Sunday, March 27, 2011


As trite as it may sound, the best part of traveling is coming home. I'm surfacing after a blur of a trip to New York for Asia Week. I landed on Friday a week ago: an easy flight into an easy cab ride. Amarillo legends and Asian art collectors Dr. Bill and Jimmy Dell Price were on the plane--my first chill of excitement for what was to come. He asked me what I was coming up to see to which I replied--"As much as I can!" I met our Dear Curator on our Corner and we whizzed up Sixth through the budding park and over to the Asia Society for more celebrity. Willard "Bill" Clark of the esteemed Clark Center for Japanese Art in Handford, CA was part of a panel titled "The Collector's Vision: Three Perspectives on Asian Art" with fellow collectors Michael Feng and Thomas J. Pritzker. Amy Poster and Vishakha Desai moderated the discussion with relevance and grace. The cadence of the program was well-timed and actually pretty fascinating. Takeaways: Successful collectors know about:

  • Love

  • Humor

  • Risk

  • Heartache

  • Desire

  • Being human

  • Making Mistakes

Successful collectors do not know about:

  • Saying no

  • Taking advice from others

The curator and I met a few friends in the crowd and leaped into a cab toward an opening at the James Cohan Gallery--Qin Feng, an artist Dallas will very quickly come to know. He just exhibited in the Fresh Ink exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. We were late to the fete and I bumbled at least three introductions (being human) but loved meeting Qin and "running into" a fellow Texas Ex from the halls of the art building 1990-1994. We didn't meet then, but meeting at a gallery in NYC 16 years later was even better.

Saturday we soaked up a lecture by the curator of "Bye-bye, Kitty" a moving exhibition exclaiming a very serious side of Japanese contemporary art. Following the tragic events of the earthquake and tsunami this projects holds even more meaning. In fact, there is a luminous projection work of a wave with light passing through a reticulated film. It was hard not to feel the powerful motion in very fresh contexts and not shudder. We spent the next few hours at Christies studying the works in the auction--and especially a tremendous ("best ever") Namban Screen that 4 days later would fetch over four million dollars. Art has many faces and facets. I quickly recharged my phone and my person for a glorious evening of theater (Arcadia with Billy Crudup) and dining (John Dory Oyster Bar). Bliss.

Sunday Dear Curator knows how to play time in NYC, and it is certainly an entirely new art form to me. I will never order a full coffee before stepping into a cab again. Jetting up to her lecture on Black Current was...memorable. We made it with several seconds to spare--and just enough adrenaline to expend trying to get the laptop to speak to the projector. The talk was superb--a concise journey across sea and see. The Japanese Art Society of America was most enchanted with her new research and "publish" was the verb I heard repeated throughout the weekend. We shall try!

We soaked up the Met in the afternoon--particularly the Forbidden City exhibition--stunning in objects and didactics, but designed in a very odd configuration. I tested my memory of shortcuts and corridors--the paths you only know if you work there. My summer internship in 1998 provided thin veils of recognition, but it was Miguel Arisa (who works there) who expertly led us through those majestic halls.

On the way home I was encouraged to visit an Indian boutique on Fifth Avenue--and experience that provided entertaining contrasts: Tony address: Lock and Buzzer on the Door; Luscious silks and embroidery: Dressing Room in the sketchy restroom with no hooks; Gregarious, chatty owner with big rings and flashy smile: Timid, speechless wife on a stool in the corner; High prices: Deep discounts; Tiny showroom: Endless inventory. I managed to pull two beautiful purchases from my mound of options spilling over the counter top, promised to return on EVERY trip to see my new Indian friend and proudly left justifying the expense as "work clothes". Thank goodness I work in an Asian art museum.

Part Two of my Asia Week Adventure will continue in my next post...I have to keep you guessing, Dear Readers. And I have to catch-up on lost sleep!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exercise your Rites

I woke up this morning thinking about rites. Rites of passage; rites of spring. Rites.

I was thinking about Brush Ranch Camps--a perfect place nestled in the canyon along the Pecos River near Tererro, New Mexico. I spent my summers there from 1992-1994 and then a few blissful weeks of Family Camp in the years following. To me, Brush Ranch is a sacred space. A place where I learned so much about myself. A place where --over hikes and conversations I encountered many rites among the pinon and blue skies.

Merriam Webster helps me with the true definition of rite: (1) a prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony or (2) a ceremonial act or action. I thought about the actions of camp and what it would be like to go back: to take the 7 am walk from South Baxter across the Bridge and up the steep road to the Barn; or the hike to Brush Ranch Rock. Favorite of all was the evening hike to Hogsback. Like Madeleine, 60 girls all in a row would hike up for about an hour to the Top of the World. I have the picture in my office. We would coordinate a screaming message to our friends down at Boys' Camp. When that didn't satisfy us we called down to camp on the radio exclaiming our victory. After the peak, we quietly found our way down with bobbling flashlights. It was a beautiful sight...dancing lights along switchbacks and the quiet murmur of friends talking. I was only allowed to lead this hike once or I had the habit of wanting to stay at the top just a little too long. This put us walking back though Boys' Camp a few minutes after lights out. The counselors loved us.

My memories of this place are crisp. I believe the places where we encounter and experience rites never leave us. We remember moments of stress, too--and crossing over into a new existence or way of thinking can certainly have its stressful moments. Those who worked at a camp for children know its bliss and know its challenges. 16-hour days. Encounters with homesick campers, rebellious campers, highly-enthusiastic campers. Encounters with homesick see the patterns. But I loved it all. When a group of people come together and truly commit to a common purpose the results can be nothing less than magical. We were chosen from stacks of applications to be there--and we knew we were lucky. I drew sunflowers all over my cover letter (looking back I think, really?) and it made the difference. (Young readers: there's a lesson there). It was hard work, but work I would go back to in a heartbeat. I left Brush Ranch with new confidence. Mountains do that to you. And good friends. Rites. The ceremonies that sculpt us.

And now in my favorite season, we get to experience the Rites of Spring. Pear trees in bloom, new song from the birds, wind and sprout. Picnics, The Arboretum. Nature in a new suit. Find your rites and celebrate them...before you know it they will be the places we go in our memories.