony of orange and green but then you see the leaves, the water’s sheen, the light reflected. It is a swarming gust of a fall moment by a New England pond.

Another Malo painting, called “Homage”, shows a rock—more accurately boulder—formation at the edge of a pond. Good New England rock left there by some galloping glacier as seen from a viewpoint on the water of the pond (or perhaps on the other shore). Green trees in the background reflect in the water in the foreground. The rocks show granite grace and I could look at this painting for hours.

Quite a few still lifes can be seen at the gallery, most notably (for me, at least), those of Marshall Henrichs. I learned about still life in elementary school, back when they also asked me to do what I understood to be south portraits. Okay, I was nine years old and I didn’t get it, bunch of bottles and fruit. I think I’ve got the concept now.

In fact, I know I have. The sense of form, of light, and even of meditative time all conjunct in these tableaux of ordinary objects. My special friend among Henrichs’ work is called “Glass Notes”. It shows a display of eleven bottles, vases, and pitchers—including, I think, a distinctive Hendrich’s gin bottle—on a table with a white tablecloth. Gathering the sensibility of the light, the forms, and just the music of seeing something that is there just to be there: it is a wonderfully enthralling experience. That’s why the dalliance intrigues us, looking at art. We see an image found in a moment of no distraction, for the artist and then for us.

That’s not the same as photographing. Malo’s “Homage”, hangs above an old fireplace visible from the entrance. It carries a luminous photographic nature, but it is not merely a representation or copy. It allows the painted colour to halt the trammeling blindness of our daily eye. Thus too Henrichs’ still lifes. That’s just the reason to look.

Another artist whose work I enjoy seeing is Matt Brown. He does Japanese wood prints, like I know what that specifically means. I can say this much: firmly delineated places of colour matched with an utter delicacy of form and touch. Many of his prints bespeak New Hampshire’s nest of mountains, even including Franconia Notch, just outside of which occurred my halcyon school daze. These are all small prints, less than a foot, mostly, in any dimension, but endless in their depth. Really taken by these.

I could go on, but I didn’t take notes, that’s too distracting. If you don’t think my words work, you can check out the gallery’s website. Go to the website ( and click on the Artists link. A lot more than I can give word to. It was a good day of looking.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Majesty of Wegmans

The much-anticipated opening of Wegmans locally occurred recently. Beth and I made a quick inspection the other day, after mucking about in a nearby furniture store. Supermarket, The Event. We were there to witness Furniture Store, The Event when Ikea made its Massachusetts appearance years back (trimly written about here). Now this gloria mundi. All star shopping, the hope of the future.

Super the place seems to be. Set in a busy business district where little and large tech companies vie for best stupid company name, with the Burlington Mall not far away, it is a magnetic north for shoppers. You go down this drive to this castle-like structure, it even has a clock tower. The street had accommodating parking spaces so we parked there. A parking garage sits next to the store itself.  It’s a city, or more accurately, a citadel.

A store employee stood by the entrance, perhaps as greeter. She didn’t greet us but I think someone was speaking to her. Probably trying to get the coordinates for the dairy section. The place is vast. I believe I heard it was 50,000 square feet, which is to say 12 acres, or football fields. I dunno if that means the entire property or just the building: it don’t make no never mind. Big.

Produce greeted us first. Looked okay, and the prices were good. You pretty much have to expect a wax sheen on apples nowadays. I think it was mostly the usual stuff, no 50 shades of tomatoes. Still, I’ve seen worse, like at most supermarkets (looking at you Market Basket and Stop & Shop).

Really, I felt overwhelmed by the size of the place. The size and location of the store precludes dashing in for a pint of cream. A large café I think they called it sits to the left of the main entrance. I believe you can get meals, not just a bagel and coffee. We did not enter, but I think nearby techies might pop in there for lunch.

We wandered around but did not really gain the lay of the land. I never saw meat or dairy, for instance. I had been told that Wegmans does a lot of cross-merchandizing, but I only saw a couple of wines by the cheese section. Oh yes, Wegmans sells wines.

Few supermarkets in the state sell beer or wine. I’m not sure why the exceptions but I believe soon they all will, or will be able to. Kinda jumping ahead, but Wegmans has a large and bargain-priced selection of wine, beer, and liquor. Obviously they have tremendous buying power. Many prices were rock bottom, but there were many instances, at least in wine, that the usual case discounts that stores offer could meet or beat Wegmans’ price. The selection seemed both thorough and random. Lots of established names and all the wine-growing regions, but it seemed like a machine made the choices.

Earlier, I wandered down a different aisle than Beth then had a hard time finding her. The store absorbs people. You become part of the machine. I suppose that sounds like a creative construction. At Costco, there’s a general counter-clockwise directive, with clear side excursions. Wegmans offers a clear outer rim experience but you may need to drop a trail of cookie crumbs if you dare to seek paper towels. We found the liquor at one end, then decided to seek the bread selection. It was a straight journey but was it 50 yards, 100 yards? I’m good for it, but if you are guided by inspiration rather than master plan, you might tend to choose to forget about it.

Lack of samples surprised me. Something was offered at produce, but that just attracted store employees. Someone with a trayful offered us a cold mocha. Samples seem like a necessity to me. Wegmans has troops enough to handle that.

Cashiers stand at ready at the entrance to their lane when not occupied. Nice touch, it feels hospitable. The Whole Foods that we bow to has devolved to a lot of young people flirting with each other. Somehow, Whole Foods has lost its snap.

Wegmans is not a grim silo like Walmart, where neither customers nor employees look happy in their predicament. Wegmans feels like a utopian city, with everyone integrated into its directive. The store manager, whatever that entity might be, cannot possibly know many of the employees. Assistant managers, subalterns, proxies, god I don’t know. Running smoothly so far as I can tell.

I was glad to see no talkspeak slogans like what now graces the walls of Whole Foods. They may be coming or are kept interiour; a machine this large needs a coordinated push. It also requires the customers to make a similar push. You have to accept that under this one roof lies all possibility. That’s a bit of a swallow. Still, I’ve seen worse, i.e. Walmart. And let’s don’t forget the reputed charms of Amazon. Our need for comforting resource may lead us to further integrations. I mean, Wegmans looks fine but the store feels like you are in its stomach. I guess I am not ready for that.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Rock On Pt 3, MC5 and How Stuff is Other Stuff

A group appeared back when I cared about the emanation of such things—late 60s—to wit, MC5, formerly or aka Motor City Five. Rolling Stone cover-storied them as the best thing since mustard, before they had released an album. Rolling Stone promoting an act? Hard to imagine.

John Sinclair served as mentor and manager for the group. He also founded the White Panthers. The White Panthers, by report, were dedicated to furthering the goals of the Black Panthers. Sinclair famously (at the time) was arrested for possession of marijuana and given a sentence of five years, which eventually, post public outrage, boiled down to two. Obviously, a lot of things going on here.

While in school, I read, if not got, a lot of the literature of the what would it be called, the Black Movement. I was sympathetic if not politically astute. I think of the scenes in Ellison’s Invisible Man, when the political firebrands seem more like bullies (“the Iron Hand crush’d the tyrants Head / and became a tyrant in  his stead”—Blake, of course, quoted from memory). So the political matter of MC5 was just stuff for me. I was wary, even if they did use naughty words.

The hype was more stuff. I’d heard their signature song, “Kick Out the Jams”, but nothing else. For a group with persuasion in their garden, that’s not much. Lester Bangs’ brief and dismissive mention of them made me look to YouTube, where all everything reposes. I found a live version of “Kick Out the Jams”. You can accomplish the same trick.

The clip begins with the lead singer exhorting: “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers”. It’s a nice phrase, albeit obviously controversial. That second noun truly was the centre of their controversial sphere. I think they had to change that to “brothers and sisters”, with considerably less impact. The world was like that, the whippersnappers. The song sounds political but the lyrics really are just testosterone sex. You can shape it more politically but you might hurt yourself trying. No prob there, it is rock and roll.

Musically, sonically, it’s full bore charge ahead. One can fairly call their music proto-punk, proto heavy metal, proto anything so long as you call it proto. A tight, steady rhythm section pushes the two guitars ahead. Those wee, little Marshall amps—sine qua non back then—added to the assault. The singer, Rob Tyner, looks kind of awkward with his rock star movements but he seems sturdy enough in all phases of rock wailing. He took his last name, sez Wikipedia, from Coltrane’s pianist. Not the only oddity reported.

Wayne Kramer, the more lead guitarist, looks baby-faced and mischievous. At one point he turns his back to the crowd and wiggles his butt as the music roars on. Right after, he and Sonic Smith, the other guitarist (the one with the awesome name), lay down on their backs while continuing to play. A little later, the two bow their guitars back and forth to each other. In another vid, same concert, they do the same movements in sync. Feels like too much forethought. Somewhere or other Kramer plays the guitar behind his back. Shades of Hendrix, or Buddy Guy.

The crowd’s into it. A bounding beach ball blesses the event. A guy gets on stage and dances for a bit until a roadie rather politely pushes him off.

I guess my tastes were moving elsewhere, because I heard little more about MC5 after Rolling Stone’s completely guileless anointment. The group lasted a few years, but at least they live forever in recorded bliss.

I don’t know why I am taken by these guys. Despite the hype, they aren’t so politically motivated as say Rage Against the Machine (who do a version of “Kick Out the Jams”). I’m leery of the escapade anyway, dire warnings from entertainers. You can tell us anything you want, but it has got to have the beat to knock our socks off. MC5 apparently played an 8 hour concert (somewhere) at the 68 Democratic Convention, which was a fun gathering of happy people. Few other scheduled performers made it to the stage. So there’s that.

Digging up old music that I didn’t really listen to is, like, I dunno. I would not want to face the head winds of MC5’s Marshall amps but it was an angry time needing serious thud. Blue Cheer came as advertised, the loudest group ever. It’s not hype if it’s all true. For all their patchy showmanship, MC5 are straightforward with their threat level. I have hardly listened to punk music, it sort of happened when I wasn’t looking, but the idea sounds corny, staged anger. If MC5 want to ride their Big Man Pony, I’ll accept the stockpile of noise. Noise is exuberance, as at least our children know.

The bass line here, I think, is that there’s no history left to happen. MC5 were just a collection of people who managed, or thought they managed, to kick the jams in an outward direction. Hippie peace & love made homeless marmalade. That war then didn’t stop, and these wars now aint stopping either. At least naughty words no longer bother us.