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We were out at Yumart today – Yvonne Whelan’s gallery at 101 Spadina (here in Toronto of course) – for the opening of a group exhibition of small works. That’s Tim Deverell in the photo along with Memphis and Tuffy P. We hadn’t intended to buy art today, but we ended up buying two paintings (one of them by Tim D.) and one photo collage. There is some excellent work in this show, available at reasonable prices. Check it out.
Sometimes I like playing those strange old “mountain modal” Old Time tunes on the banjo. They typically have a simple structure and a hypnotic quality that seems like it comes from someplace very distant in place and time. Here’s me playing one called Boatin’ up Sandy. For those who care about these things, my banjo is in Sawmill tuning with a capo on the second fret.
I left town on a road-trip just to get away, see the country, figure things out and I came back when the money ran out. I had an idea that I wanted to devote my energy to making paintings. I was starting from scratch, finding a studio, and finding a job to pay the rent and put groceries in the fridge. The studio was the easy part; the job was something else. A good job was out of the question. “I know you artist types. You won’t stay. I’m not going to train you if you aren’t going to stay.” That left the crap jobs. “Look, you’re overqualified for this. You’ve got a degree. You can do better than this.”
I finally signed on doing breakout cutting at a waterbed factory. We made bookcase headboards with photo masonite backs and we made frames with drawers built in. My job was to pull in lifts of third grade Ponderosa Pine from Mount St. Helens and from Susanville California, and turn it into rough-cut boards for processing. I smelled like a pine tree all the time. You couldn’t wash out that smell. I wore an apron with safety pins stuck in the front, for digging out the slivers. Better to dig them out right away. I didn’t wear gloves because I wanted to keep track of the ends of my fingers.
The chop saw was big and mean. I’d line up the wood and depress the pedal, causing the guard to slam down with a bang and the blade to rise up and saw the board clean in an instant.
The guys in the spray booth didn’t wear masks, just breathed in the fumes all day. Harry, though, he was my favourite. He was a biker in better days, with love and hate tattooed on his fingers like Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. He needed 3 beers just to stop the shaking and get through the shift. Over at assembly, the guys taped the triggers down on the nail guns so they could work faster. One day a guy named Dave managed to nail two of his fingers together and I had to take him to the hospital. I was luckier. The worst thing that happened to me was an inch long splinter that broke off in my thumb.
My paintings at the time were bleak industrial landscapes with titles like The Bad Inventor and The Listening Machine and The New Murphy Power Plant. I was painting with a furious energy and with the confidence of youth.
One day Harry got liquored up after work and showed up at home staggering drunk. Legend had it his wife beat him with a cast iron pan to within an inch of his life. I don’t know the truth of it. I just know one day he disappeared and the story about the fry pan spread around fast. Me, I stuck it out as long as I could just to prove I was no quitter. Then one day I raised two lifts of lumber instead of one with the fork. The top lift was wrapped but not banded, and half the lift came crashing down on top of me. I was saved by the roll bars on the forklift but it left me shaking, feeling like jello. I stayed on a little longer, until I found something else, but I knew that day I’d had enough.
…catching up with old friends over a pot of tea. It doesn’t get much better.
There are two different tunes that I know called Diamond Joe.
I first heard this one performed by Ian Tyson…
Here’s another version, by Sam Bush..
This tune is apparently fairly young, written in the 1950s, possibly by Cisco Houston.
Now much later I heard a different Diamond Joe altogether – an older song that dates back at least to the 1920s. Here are Bruce Molsky and Ale Moller performing Diamond Joe and Blackberry Blossom
and here’s Bob Dylan performing it in his oddball film Masked and Anonymous
Curiously enough, Mr. Dylan also recorded the other Diamond Joe on Good as I Been to You
Somebody landed on 27th Street after entering “Eugene Knapik paintings worth money” twice into a search engine (the first time with a question mark, and the second time more like a statement, without the interrogative). I prefer it without the question mark, frankly.
I can’t resist a comment. Yes of course they are worth tremendous piles of cash. In fact, I have quite a number of them on hand. Bring cash, wheelbarrows of cash, and they can be yours. A selection of my tremendously popular, not to mention valuable paintings can be found on Pinterest. So you don’t forget, order before midnight tomorrow. Operators are on duty now. You’ll also find a few woodcut prints there and even a couple little constructions.
Here’s one from last year I’m particularly fond of, called Lost Forest.
I was surfing about, watching Old Time music videos this evening and chanced upon this delightful story by Roy Book Binder about taking guitar lessons from Rev. Gary Davis…
The way these things happen, that led me to another little story about the same legendary guitar picker, this time by David Bromberg…
Here’s the Rev himself, performing Children of Zion…
You know we can’t just leave it at that…..just one more, ok?
There, that’s better.
Curiously, he doesn’t include his own work on the Art Gallery of Ontario on his list of buildings worth saving. OK, we don’t have hundreds of years of splendid architectural history in this town, and granted, along the way we’ve seen a lot of bad development decisions made all in the name of a greasy buck, but still, where does Gehry get off making a statement like that? Toronto does have a number of character neighbourhoods, and I think it would serve Mr. Gehry well to go spend some time in them.
The National Post article includes a picture of the proposed trio of 80+ story buildings proposed for the Mirvish lands on King St. Are you excited to see these things erected? Not me.
“Having theatres that are not full all the time is not better than having art museums and a relationship with OCAD and a relationship with the city… These towers can become a symbol of what Toronto can be,” he said. “I am not building condominiums. I am building three sculptures for people to live in.”
I expect there will be some good things inside for Torontonians, but I’m not feeling the love for what they’re cooking up on King St. so far.