71 – Ojo Caliente, American Shopping, Sense of Urgency

31 mars 2010 Aucun commentaire

America, land of contrasts, from the silent howl against Rumsfeld at the 64 to the whispering peace of Ojo Caliente springs!

9h30. Departure to bathe in the natural hot waters rich in iron and sulfur.

If you know me, you’ll say that doesn’t sound at all like me. You’d be right! It is the kind of place that I avoid; I don’t like these baths where you can neither move nor swim and where you are “squeezed in” like sardines. But we are in the USA, these are Indian waters, Robbie invited me, and we love to talk about photography and everything else, so…

Here I am, in a light turquoise bathing suit, chatting and whispering (multiple signs warn “no louder than a whisper,” or something like that) while enjoying the benefits of the various pools. My skin will be soft and moisturized and my face browned by the misleadingly veiled sun.

After lunch, Robbie takes me to a store that she likes, right next door. I like it too. Lots of stuff of all kinds, especially an impressive range of clothes with extravagant prints that could be described as “hippie renewal”. When I try on a long tunic blouse out of sheer curiosity, it turns out to be quite wearable. You guessed it, I leave with two or three of these and a boiled wool jacket, sky blue with black stripes and silvery gray stars.

Souvenir of America; the time to leave is getting closer. I feel it in the urgency to take pictures, which I withstand by calmly going about my business as if time stretched ahead to infinity. As in life, as if…

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70 – Painters’ Issues, Photographers’?, Earthships

In exhibitions, I read the explanations on the walls. I always admire the carefully written letters, I love them. I imagine the repainting between exhibitions, the rewriting to describe a unique universe each time. Or are some words common to all? The game would then be not to erase the recurring words and to describe different artists and works by keeping the fulcrum and filling in the spaces with the words that are distinctive to each. I sense a possible oulipo-esque undertaking here.

Cézanne painted the same scene from dawn to dusk without concerning himself with the particular light at any moment.

His idea was that the painting should represent the essence of what he saw, in a kind of eternity to which in the end the light was absolutely irrelevant.

This rather surprised me at first, knowing the number of Sainte Victoires, Bathers, etc… among his works.

And then it occurred to me that the repetition and the slight variations in point of view must have brought him to the platonic essence. But did he keep them, all these works? How many Sainte Victoires and others did he throw away when, in despair at not selling anything, he threw his canvases out the window?

Monet painted with the precise aim of capturing the particular light of each hour of the day, each meteorological moment. It was the way these varied at different times that interested him.

Ah, without the painter’s handicraft – it is still this question that interests me: whether to take only one or a series of pictures. Until now I’ve preferred to work in series. I like the instantaneous, with its variations in weather, mood, thought, viewpoint. Coming back to the same place over and over again and seeing what time adds or subtracts without losing the freshness of the moment.

Will I take just one, someday, THE day?

In the meantime, here I am on the roads that I have driven many times, for some shots of father and son, river, dogs…

A few miles further on Highway 64 west, the earthships show up, out of a science fiction story.

End of the day. Roads that merge into skies, busy with the metamorphoses that they love to replay for all of us on earth.

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Recipe for a Serial, Questions of Time, Pleasure of Blogging, Drifting away, Man with Dog

It occurred to me to spread yesterday’s various virtual days over the days that followed. Then my incurable honesty took over, with the thought that reality doesn’t have to be anything other than what it is.

It reminds me of a father’s answer to his son in Phoenix, Arizona by Spokane writer, Sherwood Alexie:

  • “What is reality?”
  • “I’m not interested in reality. I’m interested in the way things should be.”

What is special about blogging is that it is at once in the moment with oneself and in the instantaneous encounter with the reader – yet it’s written.
Sometimes unexpected drifts, daydreams arise. Certain ones take on a life of their own, so I transcribe them as quickly as I can.
I like all this.

This tendency may be what transforms art today.

There is a shift away from creating according to codes, learning skills sanctified by the history of art, towards the instantaneous, in which sudden emergence, improvisation, chance, and freshness play an important role.
But the desire for timelessness persists!

I see the man walking his dog.
There he is, on the other side of the street, the photo taken too late.
Well, as Cartier-Bresson used to say, you have to be on-the-ball.

Some others think that if the photo is “over” while you’re setting the camera up on the tripod, adjusting the frame and measuring the light, it was not worth taking.

I try not to think; thinking is what often kept me from doing.
Probably a lack of harmony between the head and the hand?

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68-2 – la Piste, Contemplation, Fajada Butte , Chaco Canyon

Very soon the route becomes absolutely amazing. A few scattered ranches, a railroad track that runs alongside and then crosses the road, cows in the distance, a succession of mesas and canyons, a few trees, only three other cars on the road. The space is ocher, pale, or sage-colored, sometimes almost red; music in the car.

Very strong light. Contemplation. The track not so bad now. Yes, it’s rocky or clayey, and at every sudden little peak I can see that when it’s wet it must be impassable. Today, I just have to watch out.

And, driving carefully, I arrive within sight of Fajada Butte.

At the entrance there is a bridge over the dry riverbed. I stop, beautiful view over the whole site.

Coming back to the car I look towards the river: five fallow deer or elk quietly watching me. Picture in spite of the shade; they move away, unhurried, and pass into the sun.

It’s a little after 6 pm, just enough time to visit the lower part of the site: Pueblo Bonito and Pueblo del Arroyo. Glorious moments.

The sun is going to set, I return to the road with two or three other latecomers. To the west, at the edge of the canyon, is the sun, to the east, the moon.
The light turns more and more orange. I leave by the northern track, which joins the paved Route 550 20 or 25 miles further on.

There’s time to stop and look back at the canyon. I watch the gray and then the dark blue spreading over the plain, the ruins, the trail.

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68-3 – Return with the Moon, Absolute Peace, Headlights in the distance, “Follow me”

Again, sheer beauty in what remains of the day, and then night and a full moon.
But the sun keeps illuminating the horizon. 
With each curve of the trail, the moon becomes brighter and brighter, cooling the sun’s light.

Feel like listening to Tonada de Luna Llena by Caetano Veloso. or sung a-capella.

Sort of an absolute peace forces me to stop again and again. The cars that preceded me are far away now. I get out, breathe the air each time a little fresher, a few steps, forget everything else, perfect harmony with these moments made of a present that seems eternal, when they are the very fugacity. Now the silence.

At the intersection, according to the map, I’m at Route 550 and should turn right. I’m assailed with doubt because the sign says Pueblo Pintado, which seems to be in the opposite direction to Taos. I park to think it through. Luckily, there are headlights in the distance.

I flash my headlights. The car stops. He is Indian and asks me:
– “Where are you from?”
– “From France.” He laughs.
– “Hello, welcome to the USA.”
I laugh. We talk for a bit then I ask him if it’s okay to turn right for Taos.
– “No, 550 is to the left. Goodbye!”
– “Thank you very much, very lucky to have met you. Really nice of you to have taken the time to stop, goodbye, good night!”

He says something I don’t understand, shrugs his shoulders, waves, and sets off. I follow him. 150 feet before Route 550, he makes a U-turn.
Had he said, “Follow me”?

On the highway, cars, trucks, we all step on the gas.
But it’s a long way, alone in the night.
Cuba, turn left.

Once again, nobody; the mesas, the mountains, big light patches where the snow has not melted, four or five cars, and just before Abiquiu, a herd of cows. It’s so unexpected that I stop only at the last one, for a blurred picture.

Then I take a road I know, and finally Route 68 that crosses Taos.

I arrive with the feeling of having lived through several days, one with Jean-Pierre, then superbly isolated Acoma, then the highways and their immense trucks running at full speed, Chaco Canyon, the tracks, and these small winding solitary roads where one has the impression of a world set apart.

Tonight, the wind is again buffeting the trees.
I’m going to bed; you’re getting up.
I’ll return to Chaco Canyon.

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68 -1 – Albuquerque, Acoma, Grants, Trail, Contemplation, Fajada Butte

Jean-Pierre’s flight leaves at noon from Albuquerque. We get there around 10:30 am. It’s time to say goodbye. And I hear Gerard Philippe’s words in Lorenzaccio:
– “… farewells, endless farewells, the banks of the Arno full of farewells!
The kids write it on the walls…”

We part ways.

I take I-25 north then I-40 west, which goes towards Gallup and Flagstaff and runs along the southern border of the Laguna pueblo that we visited with Cecile.
I leave the main road and drive to Acoma. The cottonwoods, the mesas, the pink ocher sand, the riverbed to my right, dry, beige gray.

I will need to be quite near the mesa to see the elongated silhouette of the village, the houses, the church, the color of the rocks and earth.

Visitor center, ticket, hourly bus to go up there. Can I go alone? No, you need to know one of the residents.

Over and over the same sign: “No visitors beyond this point.”
So I’ll go with a group and our guide, Conrad.
The village, the view and the church are no less beautiful, the pleasure perhaps less: No unplanned encounters or strolls.

Conrad knows his country well, and he is kind enough to spend some time informing me:
– “Which way to Chaco Canyon?”
– “You can get there by taking I-40, go around the west side of Tsoodził, the turquoise mountain, or Mount Taylor, as you call it. After Grants take 605N to White Horse. When you get to a T-section, go west, and at Seven Lakes, take the trail due north to Chaco Canyon.”

Before Grants, I see a visitor center; I go in to ask for confirmation of all this information. Three rangers are there. They take out a map and highlight the route, which corresponds exactly to Conrad’s directions.

– “And the track, can I take it, I have a ‘normal’ car, not a 4WD?”
One of the rangers phones Chaco Canyon.
– “It’s okay,” he tells me, “the trail is very dry. They close at sunset, 7:30.”
– “How long does it take?”
– “Oh, 1 ½ to 2 hours.”
They give me the map. I thank them warmly.

I fill up with gas and top up on water, I have my jacket in the back, knit cap, gloves, sweater, raisins and almonds. It’s cold at night and on some roads you hardly see anyone.”

Of course I get lost in Grants and find myself on a doubtful street with a kind of junkyard, scraps of trucks, wagons, extractors, and further on a set of buildings probably abandoned as the uranium mines have been in disuse since the 80s. I continue on and get to a café. A huge guy, skinny and strong, emerges and is about to get into his car. I wave to him. He comes over. I ask him the way.
– “Chaco Canyon, I’ve never heard of it, I know Zuni Canyon. Chaco doesn’t ring a bell.”
I tell him I have a map.
– “Ok! Let’s have a look.”
We unfold the map on the cover.
He locates where we are, sees the yellow highlight of the rangers, tells me how to find the right road, and adds:
– “Be careful, towards Seven Lakes you can’t see the turnoff very well.”
He must think, if she can get lost in Grants, she must be an air head. In fact, I was slightly anxious about this route that everyone described as unpredictable. But no chickening out! Focus.

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67 – Katya Bonnenfant and Kota Ezawa, The Rio Grande, Tamayame Land, Sandia Mountain

We share our breakfast table with a young couple. They speak English, each with an accent, hers French we think and his perhaps German. After a while, she turns to us:
– “But you speak French!”
– “We are French, and you too, right?”

They are both artists; Katya lives in Lyon, Kota in San Francisco, and he is part Japanese, part German. They met during a fellowship in Germany. They are painters, they also write and use video in their art installations. We hit it off, we talk.
We exchange email addresses.


To introduce them to you,
these films , Odessa Staircase Redux about them both, and this one about Katya Bonnenfant.

We visit the Rio Grande Gorge, its famous very high bridge, always so spectacular.
We follow the river up to Pilar, stopping from time to time for me to show Jean-Pierre my favorite places.

Las Trampas and Truchas. The snow is falling again. Sometimes, when the sun breaks through, the light is amazing.

Jean-Pierre decides to continue by small roads to the hotel where we will spend the night.

We pass through secluded lands, hamlets that seem deserted though cars are parked in front of the houses, meadows, cows, sierras, canyons, the grey-green of the sage, the ochres and pinks of the soil, the snowy white of the summits, the faded reds, the pale blues, the mauves, the muted yellow of the houses, the often dilapidated corrals, the well-kept barbed wire at the edges of the reservations, the sparkling ribbon of a rio as we cross or skirt it.

It is this mixture of traces of a pioneer past and a barely perceptible current human presence, of lands that stretch to infinity and seem unchanged, that I like here.

The impression that the harshness and ruggedness are as much part of this country as the beauty of the ever-changing skies and the breathtakingly varied landscapes, by turns too picturesque, too ordinary, too distinctive, too ugly, and too magnificent. Yes, excess is in everything, as in the American way of expressing oneself, an enthusiasm all the more exuberant perhaps because it does not know the weight of a long history?

Grey skies abruptly rent by the sun setting on the horizon as we approach the hotel.

We are on Tamayame land, near Santa Anna Pueblo, facing the mountains, with the Rio Grande right there. Beautiful for our last night together.

While I write, I hear the wind gusting.
– “I don’t like spring in Taos because of the wind,” Robbie told me the other day.

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66 – Ancient Alive, Eagle Nest, Wheeler Peak, James “T-Model” Ford at The Shadows, The Gombo Project and Baptiste Russell at The Alley Cantina

Ancient Alive, Red River, Eagle Nest, Wheeler Peak, James “T-Model” Ford at The Shadows, The Gombo Project and Baptiste Russell at The Alley Cantina

After breakfast, I show Jean-Pierre where I live. The famous casita 9s, its gas heating, its bright kitchen and the huge room with the Würlitzer piano.
While Jean-Pierre reads his emails, I make coffee; then we go for a walk around the plaza and along Bent Street. We visit Jocelyn Martinez, a painter who also sells jewelry, paintings, engravings, and pottery made by other Native artists at the Ancient Alive gallery. Lunch at Graham’s.

We leave for the north of Taos to travel the “enchanted circle,” which includes Questa, Red River and Eagle Nest, then goes down HW64 to the east of Taos and around Wheeler Peak, which rises to over 13,000 ft. The sun is shining when we leave, but the trip is disappointing.

Soon mist, snow, and heavy clouds transform the landscape. Animals and tall trees look so dark against the milky white fields.

Misty red of the willows along the shiny-slate rios. Sparkling flashes of light through sudden gashes in the clouds.

High up, a herd of horses. The mud, the scattered houses, the space with edges erased by the white snow, a ranch, make the distance and perhaps the isolation of these untamed, rugged lives even more noticeable. 

We return through the falling snow.

Tea to warm up, and then to TaosSound, the best record shop in Taos.

The owner brings out a lot of CDs. A real moment of musical discoveries. JP picks three.

I ask the owner:

– “Any good concerts tonight in Taos?”
– “Yes, there’s an exceptional concert at the ‘Shadows’ by James T-Model Ford, a very old bluesman from Mississippi, 90 years old, magnificent! And a band, the Gombo Project, with Baptiste Russell at the Alley Cantina.”

Onward to a beautiful evening.
A warm-hearted, musical night. Wonderful.

Starry night to return to Mabel Dodge.

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– 65 – Arrivée de Jean Pierre, Albuquerque, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, la Chambre d’Ansel Adams

I leave at 2 PM for Albuquerque to pick up Jean-Pierre, who is arriving from Denver. On these American highways, in the warmth of the car and out on the wide-open road, I listen to the CDs I quickly burned for the trip: Alela Diane, James Keelaghan, Andy Spillane, Paul Mousey, Capercaillie, John Surman, Leszek Mozdzer and Lars Danielson. I pass through ordinary towns with names drawn from different sources, La Cienega, Dixon, Velarde, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, Camel Roc, Tesuque, Algodones, Sandia Crest. Splendid views of le Rio Grande and the cottonwoods, the Sangre de Cristo mountains with their snowy tops, and the Sandia Mountain range.

Today, I felt like listing or rather conjuring these names, a kind of “stationary trip”, as when you trace your finger on a map or browse through Baudelaire:

We want to break the boredom of our jails
and cross the oceans without oars or steam —
give us visions to stretch our minds like sails,
the blue, exotic shoreline of your dream!

Tell us, what have you seen?

When Jean-Pierre calls me from the airport, I am still 25 miles from Albuquerque. We agree to meet on the old plaza, near the church. In the end, I arrive almost at the same time as he does. Coffee, news, quick tour of the Old Town, and we leave for Taos.

We drop our luggage at the hotel.

This house of Mabel Dodge Luhan is both a museum and a hotel.

Each room has the name of one of Mabel’s friends: Georgia O’Keeffe, Dorothy Brett, Nicholai Fechin, Frieda Lawrence, DH Lawrence… One, right next to hers, is the room of her Native American husband, Tony Luhan.

On the town side, we are 200 yards from the plaza, and the garden side gives directly onto the moor behind the Morada, which you can see in the distance on the right if you lean out a little, in my case on tiptoes.

Back at Mabel Dodge Luhan’s hotel, we return to the “Ansel Adams” room, the one that was assigned to us by chance and where Dennis Hopper wrote the script for Easy Rider.


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