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Serenity, Anyone?

In the 1980s, my grandmother had the Serenity Prayer decoupaged and hung in her guest bedroom. When my cousins and I had sleepovers as kids, I always marveled at its simple, rhythmic request:  

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 

courage to change the things I can, 

and the wisdom to know the difference.

 

I typed those lines from childhood memory. That prayer has been with me ever since. Even as a gradeschooler, I knew my life-long goal was serenity in a chaotic world. 

 

Decades later, I discovered the Enneagram. I know it’s all the rage right now, but for good reason; its pegs humanity’s nine personality types through the core beliefs of the types, the wounds they suffer from, and the healing they seek. 

 

I’m a number One: The Reformer. I want to make this world a better, more beautiful place. Which is a teensy bit exhausting and mostly impossible. Zero surprise that the life pursuit of a One is serenity. Can we say #challenge?

 

This year, we need the Serenity Prayer not just as a decoupage over the guest bed, but as cosmic light show illuminating our dark skies.

 

A few nights after the Oregon fires had ravaged friends’ homes just miles away, and another news cycle featuring Angry Everybody made me want to move to the Yukon Territory without the Internet, I found myself awake in the wee hours, whispering the Serenity Prayer over and over again until—much later—I finally fell back asleep. 

 

Honestly, the more authentic version of that prayer often sounds like the character George Costanza from Seinfeld screaming, “Serenity Now!” 

 

We can yell two words. 

 

We can whisper three lines over and over. 

 

May we pray the prayers. May we also do the work to heal our own wounds so that we don’t wound others from our unresolved pain and so that we can bring our healthy selves to serve a hurting world from a place of forgiven wholeness seeking to restore instead of retaliatory brokenness seeking to destroy. 

 

(And may we have a bit of serenity!)

 

 

Almeda Fire and COVID-19 Update

We are very sorry to report that Advanced Photo & Imaging in Ashland and Art4Joy in Central Point were not able to survive the COVID-19 shutdown and have closed their businesses.

Ashland Art Center officially closed in March 2020 for the same reason, however they are in the process of reimagining their business model and may reopen in a new form in 2021. For now, they are offering free studio spaces to artists who have lost their studios in the Almeda / Glendower fire. Please email [email protected] regarding studio space.

We have information on a number of artists who have lost their homes, studios, art supplies and some or all of their life’s work in art. Here are ways you can help.

Central Art Supply has set up accounts for some of the artists that people can donate money to. They also have a generic artists fire relief fund that they will use for local art groups, and organizations that have been affected. Please contact [email protected] or go to Central Art for more information and to donate.

https://wildfire.oregon.gov/ If you sustained uninsured losses or damage due to wildfires beginning Sept. 7, 2020, you may be eligible for disaster aid. Importantly, Federal funds are available to help eligible individuals recover from wildfire in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion Counties. To apply, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362); TTY, call 1-800-462-7585; 711 or Video Relay Service, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Click here for more FEMA information or apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov

The Rogue Valley Relief Fund will go directly to help people most impacted by the fires. In the short term, this fund will be used to directly meet the needs of those who have been displaced by fires—tents, meals, gas, and other supplies folks need immediately. In the long term, we hope that this fund will support people who have lost their homes in these fires as they rebuild their lives, prioritizing those who have the least access to aid. www.mrgfoundation.org/rogue-valley-relief-fund1

We have a few donations here that artists can come pick up.

17 issues of American Craft magazines and 4 Illustration annual books. If these can help you with inspiration or perhaps collage material, contact [email protected] to set up a time to pick up one, some, or all.

Canvases and sketch pads will be delivered tomorrow, Sunday, September 19. If these are on your list, please contact us so we can make arrangements.

NOTE: we have removed the contact information from the notices below to protect these good people’s privacy and email spam folders. Only business emails are published. Please contact us to be connected with the person you may be able to help or who can help you.

Help For Artists

Here are the people who have responded to me with offers of help and what they have to share. Artists, you’re welcome to contact me if you’re not confident contacting a donor yourself. I am more than happy to be your go-between! Donors, please let us know when you have exhausted all you had to share so we can take you off the list.

Places to stay/Studio Space:

Kimberly Samitore: Art4Joy did not survive COVID. However, her landlord is holding her to her lease, so if anyone needs studio/retail space in a commercial location in Medford she has sublease options available. [email protected]

Misty Stone really wants to help an artist in need. She has a small place and would love to take a timeout for a couple weeks, making her space available for someone who needs it. In return, they would just have to give her kitty some love and feeding.

Terra Paley has moved to Washington and has an extra room. If you need a place to stay, contact her to see if her offer is a good fit for you.

Ashland Art Center offers free studio space to artists who lost everything in the fire. I’m not sure if they have filled up the available space yet but it’s worth contacting them to find out. “Priority consideration will be given to artists who have lost their working spaces due to the fire. Importantly, we are asking you to share this information with anyone needing a place to resume working on their art. (All types of art mediums)” Please email [email protected] regarding studio space.


Art Supplies:

Gently used pastels, a table easel and some pastel surfaces an artist would like to share with another pastel artist in need.

Almost new easel. It’s tall and really gorgeous. Wood. Wheels. Adjustable. Glad to donate it to an artist who suffered loss of their own easel in the fire. 

Wood frames and canvases.

Watercolor supplies or supplies that are needed. Painting supplies includes other arts…any knitters?

Sheet glass to share. These include Bullseye mostly but also Oceana, Yogi, Kokomo etc. It’s in my garage in 18”x30”x18” plastic craft bins. A glass artist could go through the bins and fill one up with her choice of glass. We will set a table up so she can look. No big sheets but about 6 bins of 12×12 and large scrap. We would open the garage door wear masks and be safe too. Let me know if this would help someone. If they didn’t have a place to take it to yet, we can mark it and I’ll keep it in the garage till they can come get it.  

Masterpiece Fine Arts Foundation: Jeanne, the organization’s director, said her artists would be happy to donate whatever they have that artists need. Be sure to let us know what you need so I can pass it on to her and find out who can help you!


Other offers of help:

Jessica Lee Findleton can help with photographing/documenting damage and connecting dots. She is also working with an art dealer/curator in Austin to create a GoFundMe for artists.

Renee Childs of Harmonic Designs in Talent can retrieve art archives for those who have scanned their artwork with her.  If anyone has extra thumb drives to donate…she is happy to fill them with beauty.  [email protected]

Pat Moore of Ashland Archival Printing is offering a 15% discount on scanning and printing services [email protected]

Artists to Help

We have a list of artists who need assistance, primarily to rebuild their art supplies so they can begin creating again after losing their life’s work in art.

Here are some of the things they need. Can you offer any of these items to help them get back on their feet? Please contact [email protected] and we will put you in touch or accept your donation and make sure it goes where it’s needed.

Pottery making supplies, clay, kilns, glazes. Every year our ceramics community generously donates bowls to the Empty Bowls Project to help feed people in need. Since several potters have lost everything, it’s their turn to receive help. Please contact us if you have any supplies that will give them a hand toward rebuilding their pottery businesses.

A copy of CorelDraw or has access to buy one at a student price. One of our SOAR member artists created sacred geometry art using this program. Though he lost everything in the fire (and that just days after moving to a new place in Talent!) he did happen to have his new laptop and several flash drives with his art files on them. That borders on miraculous! He just needs a copy of the program he used to create them so he can make adjustments and export them for printing.

Glass art supplies. We have a glass artist who works in paper on glass. She lost her house and all her supplies, completed works for sale and in-process pieces. As a result, she needs to rebuild 10 years’ accumulation of curated glass pieces – more than 600 vessels, votives and candle holders, hundreds of assorted glass ornaments, magnets and jewelry pieces . Also several glass lamps, all her colored paper, hand-dyed and specialty papers, scissors, punches and blades.

Further, over the last 2-3 years she had diversified into alcohol inks and wood burning. Moreover, she had assembled gear to begin exploration of block printing and screen printing. She also lost all her colored pencils, sharpies, acrylics, pastels and watercolors along with a divers collection of substrates. Losing the ability to work through the pain creatively is heartbreaking. We’ve connected her with another glass artist who is sharing some sheet glass, but that’s just a start.

This link tree of GoFundMe and PayPal accounts is for OSF staff who lost everything in the fire. Most of these folks had also been laid off back in April due to the pandemic. As a result, they need all the help they can get:
https://linktr.ee/memegarcia.

Photography supplies. We have a known photographer who has lost everything. No word on specifics of what she needs, however. Therefore, if you have anything she might be able to use, please contact us and we will find a way to connect you with her.

Paint brushes, paint — watercolor, acrylic, and oil — and related supplies.

Sketch pads, graphite and colored pencils, canvases, easels and oil pastels.

We also have a fiber artist who has lost everything in the fire. Do you have fiber art supplies, from fiber to needles, looms, etc., you’re willing to share? Please let us know so we can put you in touch with her.

Due to different circumstances, another artist, Philippo LoGrande, has had a rough year. First, his house burnt down in Yulapa a couple of months ago. Then he was diagnosed with inoperable, metastatic brain tumors. He has now lost most cognitive function. While his doctors consider his options, the friends who are caring for him need help covering his expenses—diagnostic tests, consultations, medicine, food and lodging.

The Crown Jewel, located at 165 E. California Street in Jacksonville, is having a sale on Philippo’s paintings. All money goes to his treatments, care and survival. Prices are a negotiable. You can also offer a donation there.

In addition, Free Association Gallery, at 120 N 4th Street in Jacksonville, is dedicating their Second Saturday event as a fundraiser to benefit Philippo. Therefore, you can help him by attending on Saturday, October 10, 4–10 pm.

Thank you all for helping us help the talented artists of southern Oregon!

Medford Multicultural Fair Call to Artists

We all realize it might be too soon for many artists to even think about this, but for those who are safe and have appropriate artwork to enter by the deadline of September 19, this could be a fun distraction. It certainly does speak to the amazing community response on behalf of those affected by the fires we’ve been seeing!!

Ashland Art Center Offers Free Studio Space

September 14, 2020

Hello friends and supporters,

As many of you know, Ashland Art Center closed its doors to the public in March 2020 due to the impact of COVID 19. We have been using this down time to re-imagine and restructure the organization and have made considerable progress towards our goal of resuming operations in 2021. The recent catastrophic fires have presented some formidable new obstacles to that goal, but we are determined to persevere.

Even though the Art Center has currently suspended all programs and services due to the absence of staff and income, the Board of Directors unanimously agree that we must find ways to offer whatever resources we can to our beloved artistic community. The need for shelter/food/clothing is immediate and critical, but we realize that those needs are best handled by the many organizations who have experience in disaster recovery and services.

Therefore, the Art Center is currently formulating ideas on how to effectively provide some assistance in the aftermath of the fires. Due to our circumstances, and COVID social distancing requirements, our options are limited. But what we CAN offer immediately is temporary studio space at no cost. Priority consideration will be given to artists who have lost their working spaces due to the fire. We are asking you to please share this information with anyone needing a place to resume working on their art. (All types of art mediums)

Please email [email protected] regarding studio space.

We will continue to explore ways to be of assistance, including some restorative art related projects. (Look for upcoming announcements on our Facebook and Instagram pages)

We ask that you bear with us as we implement these services as we are all dealing with various levels of impact, from emotional trauma to devastating property loss. The Art Center is committed to offering as much support and comfort as possible to our community during this time of immeasurable hardship.

Sincerely,

The Ashland Art Center Board of Directors

In pursuit of insignificance

Matt and Will at Tinker Nature Park a few miles from us.

About a year and a half ago, I set a goal to finish eighteen salt water taffy paintings as the core of a solo show in a year or two. I’m working on the eighth—I sold the first one and have stopped posting pictures of the successive paintings partly as a way to prevent the temptation of selling more. My painting plan has been deferred again and again because of my recurring role as a care provider. Last summer I spent three months mostly taking care of my parents and this summer and fall I will put in about the same period of time helping care for my son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Matthew has migrated here back to Pittsford, NY during the pandemic, after having lived and worked for more than a decade in Los Angeles. He lost his job cutting movie trailers—not lost just yet, but he will be furloughed at least into next year. So he’s unemployed with no assurances about the future and saving money by bringing his family to live with us temporarily in the comparative safety of Western New York, where everything costs less at least for now. What they do when the pandemic recedes depends on his wife’s job as a producer for Ellen Degeneres. Until then, she and Matt will stay with us through her long, arduous recovery from a car accident several weeks ago, during which she will resume working remotely for Ellen via Zoom. Their stay here isn’t all-consuming for us, but has become the center of our activities, putting my work nearly on hold again, as it was last summer and then off and on for months after my father’s death a year ago. I began to regain a regular daily painting schedule over the past week, but have had to put it aside again, I hope briefly, until we settle into a more predictable routine. Our lives have become like a Frank Capra movie where family, friends and neighbors are constantly traversing the interior of our house, bringing food and gifts, standing vigil through some small crisis, and using our grill to prepare a meal.

Again, my painting has been put on hold for the past month until a few days ago when I was able to resume work. By the fall, I should be able to settle back into a productive rhythm on the taffy paintings—one of which has already been exhibited in Ohio at The Butler Institute of American Art and at Manifest Creative Research Gallery. It’s a series of paintings that has required me to develop a diligently repetitive work process—Chuck Close would nod with approval at the monotony of my daily life when I’m at full tilt. My methods are getting more reliable than in the past, my technique is becoming more stringently observant of how areas of tone flow into one another and how the paint sits on the canvas, while I’ve reduced my subject to the simplest and least overtly meaningful objects imaginable. In other words I’ve embarked on a group of paintings that will be my attempt to do what I have been saying for years that painting is uniquely suited to do: convey a glimpse of living wholeness, the entirety of a world, through purely formal means, and doing this with an image devoid of signifiers. Or at least an image in which any signifiers one might deconstruct are entirely beside the point when it comes to the essential work the painting is actually doing. I want paintings entirely devoid of intellectual content. I’m tempted to title at least one painting of taffy in this series: This Is Not Salt-Water Taffy.

I had hoped to complete maybe eighteen of these paintings by next spring and offer them as a solo show and present them as a body of work for consideration at galleries in larger metro areas, eventually. But the world seems to be fast-forwarding through an economic transformation as a result of the corona virus—something that otherwise would have happened over many more years that it may take now. What will be left of the gallery scene after the suspended animation of so much activity in Manhattan and Los Angeles? How have gallery owners survived this devastation? Have they? I got an email maybe two months ago announcing that Danese Corey was ending its exhibition program, without being able to discern whether this means the gallery was ceasing to operate or simply was going to close its brick-and-mortar space on East 22nd St. The announcement shocked me and made me heartsick: I loved or at least respected the work of nearly everyone who exhibited there and considered that shop one of the most intelligent and discerning of any gallery I’d ever visited. It feels like the loss of a good friend. So who else will succumb to the loss of revenue in a sector already beset by the inflation in real estate and the decline of galleries in general as a result of the dominance of art fairs. And aside from that, I doubt I will have quite as many finished paintings as I’d hoped by next spring, now that life keeps recruiting me for other tours of duty. I will likely present whatever I have completed and see what response I get, but I could also postpone all of this another year—yet that would feel like a surrender, backing off from the massive disruptions the world has been undergoing, not only my world’s, but everyone’s. As a result of all this, being on near-hiatus from Instagram and this blog feels oppressive and dispiriting. Yet I want to build this new body of work before I post anything from it, and I’ve been producing little else. I’m also continuing to write, when I can, about art—without yet posting it. A post about my visit to the exhibit of J.D. Salinger relics, as it were, at the New York Public Library, will be forthcoming shortly—it has taken me half a year to catch up and draw together all the notes I took away from it in January.

And, along with my projected solo show, I’m trying to assemble a sequence of essays that could serve as commentary for the show of taffy paintings. Let’s call it, for now, The Salt-Water Taffy Manifesto. If I were to complete writing it by the time I have a full complement of paintings for an exhibit, I will see if I can affordably print and present it as a companion catalog, a little illustrated feuilleton on behalf of purposely insignificant painting. That’s the plan anyway. So I may seem to have disappeared on this blog, but only because life has become more intensely interesting (and demanding) than the act of writing about it. And even so, I intend to pick up a paint brush every day from this morning until next April. That’s a promise to myself. Even if only for the current hour.

My Favorite Classroom

It’s back-to-school season, but you might say I’ve been in summer school since July 4: the day I got married. I never knew that marriage would be my favorite classroom. I also never knew that no matter how much reading I did ahead of time, nothing would compare to experiential learning!

 

So-o-o much to learn. Such a variable curriculum, such a huge canon—love languages, personality styles, bathroom habits.

 

And I’ve never been more excited to study. 

 

I couldn’t really prepare for it like I did in my student days, by plowing through the required reading list and over-achiever-ing by plotting out the syllabus on my calendar. 

 

I couldn’t prepare for it like I did in my teacher days, by plotting units and setting assignments all the way till Christmas. 

 

So even though preparation is my superpower, I find myself releasing the ways I thought I learned best. 

 

And I am embracing every unplanned moment that arises. This photo is from last Sunday, when I looked up to see my husband smiling as he loaded the car after an afternoon on the lake. We had made a  detour there after an active camping weekend near the Deschutes River. The river was splendid, but he knows I love lakes, so he suggested we find one. 

 

On the obsidian-rich shore, we read aloud, napped, and played on the stand-up paddleboard. (My play looks more like a wobbly attempt to not to fall off. He can do a handstand on the thing…on a moving river). 


He is learning to enjoy the stillness I love, and I am learning to enjoy the motion he loves.  

 

It’s actually because of—not in spite of—our differences that we are on the trajectory for a master’s degree in communication someday. 

 

At this moment in our culture (and at any moment) we might do well to adjust our usual learning styles. We might do well risk wobbling as we try for new balance. To be still when we prefer motionor vice versa. Generally: to push the limits of our personal learning curves.

 

Here’s to embracing the classrooms of life: marriage and more. 

Art du Jour August Announcements

Art du Jour Gallery
213 E. Main Street
Medford, OR 97501
(541) 770-3190
HOURS Tues – Sat., 10AM – 4PM
THIRD FRIDAY 5PM – 8PM
Art du Jour August Announcements
Third Friday of August 2020

Art du Jour Gallery, 213 E. Main Street in Medford, is an artists cooperative featuring the works of 17 local artists. We’ve made the appropriate modifications to ways we safely showcase our members’ artwork. First, because floorspace limits our capacity for gatherings, we must limit the amount of people standing within our confines at any one time. Second, in the event we reach our capacity of 10 we will provide a drink of cold water and a place to sit and visit with one of our friendly artists until space allows. Finally, private viewings by reservation are encouraged outside open business hours. To make your reservation, contact the gallery at the phone number above, via your favorite member artist, or by email at: [email protected].

For August we feature guest artist Betty Barss and our own Mary Jo Heath.

Betty Barss Salon Exhibit at Art du Jour Gallery, Medford, Oregon

Betty Barss featured guest exhibit in the salon at Art du Jour through September 2020. Roy Musitelli photo 8/4/20

Featured Guest Artist Betty Barss

Southern Oregon resident Betty Barss was born in Dallas, Texas. Later she moved with her family to California in 1957. Then she graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Education.  She taught fourth and sixth grade, including art education, for 25 years with the Medford School District.  Betty and her husband Don have lived in the Rogue Valley since 1974 and have two married children and four grandchildren.

Betty’s versatility with a wide range of subjects has contributed to the popularity of her work. She has been notably recognized and awarded for her watercolor paintings. Further, her work is showcased in a handful of locations from galleries to fine restaurants.

After first painting oils in 1970, Barss slowly made the transition into transparent watercolors.  As a result, she found the challenge and spontaneity to more accurately reflect the feelings she wished to convey.  She also tutored under the late Bruce Butte of Jacksonville for 20 years.  Betty has signature membership in North West Watercolor Society and the Watercolor Society of Oregon. She is also a member of the Southern Oregon Society of Artists, the Artists’ Workshop, Rogue Gallery and Art and Soul Gallery.

Siesta Time by Betty Barss

Siesta Time by Betty Barss

Featured Member Mary Jo Heath

Mary Jo Heath featured artist exhibit for August 2020. Roy Musitelli photo 8/4/20

Mary Jo Heath featured artist exhibit for August 2020. Roy Musitelli photo 8/4/20

Born in Coos Bay, Oregon, Mary Jo Heath moved to the Rogue Valley with her family when she was five. She went on to earn two bachelor degrees from Southern Oregon College and the University of Oregon.  Mary Jo retired after teaching art in public schools for more than 30 years. Her inspiration for this month’s featured exhibit is a collection of colorful pastel scenery.

We remain open for Third Friday on the 21st from 5-8 pm with social distancing measures in place. In addition, we happily provide a mask for anyone who wishes to enter but shows up without one. Please go to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ArtduJourGallery) for more current updates.

The toll of the shut-down in the Dorsey clan

Will Dorsey, with his new broom, taking a walk near our neighborhood in Pittsford. He and his family are now living with us as a result of the shut down.

After a freak accident on Friday, my daughter-in-law ended up in the Intensive Care Unit at Strong Memorial Hospital here. It was an unreal series of events in a day that was quietly uneventful up until that point. Our lives began that morning, not as usual, but at least unremarkably, if you discount the fact my son and his wife were back living under our roof with their two-year-old son as a result of the Covid-19 shut down in California and the nation. I began that morning two days ago around 6 a.m. by ordering groceries for my 95-year-old mother, still living independently, but unable to drive. It’s been a year since my father died, and she has adapted bravely to his loss. The help my brother and I offered my parents while he was dying occupied our entire summer last year, when we set up a hospice in his living room to deliver palliative care for weeks as he succumbed to sepsis from an inoperable pressure wound. Our new summer emergency wasn’t yet upon us at this hour. The Instacart order from Wegmans arrived here at my house, as I was mowing the lawn, even though the notes for where to deliver the food outside my mother’s door were visible on the payment page during checkout. So I finished the front yard and loaded the groceries into my Kia and drove twenty minutes to her place with them. We spoke briefly about the state of affairs in my household—for the time being, my son and daughter and their two-year-old son have migrating back to Pittsford, NY from Encino, CA, thanks to the economic shut-down. Our country’s state of suspended animation has interrupted, if not ended, Matthew’s ten-year career as a successful editor/creator of movie trailers for Seismic Productions. Movie production has been completely dead since March. Laura continues to work remotely for Ellen Degeneres. producing Ellen’s website videos with Kristin Bell and others. Her ability to do her job at home, with conference video calls, has enabled them to sell their home in Encino and flee the highly inflated cost of living in Southern California (as in most of the large metropolitan areas in the U.S.).

They arrived here with a carload of household items three weeks ago when they moved into our two spare bedrooms. We rearranged the house to give them space to live and work: the two spare bedrooms upstairs are now theirs, one for Will and the larger one for them. Laura works at a desk in our living room while Matthew takes care of their son, Will, who is possibly the most energized two-year-old on the planet. Matt talks about how, the day he was born, Will was wide-eyed and studying the features of his room, when he should have been sleeping or eating, and unable to see much of anything around him. When he goes for what might euphemistically be called “a walk” he sprints on his tip toes down the street, using the grate in a storm sewer as a razor thin balance beam for the balls of his feet if he isn’t wearing shoes. (Last year, along this same path during his visit, not even two years old at that point, he recited the numbers on the mailboxes as they passed.)

Neither Matt nor Laura know what the future holds for them as a family. She arrived here in the middle of this economic depression—if the unemployment rate, rather than the financial sector, represents the true measure of the economy—and not long after publication of a Buzzfeed article about the “toxic” work culture at the Ellen show. It was followed by revelations in which employees talked about harassment from several executive producers. Each of these stories sparked separate investigations within the company, still ongoing. The day after they arrived, Laura got a call from Warner Brothers and was interviewed by one of their attorneys asking about the allegations. She told the attorney that she was treated with respect and kindness, but that she was aware this might not be the case for others. My impression from everything I’ve heard is that Ellen is a creative spirit who, like many others in many fields, is being required to run an organization rather than focus on her strengths as a comedian and a personality. Once a creatively productive individual rises into management, it can often create problems. This happens everywhere: reporters become editors, detectives become desk sergeants, art directors run art departments, James Patterson becomes the head of a fiction factory. OK, maybe that last one worked out, for better or worse. Ellen seems like someone more at home in a green room than a C-suite conference room. It seems Ellen delegated the actual leadership of the company to her executive producers and they may not have been entirely suited to the power. But all of this is gossip at this point, gossip that has imperiled an entire company.

We all spent several weeks wondering if the show would return in the fall. Each day, Laura started her day at noon, EST, and finished up around 9 p.m., running meetings. Meanwhile, Matthew continued to play the John Lennon house-husband role, becoming Will’s closest and most available companion. On top of all this upheaval, Laura is pregnant and due to deliver her second child in December. So there was a faintly Joad-like quality to their journey, if the Joads had been traveling east rather than west, in an air-conditioned VW, staying at boutique Airbnbs, and funded by a modest nest-egg of equity from a highly inflated real estate market in California (where realtors set dates to take bids and houses nearly all sell for more than asking.) Their nest-egg was no larger than the down payment they made on the house two years ago: closing costs consumed the slight mark-up in the price. The 2,000 square foot “starter” home cost just under $1 million, with a back yard directly adjacent to a busy cut-through street at rush hour, with no side yard on either side, only a pair of catwalk-wide alleys, and no garage.

During my grocery delivery to my mother’s place, we talked about all this, speculating on where my son and his family will end up, how Matt might be able to resume employment, and how much stress this has put on their little family. Laura has become the bread-winner, Matt the homebound parent, and this creates tensions symmetrical to the ones in my own home, where I continue to work for a living though my wife is retired. Being an earner gives you some illusory leverage, but mostly it’s just a foundation for resentment rather than actual power. Living here, they could easily afford to continue in these roles—in L.A., never. When people talk about the urge to preserve the economy, it may in part be an expression of the desire to preserve the animal spirits of Wall Street, but mostly it’s about avoiding this kind of disruption through unemployment—the need for the middle class and working class to pay their bills and remain solvent. The continuing response in states like California, where the lock-down has been fairly stringent and lengthy, is only worsening what has been a growing trend around the country for years: the unaffordability of life in cities like L.A. and New York City. Tents for the homeless are going up everywhere as a result of this inflation. There was an encampment of the homeless only a quarter mile from Matt and Laura’s home in the San Fernando Valley. Inflation is invading smaller U.S. cities as a result of an ongoing wave of migration out of the big metro areas into these more affordable towns. It’s all the outcome of a temporary largesse thanks to the arbitrage of two currencies, the big city dollar vis a vis the much stronger small-town dollar. You bring that weak L.A. dollar into Western New York’s stable economy, and it buys a house more than twice as large, with outstanding public schools supported by taxes, not tuition, not a feature of parenthood in L.A.

We witnessed this last year in Boise when my wife and I looked at housing there, as a possible move to get us within a two-hour flight of Los Angeles, where both of our children and all of our grandkids were located at the time. I remarked to a Circle K cashier working in one of Boise’s more prestigious eastside neighborhoods how robust the housing market was in that beautiful city—the prices were already slightly higher than here in Rochester. She said, “Yeah, it’s great for the new arrivals, but terrible for the rest of us.” Those words will be the motto for countless cities across the country as people migrate steadily out of the big cities over the coming years. She said that if you’d grown up and taken a job in Boise, housing was essentially already unaffordable even in that idyllic, smaller city. Inflation, as a result of a decade of Fed policies to prop up an unsustainable economy, is the big story no one is reporting.

To have lived in Encino and continued to work in their industries wouldn’t have been utterly impossible for Matt and Laura. Matthew’s hours probably would have returned to something like a normal level by next spring, though the money in making trailers has never recovered to its pre-2008 levels. Laura’s job has somehow never seemed in danger, until the news stories shook the program and put everyone at the company on a resume-update footing in anticipation of the potential decision from Ellen Degeneres to simply give up on her position as one of the most successful talk-show hosts in the country. Yet in the tentative words of resolve issued at first to the media and then to employees, it appeared that the show would go on. I told Laura, I didn’t get the impression that someone as courageous as Ellen—one of the first gay entertainers to come out and work openly in the context of her gender identity—would give up and slink away into some kind of semi-retirement. As the days passed, Laura has become more confident and took heart from the love shared by her team and among her co-workers. Ellen and the executive producers who report directly to her may have been either remote and emotionally difficult, defaulting to anxiety-fueled management seeded with encouragement for motivation, but drop a couple tiers down into the show and the bond among workers is fierce. One of Laura’s closest friends and former co-workers, Lena Waithe, has risen into the ranks of elite Hollywood royalty—something that was beginning to happen when Lena attended Matt and Laura’s wedding in 2014. She remains in close contact with Laura even now, through texts and personal visits to their former Encino home.

As I was driving home from my mother’s, Matt called, and I answered in hands-free mode.

“Laura was hit by a car. I don’t know many of the details. She’s at Strong. When are you getting home?”

“In about fifteen minutes, probably. You mean your mom’s CRV was hit? Wasn’t she driving the CRV?” I asked.

“She wasn’t in the car.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“She was waiting to go in for her blood test, sitting outside, and a car ran over her.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s what the guy said. The car rolled over her.”

He decided to head to Strong Memorial Hospital himself, not knowing any further details. When I got home, with further texting from Matt, I pieced together what had happened. Laura arrived at the University of Rochester testing clinic, where you can show up without an appointment and get blood drawn. It was crowded inside so, wearing her mask and conscious of the need for social distancing, she went outside, where people were already overflowing from inside. She looked for a place to sit away from the throng. There were no chairs or benches or anywhere to wait comfortably. She found a spot on the grass strip alongside the parking lot and sat on it to text with co-workers. As she put it to Matt, “I was texting and then I was under a car.” The older woman driving the vehicle had gotten confused and saw herself heading toward Laura, kicked the throttle instead of the brake and jumped the curb, the tire climbing over Laura’s back, pinning her to the ground, crushing one side of her pelvis, which probably saved the baby’s life, cracking the opposite hipbone as well, breaking a rib, her shoulder blade and her forearm. The tire left a track of bruises across her back. It also dislocated her hip, which caused her great pain at the time. A bus driver saw the entire accident and jumped out of the bus to help her. Another bystander waiting outside the clinic—there were many who had to find a place to wait outside—called Matthew and also called the ambulance.

When the paramedics got her to Strong (also owned by the University of Rochester, the city’s largest employer, the new Eastman Kodak Co. in terms of its role at the apex of the local economy)  they determined her vital signs were good and got her into the ICU as quickly as possible to make sure the baby survives. Its heartbeat was untroubled, and continues to be strong. Through she arrived at the emergency room on Thursday, surgery to repair the hip couldn’t be scheduled until tomorrow, Monday. So she is in traction, virtually immobile, unable to move enough to text, yet able to make a phone call or dictate into the phone. Yesterday, she was in some degree of pain until later in the afternoon when the attendants found the right cocktail of pain analgesics for her drip.

My wife, Nancy, and I have been caring for Will as Matt spends much of his time at her side in the ICU. Almost immediately after the accident, I called a personal injury attorney to find out what we needed to manage the costs of her medical care. I also wrote to one of her closest co-workers at the Ellen Show with a quick summary of what had happened, after which word spread throughout the company and resulted in a flood of texts and phone calls of concern and support. The attorney said few people understand that despite the prevalence of no-fault car insurance, the car insurance policy of the driver at fault, the one who ran over Laura, will pay for medical care—not Laura’s health plan from the show. Car insurance is entirely responsible for the payment of injury claims, he said. We haven’t yet checked with another attorney on this, though Matt has a name from a high school friend here. Once the driver’s liability coverage is exhausted, Laura’s own car insurance will pick up additional costs. After that, the source of the money needs to be determined. The question is simply how long she will be in the hospital, and the cost of the care she will receive. At this point, everyone expects her to fully recover, but it will take months of rehabilitation before she delivers the baby in December. Costs were an immediate concern because one of Laura’s best friends had a highly premature child not long ago and those six weeks of neonatal care, and treatment for her own complications, ran up a bill for $1 million, with a co-pay of $25,000 for the couple. The last thing Matt and Laura need is to see their nestegg erased along with one of their jobs.

Yesterday, Matt was at her side in the ICU when his phone rang from an unidentified caller. One of Laura’s producer friends at the company said she could expect a mystery call and to answer it. Laura was anticipating a call from an executive producer. Matt answered.

“Is this Matthew?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Hi Matt, this is Ellen Degeneres,” she said.

“Oh, hi Ellen! Let me put you on speaker.”

As he did this, Matt was startled by an alarm in the room. Laura’s heartbeat had spiked so much, it set off an alert from the monitor.

“Hi Laura. How are you honey?” she asked.

Laura told her.

“Do you remember the accident?” Ellen asked.

“Yes, every second,” she said, and proceeded to recount what happened.

Ellen spoke with her for a while and said the company was very concerned about her and would be there for her if she needed anything. She signed off after a short while, saying, “Believe it or not, I have another person to call in Chicago who was in a car accident.”

The call reassured all of us that the show will go on, that Laura will have a secure job, and that her team cares deeply about her. When Matt got home, he was telling us the story of their day together in the hospital and a text came in.

“It’s Kristin Bell,” he told us, sitting on the couch in our family room.. Bell offered her concern and sympathy and any help Laura needs. Matt said, “She says to tell her we love her.”

An hour later, he got another text. He said, “A car full of food is arriving.” He went out into the driveway and carried in a dozen packages, full of chicken parmesan, pizza, cheeseburgers, chicken wings, garlic bread, salad, a feast of fast food ordered for delivery by Laura’s team at the show.

Every night since they’ve gotten here, Will has woken up crying at some point between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Last night, after Laura’s mother arrived from Philadelphia and slept in the room where Matt and Laura had been sleeping, Matt slept on the floor beside Will—without any discomfort, he said, which is more a reflection of Matt’s tolerant, flexible character than the ergonomics of a hardwood floor. Will slept soundly through the night for the first time since their arrival. With a few prayers for Laura’s complete recovery and a successful surgery, we all did.

The Corndog Compromise

When Jared proposed this spring, he had a wedding date in mind: July 4. Beyond the general delight, I was also delighted he’d already thought of the day. I was game for the holiday wedding—we’d have anniversary fireworks forever! 
The venue that first came to my mind was Plaisance Ranch, a vineyard owned by dear people we both knew. We not only loved the connection to them, I had also written the poetry wine labels for Plaisance’s beautiful vintages. 
Perfect! I thought, we’ll have a wine and cheese reception.
Thing is, my now-husband is more of a beer-and-corndogs guy (though we’ve also shared plenty of cheese and wine). Still, I thought he was joking when he said he’d like corndogs as an appetizer at the reception. Beer in addition to the wine, of course. But corndogs? That would mean renting a deep-fat fryer, and…it kinda clashed with my vision. 
Enter our first compromise. 
Just after the proposal, we were talking with the Pennington’s, who had helped introduce us once upon a time at their bakery farm stand. They make a wow version of pigs-in-a-blanket, complete with honey mustard baked into the crust. Cathy suggested, “How about we make little ones and put them on a stick, and you can call them corndogs?” Wisdom from a woman married for forty years. 
And then, Jared’s parents asked if they could cater a full dinner for the wedding in addition to the planned appetizers. My solo vision expanded into something better when shared. 
There might be a lesson in there somewhere. 
And so, we had “corndogs” at our wedding. One of the moments I asked the photographer to capture was us biting into a compromise—aka corndog—together. It’s more important to me than the traditional feed-each-other-cake thing. This, we made possible together. A symbol of many things to come. May they be sweet—or at least savory.

The grace of the mundane

The Light for the Day, 24″ x 24″, oil on linen

​I pause to look at the ordinary places and objects in everyday life and feel the stillness and quietness that historic painters such as Johannes Vermeer, Vilhelm Hammershøi, and Edward Hopper capture with an inexplicable sense of solitude and melancholy.
     In my paintings, the mundane surroundings imply transient conditions: such as the disappearance or transformation of old buildings, inexpensive furniture abandoned out on the street, people in the subway heading somewhere, an empty street on holiday, small closing stores in the neighborhood, and dusk at the end of a day.
     I am compelled to leave traces of such moments of disappearance on my canvas. The toned-down mood and the elaborate details raise feelings of stillness and quietness which portray an ephemeral presence. 

–Yonjae Kim