Through the years of creating this website, I've taken liberty to write as it's been an emotional journey to review and remember my folks through the markings on their cave's walls.
Enjoy these bits of reminiscence as you travel through the GALLERIES and LINKS and other bits about their lives. If you have memories or stories that you would like to share, we'd love to add them to the website.
BONES LEFT BEHIND: CURATOR'S STATEMENT
Doctors and plumbers don't leave so much behind...artists? They leave their bones in so many ways, physically, metaphysically... paintings, sculptures, prints...eras of ideas...and the SLIDES! SO much information, visually, physically and over the years as they've become organized into categorical files that make sense...physically sent to India to be scanned for so much less cost than here...I have to confess, I out-sourced a serious task of digitally transcribing all those images so I can gather them into a way by which we can SHARE with all of you, the magnitude of the blood of the bones these two left behind!
I ask your awareness that most of these images were recorded through the years as Bob and Gennie made the work. Neither of them were photographers, it didn't cross their mind to hire professionals on their budget. They took photos with whatever camera was around...an old Brownie as we were growing up, but in later years my Dad was proud of his Canon Sure Shot that he could snap the pieces as they shuffled through his alchemical transmutation of ideas in the studio downtown until they moved out of town, and in the basement studio he occupied for 40 years in Cottonwood Canyon. I had long email dialogs with the technicians in India, as I paid an extra 6 cents per slide for them to take time to correct for parallax. They did a great job! By the time we were finished with over 2000 images they understood that this was important archival work, that the quality of the slides didn't necessarily reflect that of the work! The digital images came back to me color corrected, cropped and squared up, many with a black border. My dad would have been thrilled to see his work in such clean presentation...like Fraces Senska commented, a little disoriented, when she saw his work so beautifully framed at the show at the Holter in 2006, “A Look Ahead”, “They're all so CLEAN!”. These images from the slides were very clean, relative to the funky skewed images I'd sent away. Now imported into my Aperture Library, this task has made me ecstatic at times...that I can see these bones in context of the lives that they carried.
In 1991, the year after my dad died, the process of helping my mother take care of the work left behind.. began by transferring all of their work from the two truck trailers that they'd acquired sometime in the 70's for storing their art. The trailers had worked pretty well, and Dad was really quite proud of the shelving he'd cobbled together to hold and organize primarily paintings that they'd accumulated over 40 some years, some of which was their collection of friends work, some was their own. Some they'd hauled with them from Lubbuck Texas to Bozeman, Montana to start their new life as faculty and family of the MSC Art Department in 1949. My mother used to like to tell the story that Daddy's friend Louis Pennfield obviously wrote a better letter of recommendation for Bob than Bob had for Louis, because Dad got the job (that he was applying for) and Louis did not!
The new studio, a 32 x 48 pole building, was the new beginning for my mother and became the focus of her intention from then until the day she died in her bed in her home in that studio in 2007. For the first 12 years from when the building was built, the walk from the house to the studio happened in all seasons with Yak Trax in the winter, Birkies in the summer. It was her mission from day to day. She added onto the initial structure incrementally, pouring a concrete floor ½ at a time as she could afford the cost of radiant heat, insulation and paint (a job I really didn't enjoy...painting the styrofoam insulation walls and ceiling from scaffolding...with a BRUSH!). Eventually she added a kitchen and a bathroom (initially with a composting toilet...another job I didn't like much...) and finally a loft... all through trades and many good graces of friends who helped the space evolve over the years....creating a magnificent studio in which she lived for the last 4 years of her life. It was her Soho/Cottonwood Canyon retreat, sadly never shared by Dad, but the work that was produced in those years is testimonial to the liberation she felt by having the space to unleash her muse. Her long desire to live in her studio manifest on Mother's Day, 2004, when the folks who lived in the yurt on our land lent their hand and youth to transferring her home from her house of 40 years to her new studio. We'd tried with humor to dissuade her for some years, reminding her that it would become not only her studio but she'd have all her dirty dishes, her laundry, her TV and computer… we'd tease her at times and tell her she could live there but she could only take with her her one bowl and one spoon...
But as she nested into this space, for 12 years as her studio and finally as her studio and her home, there were essential additional contributions that made it workable, livable and beautiful. Divided in half with a makeshift wall of demarkation, she worked on one side, lived in the other. Tim, my partner at the time, built her a massive 8 ft square table on wheels, primarily for backing finished paintings with felt and mounting them onto dowels to make scrolls. Tim was meticulous with the scrolls, and together we assisted her for 10 years with this task. A hanging system was mounted on the 12 foot high trusses of the loft, to hang and roll numbers of scrolls across a track. With surgical precision, friend Kim Reineking tweeked and caressed these rollers to slide like butter above her head, a system that allowed both show and storage of the last 20 years of her paintings. The east and west walls of the studio were prepared as painting walls and the others became her gallery of the collection of work that had accumulated over 60 years of trades and friendships with students and colleagues. The “kitchen wall” from the house transferred to another in her studio, plastered with postcards and announcements of shows from students, friends and colleagues.
Once settled into her new home, the finishing touches of pure esthetic pleasure were a window and a deck. Besides the sliding glass door and the skylights, there were only three small widows at the south end of her studio. Tom, my partner at this time, installed a large picture window from which she could see the landscape that she'd painted for so many years. And he built her a deck. It was magnificent, creating an access to be present in the glorious matrix of her paintings.
THANKS ALL GOOD FRIENDS WHO HELPED WITH THIS TRANSITION:
Chris Autio helped with painting all that insulation!
Joop Demeij built the loft and wonderful wall that became her gallery of collected works for many years. He also installed the magnificent painting wall that inspired some of Gennie's finest paintings...she had ample SPACE to work for the first time in her life!
Eric Overlie plumbed in the kitchen and bath. A luxurious deep bathtub with jets was handsomely tiled to transform her previous funky space into a contemporary and esthetically fashionable designer bathroom. Eric also built her an elegant multicolored finely finished desk and entertainment center for her many years of devoted vigilance of keeping abreast with the news…and ritual pleasure of 9 O'clock with Charlie Rose!
Josh installed the handmade tile floor in this designer bathroom, a touch no other home will ever share as it is a one of a kind little beauty. It needs to be said as well that Josh brought to the studio a spirit of the 'joy of life' whenever he was home to visit...for many a dinner and many a Mother's Day...mysteriously and intentionally always a 'surprise' to her...he would bring stories of his navigational career through the arts that his dad was never privileged to know. From his 15 year role as Director of the Archie Bray Foundation to his MSU Professorship in the Art department of MSU...she was so proud of his enlivened and energetic embrace of the life that they knew so well in this greater community of contemporary arts in Montana.
Danny Voulkos did allot of fine finish work in the kitchen and bath, became “Plumber Dan" for many years of tweeking the water flow. He was also my partner for photographing the collection of Gennie’s work as well as the DeWeese collection of 60 years accumulation of friends students and colleagues work. He was our personal Macintosh techie of the early years of excruciating transition for both Gennie and myself...to bring us into the 21st century of email and file making.
Katrin Voulkos, Danny's wife, and Danny assisted the cataloging of the entire inventory of Gennie's work after she was gone. They both helped with the process of preparing the catalogs of this work for appraisal and for the transition of this work to be gifted to the Holter Museum and to the Missoula Art Museum after the 2008 Gennie DeWeese Solstice Celebration and Auction that was held in the Buck Butterfield Arena. Much of this work was done in the studio.
Tim Simmons was the “Scroll Master” for many years of backing Gennie’s paintings with black felt and mounting them onto wood dowels, the scrolls her trademark for about 20 years! Tim also built the big utility/work table on rollers, and he and I installed the scroll hanging system in the rafters of the studio.
Kim Reineking came with his black bag of precision tools to tweek the rollers on the hanging system to slide sometimes as many as 40 paintings as smooth as butter!
Dean Adams built Gennie a table on wheels that allowed her to roll across a 35 ' canvas while lying on her belly...to paint a commissioned piece from the Billings deaconess Hospital she titled, The Joy of Life. This was a necessary tool for her as she had recently broken her hip and was not adequately mobile to do this painting without it!
Tom Thornton added the final esthetically critical elements to the studio by installing a 5 x 5 picture window where she spent most of her time sitting by the round table in her living room. And he built a deck which allowed her and friends and family to immerse into the Cottonwood landscape, "creating an access to be present in the glorious matrix of her paintings".
Nolan and Jessie Salix helped for periods with mounting the paintings on scrolls. Nolan was a graduate student earning his MFA at MSU, Jessie a graduate student in Biology at the time. They lived for 5 years in a yurt on our land, were wonderful friends and became an integral part of our lives. They were the energy behind the move on Mother's Day to help schlep 40 years of Mom's life from the old house to the studio!
Mark Amundson, Tom's brother-in-law helped Tom with the installation of the large picture window.
Trevor Lowell, another dear friend and neighbor, helped with the finish construction on three large windows installed through a major renovation in 2010. The studio was renovated and freshened up for future renters after Mom was gone.
Terry Karson, friend of both Bob and Gennie since the 80's, was involved in many aspects of their lives as artists. Curator for the Yellowstone Art Center for many years, Terry was influential in identifying Bob and Gennie's historical influence as pioneers of the movement of contemporary art in Montana. In 1992 he curated a major retrospective for Dad's work at the Yellowstone. In 1995, he curated a major retrospective for Mom's work at the Missoula Art Museum. 2006, he curated a major exhibition of Bob's work that had been gifted to the Holter Museum in Helena. He also helped with many aspects of the Solstice Celebration/Memorial for Gennie in 2008. Much of this curatorial work took place in Mom's studio, as did many visits over the years with his wife Sara. Terry and Sara were close friends of the DeWeese clan and have shared many stories through interwoven eras of our lives. After she passed away, Terry lived as tenant in her studio for three years where he made his own work.
Cayleb Taylor was a graduate student who became Gennie's official assistant for the last few months of her life. Caleb assisted us both with this process of organizing her slides into categorical files which have evolved into her GALLERIES on this website. He helped carry on the work that was ongoing from early decades of her file keeping. He also took over the task of making scrolls and was part of the team of preparators for the Solstice Celebration.
Tom Ferris became Mom's photographer for the last several years of her life. Because her paintings were generally quite large, my professional skills and equipment were not up to the task and his work lended a necessary professional quality to her evolving reputation!
Mary Ann Kelly Schlotzhauer, Kathy Schmidt and Phoebe Toland all spent uncharted hours preparing hundreds of Bob's prints for exhibition in three major galleries in Bozeman at the same time as his Retrospective exhibition at the Yellowstone Art center in 1991. This work was all done in the studio.
Wally (Chester) Hansen, friend and architect, was part of the original inspiration for Gennie's studio. He drew magnificent architectural drawings for a fantasy building that Mom was never able to afford to build, but which inspired her to imagine the most practical alternative that was eventually possible within her budget. This venture was a mutual exploration into "what if's" that can only be shared among friends...
And I was there for all of it!
THROUGH MY MOTHER'S LENSES
Looking through my mother's lenses is not dissimilar from looking through my camera lenses. She sees compositional juxtaposition as any photographer does, she sees wide and telephoto dimension and range, she sees intimate space and sparse and spacial expanse. But there's something different than a camera lens can see. My sister Gretchen and I were contemplating this one day about what that is that's so compelling about these paintings, about Mom's vision. We agreed that it is something about her elimination of detail to the degree that what she sees is even more amplified by it's presence, starkly exposed for the essential elements of which it is composed. She sees through the riff raff to the essence of whatever it is that draws her vision onto the canvas. We muse at Terry Karson's comment after looking at allot of her paintings, that where ever he looks now when driving through any landscape, he sees another “Gennie” painting. “Everywhere you look there's another one!” Driving with Mom for so many years I heard this very comment from her many times, “Look! There's another one!”, always with a cigarette in hand, and although present with the conversation, her eyes were always engaged in the land, the trees, the sky, the light passing by.
Of course her interest was not always with the landscape. When we were kids, her studio was filled mostly with paintings about paint. We weren't that interested actually, it was just there and always changing. Big panels of masonite stacked in multitudes or single panels leaning against walls and on easels, waiting for more paint or waiting to dry. Her studio was where the oats for the horses were stored, where we hung up our jackets and kicked off our boots. The beer brewed beside the washing machine. The alchemical smell of turpentine and malt from bubbling beer was as perennial as the Cottonwood leaves that enveloped our seasons through those years when Mom and Dad were exploring subterranean worlds of abstract expression scrubbed and smeared onto canvasses, only peripheral to any spectrum of life with which we kids were engaged. Sometime we showed up in the paintings, sometimes we were asked to sit still to be drawn. When we weren't messing with horses or hooding around town on our bikes, we also filled up sketchbooks with drawings, mostly of horses and pretty girls... but the energy that was generated from their immersion into that mutable world compelled both of them for their lifetimes of wrangling paint and whatever other medium captivated them in the studios.
Daddy's studio was down town. For us kids, it was a place to visit on excursions to the ice cream store on our bikes, and for some years it became our ballet studio when we were exploring the “pretty girl” phase of our childhood. And it was always mythically amplified into a party palace in our minds...our rides home a bit wobbly at times in the wee hours after babysitting old family friends' kids. Our parents commiserated and communed with friends and colleagues to share whatever was new and exciting (it was all about quality in those days...) in their respective fields on campus. The studio was their meeting ground for keeping in touch, and the circle of friends that evolved through that decade bonded through life. Home brew was the flux, and the friendships endured through an emergence of culture that transformed the quiet little ag campus of MSC into a thriving and wildly creative community of artists and writers, musicians and actors...architects, philosophers, chemists, geneticists, educators and general revolutionary thinkers who challenged the state of the world and status quo of the times. The studio was the hub. Sometimes the parties happened at the house, or at their friends houses. Always students and friends stopped by, dropped in for a beer and a smoke, often stayed for a meal, to carry the threads of their personal explorations through conversation, confrontation with and evaluation from my folks. Little did they know that those little ones bopping around were paying attention, although peripherally at the time, their souls filling with the spark of passion that carried us each into resourceful lives of creative struggle and venture...
That the studio was central to their lives, I have no doubt that both by nature and by nurture, each of us assimilated the spirit of what compelled them to a life in the arts. We didn't necessarily watch them work, that happened mostly when we were in school or were otherwise occupied with our own childhood pastimes and passions. It was in retrospect as an adult that I became conscious of their dedication to their work. The fact that a family of 5 kids did not derail them from their studios is testimonial to the philosophy by which we were raised. As parents, they taught through example of holding to the values that sustained them as individuals and as artists. Their attention to our lives as children was never secondary, we were embraced in context of the processes of creative energies that inspired and perplexed them for their lifetimes. In love and in struggle, art and life were one and the same, art always derivative of life that was generated through their work and their family. That love and struggle extended deep into the community of friends, community and colleagues as a generation carried and passed the torch of a revolutionary wave of cultural values beyond the conventional social boundaries from which they had emerged.
It needs to be said about my mother...that even as a mother of five, the studio remained core to her departure from a cultural norm and generated a presence of vitality and buoyancy that defined her character and influence in the world of her contemporaries. Her vision was a driving force in the trajectory of both of their lives as educators and artists. Dad's influence manifest primarily through the university where Mom's manifest through the community...and the family has been derivative of all of that! The breadth of both our folks' influence has manifest in each of our lives through varied and various tendrils of inquiry into the questions and struggles of what it means to be human. Education, cultural and political awareness, philosophical and spiritual inquiry, exploration in the arts and environmental consciousness are all part of the struggle and the love of what it means to be alive. The studio remains manifest in various ways...both as physical space where works emerges from each of our lives as time allows, be it pots, music, wire sculpture, embroidered pillows, papier mache` “stick people”.... or cyberspace... where images of Bob and Gennie's work continue to inspire and influence through generations.
Tina DeWeese 2015
REMINISCENCE OF A DEWEESE
When my father Bob DeWeese was teaching at MSU, he had a studio downtown. He paid $27.00 month for the entire second story of the VFW Club, which was previously the Moose Lodge. The mounted moose head was still hanging in the studio when Bob worked there, rather out of context as he was not your typical Montana hunter type of fellow. Bob and Gennie were a hub for a very lively community of intellectual, modernist “thinkers” and artists of their generation, mostly a cross section of university faculty who at that time were less segregated between the departments as people tend to be now. They loved to stay in touch with what people were thinking about and what was new in their respective fields, so this space was the perfect gathering place for periodic parties among folks, many of whom became lifetime friends. Bob and Gennie brewed their own beer in those days, and the amber flowed together with the conversation through a decade and more of exchange and sharing of ideas. This was the context that they became acquainted with Bob Pirsig. A newcomer in the late 50's, Pirsig was a quiet guy, introspectively not gregarious, but my parents memories were that he was especially interesting to talk with one on one. He was exceptionally bright and the conversation was intense. As many people did through that period, the Pirsigs would occasionally come by the house. I remember Nancy being very warm, but as a kid I had no personal contact with Robert, I remember thinking of him as a sort of mysterious guy, deeply engaged in his own world. I was pretty much that way myself, so I thought he was pretty cool. My older sister Cathie use to babysit the two boys on occasion, probably while their folks were at the studio parties.
When Robert Pirsig returned on his now famous route to revisit his old “haunts” at MSU, he reconnected with my parents, as is now so well known from the visit to the DeWeeses in ZMM. I think it is noteworthy that, prior to this visit, the entire Chautauqua takes place exclusively in his head. He does not have a rapport with John and Sylvia in this way, so all of his thinking is introspective. When he sees Bob and Gennie, the Chautauqua begins to flow out of him and it is from this engagement that my mother suggests he write all this down...
I have a notion that my parents had an effect on many people that way. They were exceptionally receptive to new and interesting ideas and were genuinely interested to learn what might become of these ideas as they evolved. They cared about people and the struggles and discoveries in their process. Partially because my dad was a teacher, and partially because my mother was a gracious and hospitable hostess, as well as both being artists and active culturally and intellectually, many people, students and colleagues, found a home base with my folks and I think Pirsig was no exception. Most of these people became friends over the years, and like the files that my parents kept about Bob Pirsig, they followed the careers of friends, students and colleagues throughout their entire lives. As people moved away, they continued to share letters and publicity clippings, catalogues and other acclaim of their contributions. Bob Pirsig, Peter Voulkos, Rudy and Lela Autio, James Reineking, Mary Overlie, Helen McCauslan, Jessie Wilbur, Frances Senska, Bill Stockton, Margaret Greg, John and Debbie Buck/Butterfield, Pat Zentz, Jerry Rankin, Chester (Wally) Hansen, Zak Zakovi, M.J.Williams, Nan Parsons, Terry Karson, Ben Tone, Bill Pullman, Michael and Lynda Sexson, Freeman Butts, Norman Strung, Sam Curtis...the list goes on...of the people who counted my parents as close friends and credited them with either initiating them into or supporting them in their process of evolving their life work...and, as a matter of fact, in acknowledging the Quality in their work! And these were only the people who became known by their work. The network of people who constituted my parents' personal circle of friends is vast and continues to thrive today as a part of the greater Bozeman and Montana community of creative minded folks. Bob and Gennie loved and were loved by many.
And of course many of these people have migrated nationally and internationally. The kitchen wall over the years was testimonial to their social ties and network of support and correspondence. Announcements of shows, postings of acknowledged work and celebrated events would fill the walls to overflowing over the decades and be ritually, of necessity, disassembled to make room for the coming years, always loveingly preserved in manilla envelopes, and are still stored today amidst bins and shelves of what the family has come to call “the DeWeese Archives” in my mother's old studio. Certainly all of Pirsig's announcements through the press were pinned on the wall as he emerged from obscurity to international acclaim. He, like so many others, felt at home with these people who cared about his work and about the shifting world that it spoke to. These were tumultuous times in our cultural mind and revolutionary in the forms of expression that emerged from those times. Like Pirsig, my father challenged the “status quo” of the esthetic norm, and initiated young minds to a wave of innovative perception emergent from the abstract expressionist movement of the 30's and 40's. Although Bob Pirsig and Bob DeWeese navigated different cultural terrain, there was a simpatico of spirit and a vitality and dynamism of the creative world that embraced the shift about which Pirsig as a writer was so perceptive and so verbally articulate in both of his works. My dad worked visually somewhere along that same cutting edge. (please see link, Thoughts about Dad)
After the auctions that marked the celebration of each of their lives, after the gifting of large bodies of their works to Montana Museums, after the documenting and storing of their personal art left over from the eras of explorations, and the homes of their five kids are filled to the limits... documents, photographs and disassembled collections of art from trades and gifts from students, friends and colleagues acquired over the decades are packed away, the studio walls, like the disassembled kitchen walls...have come down. But we still hold the images.
Although I'm certain the personal papers of Bob Pirsig are extensive, his masterworks are bound into two volumes..where the preserved works of Bob and Gennie remain as multitudes of images. The Robert and Gennie DeWeese Website is an attempt to consolidate and to present the life works of both artists in a way that will celebrate and honor their tradition of sharing with the community of artists and friends, with educational institutions and with global public now, on the world wide web.
***We have negotiated the transference of the “Pirsig papers” to the Special Collections of the MSU archives. The file box that was kept for decades in the studio contained the clippings that came down from the kitchen wall, their personal correspondence through the period of his emergent notoriety and one of two xeroxed copies of the manuscript of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is available for viewing through the Special Collections at the MSU Library.
This piece was written in retrospect of the 2012 Chautauqua, a celebration to honor the life works of Robert Pirsig. Robert was awarded an Honorary Doctorate at the MSU Winter Commencement Ceremonies following the two day event. Tina and Josh were members of the organizing committee for this event, together with Charlie Pinkava, MSU Faculty (Critical Thinking, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance his text), and Michael Sexson, long time and beloved professor of Literature at MSU. Please see links below.
THOUGHTS ABOUT DAD
I had an interesting conversation with a couple of friends yesterday. One person was saying that she understands that I'm still grieving, that that's why I'm doing all this work. She was talking about how all this "stuff" from the earthly life can be an obstacle for departed souls to break free, all the stuff and the emotions tied up with them...that Mom's idea about making a big funeral pyre with her paintings was really quite a practical idea....that it would have been very liberating. And, she continued, the reason that I'm doing this with the work instead, is for the benefit of the family, that we have something of them to hold on to...She also says that she's seen my dad's work and that he really couldn't be called a "master", if he had, it would be selling for allot more than it sells for...
Well...it's a big topic, and I really didn't have my wits about me to follow through with this conversation, so I've brought this home with me to sort out in a coherent way that I can clarify...what's really going on.
Granted, the process of sorting through these images is arduous and emotional for me, but I think I'm not grieving so much as filled with appreciation...which translates into wanting to share. And the other friend's comment, that all of these things...art, photographs etc that people surround themselves with are just a human tendency to want to possess, to capture and to hold. My response to that was to tell them about my dad's little statement that "responsibility = the ability to respond"...which I think is much closer to the motivation behind all of this work...drawing was their means of being responsive/responsible...and MY means of being responsive/responsible at THIS point is to share this, beyond their capacity in their lifetimes, with the world. Somebody else had to do it for artists historically...and it is not so much about grieving or holding on to for us, as it is about HONORING. I think the question of whether they were masters is determined by the history of their practice. Like tea bowls, the expression of their process evolved through time...and they did become masterful through time in their practice of SEEING and training their hand to their eye...maybe not in ways that everyone will appreciate...but in ways that merits acknowledgement among the few, perhaps more than a few, who recognize their language and value their process. Ultimately, I think it all comes down to the historical context in which they practiced their art...and perhaps that silly little word that Pirsig made so much fuss about...
Which is NOT all about making a masterpiece! This is something that I think about allot as I sort and organize these hundreds of slides. I remember Dad's work was so much about just keeping the responses going, almost like a compulsion to keep the world alive by participating through response. EVERYTHING was given its due...dog food bag collage, Buttreys and Bozeman Daily Chronicle collage, daily lists of things to do, a poignant passage of a favorite book...with a stool attached to be able to take the time to read it, homages to masters, homages to friends living and deceased, homages to family to homes to current events. An homage to the 100,000 mile celebration with a bottle of champagne at the spot on the road when the Volvo odometer turned over. And when the responses moved from the external environment to whatever materials held his attention...paint, pastel, charcoal, ink, wood, mylar, fabric, concrete...elements of collage or construction, the pieces became simply that - homages to the elements in the simplest assemblages to complexly arranged juxtapositions of esthetic deliberation and specificity. He played with them and worked with them and found solace and struggle in their presence. Like a musician with notes, a writer with words, a dancer with muscles and bones...
Sometimes the responses were fascinations with a theme, objective or non-objective. Variations on a hillside (Wolny's Hill, Karl's Hill), variations on the simple form of the tie...for ten years, variations of his imagination and fascination about the theme of the Rapture and what he came to identify as the "Flight Series", variations of the human figure. Events of his life like trips to Cannon Beach, to Cliff Lake, to Portland, to Kentucky, to Paris, to the Winter Fair, to the Bozeman Hot Springs, to Pow Wows... all became subjects of recurrent themes, models for exploration and variation of the familiar. And always the people...wherever, whatever context he found himself among people - family, friends, strangers - he drew them. Whether three line sketches or layered toiled dredging of semblances, he was fascinated with the visual presence of people. These portraits were a life long exploration of responses to the essential form and expression of individuals. Full of soul, indeed! And not so as to hold or to capture, but to respond to, to be response/able to...to have a presence with.
I never regarded Dad as an out door kinda' guy. He was not a hiker or recreationalist. He had no overt compulsion to be outside, other than the camping trips through the decades with friends. But when I began to sort and organize the loose files of random multitudes of slides labelled "landscape", I realized that I'd forgotten...how much time he spent in his observations of nature and the surrounding environment of all these contexts of his life. Interiors, natural and urban landscapes were a presence of visual form for him, and to which he responded with the same repetitive return to places as he did faces, whether familiar or fresh and unknown, he saw them in multitudinous ways, he made the unknown familiar and he made the familiar fresh. When I saw these drawings and paintings in order, I wept. The familiarity of this home up Cottonwood was as much so for him as it was for me who spent years exploring on foot and on horseback, (and always with a camera) the mountains and the trees, the context of our home.
Of all this work, some of course became studies or exercises toward a greater piece of work. Masterpieces. Serious paintings, prints, portraits. But the process of his responses and his observations were the soul of his work. The ninety some sketchbooks, the hundreds of "little drawings" on scraps of paper and note cards bound with rubber bands in his pocket for perpetual and easy access...the napkin drawings from nights of social discourse at the round table....like the drawing with chocolate sauce...or orange peel collages right on the table...nothing precious, just a way to make a mark...THIS was the thesis of his work. It's the markings of the little events, the moments of acknowledgements, the return to the familiar in a new way. Homages to the moment.
When Pirsig talks about quality as that moment prior to consciousness and to identification of that moment, like the leading edge of perception...that is the edge that drew Dad to his work....and which so much of his work reflects. Modernist, postmodernist? He certainly didn't define himself by those terms....he just lived there! Perhaps in that historical moment when the modernist world acquiesced to the relaxation of a hierarchy of classical form and found value in all things equally, the revelation of a quality in all life. I don't think Pirsig saw Bob DeWeese as a spiritual guy. He just recognized him as a presence in the world he was tracking in his mind. Prior to his arrival at the DeWeeses (in the book), all of his thinking was internal. I think he recognized a receptivity to his own inquiry, an empathic spirit of familiarity, despite the fact that they spoke different languages. Trying for the Absolute...the Whole Yin Yang Yazoo, Forget to Remember/Remember to Forget, About All I Had to Say for Today....(titles of various pieces over the years)
Tina DeWeese 2012