Monday, June 22, 2009

Culture & Shopping in Walla Walla

My time in Oregon was bracketed by stop-overs in Walla Walla, WA, where I renewed friendships , fostered a new one, immersed myself in more art and shopped! But before I get into that, I must rectify an oversight in my Portland report. Joanelle had found two silk saris for a song, taken part of one for herself and put the rest of it up for grabs. Above you see the one I came home with. It is so beautiful, and I have NO idea what I'm going to do with it. That's nothing new - its destiny in my creative endeavors will present itself eventually. What was left of the one Joanell cut from went to my Hood River friend. Thank you Joanell, for your generosity.

Since fabric acquisition starts this post, I may as well proceed with my shopping. I wandered into Sew & Vac which also carried a lot of fabric, including an impressive collection of batiks. I was merely admiring, practicing much restraint, no intention of buying any...until it was pointed out to me that they, along with everything else was 20% off. Let the stash building begin! I also got to go to the Farmers Market (twice!) where I found the Artisan Goats Milk Soap by Midnight Oil Soap Company. I've been searching for months for a soap with both olive oil and gritty stuff in it, and here she had 6 different ones to choose from. Check out her line of all-natural products for the skin. Also in the picture you see a small box from Bright's Candies in Walla Walla which held the most decadent piece of chocolate I may have ever eaten. It was a gift from Bonnie Griffith, who I profiled in this post.

That's Bonnie on the left, and we met for lunch to get to know each other and share more "shop talk." Bonnie's another artist who I only know through the Internet, but not anymore! I thoroughly enjoyed hearing first hand of her own creative journey, and she gave me some great information and insights on a variety of art-related subjects. Thanks, Bonnie, and I hope I returned in kind. Bonnie has a blog now, and be sure to check out her beautiful paintings of that part of Washington and over the state line into Oregon on her website here.

Art is everywhere in downtown Walla Walla. Besides formal galleries, many businesses provide a revolving menu of local talent on their walls. One particular gift shop, Willow, has its own upper level gallery, where I saw the work of pastel artist Leslie Williams Cain. In an exhibit called "Down at the Bridge: Paintings Revisiting a Favorite Site," Leslie created a body of work around a specific location near Walla Walla, then teamed with poet Janice King who provided "lyrics to her music." King too had a "favorite site" in her past and eagerly accepted the challenge. It was fascinating to see the interplay between the written word and visual art, the collaboration between artists from two entirely different expressions. Made we want to be a part of something like that. And as we descended the stairs after drinking all this in, there was Leslie herself, working on yet another pastel of this location, showing how she references photos and then takes artistic license as the painting progresses.

This was going on in conjunction with the second annual Chamber Music Festival which included many free events as well as paid concerts at sites all around the town over a two week period. My friends took advantage of several rehearsals, one of which was at Willow, thoroughly enjoying the behind-the-scenes dynamics as musicians prepare a piece for performance. I got to attend a wine tasting followed by a talk and performance of Ned Rorem's String Quartet No. 4. This was a very modern piece that normally I would have dismissed but with the short talks beforehand, one could hear and appreciate what the composer was getting at. The Rorem is based on Picasso paintings, so the first talk was about Picasso (and included a really interesting e. e. cummings poem which of course I can't find on-line) and showing paintings that may have been the inspiration for the various movements of the quartet. The second talk was by one of the musicians, guiding us as to what musical motifs represented certain themes - essentially what to listen for. Then when they played, the appropriate Picasso paintings were shown on the wall over the musicians. A truly enriching experience. And now, after hearing some enticing bits about Picasso and a few of his quotations, I find I need to read more about him. Here's one: "There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."

As an aside, I watched a couple of documentaries with my friends - one on Sam Cook and one on Bob Dylan. The Picasso talk had noted that Picasso didn't like explaining himself, and would often give conflicting answers to the same question. At one point in the Dylan documentary, I realized Dylan eventually ended up doing the same thing - at one point denying that his songs were topic specific or protest songs, then demanding that all his songs were protest songs. Or perhaps saying he had no idea what they meant. Very Picasso-esque.

And now it's time to return to the Farmer's Market. My friends go each Saturday for fresh produce, and the Walla Walla Sweet Onion harvest had just begun. Vadalias don't hold a candle to these (yes, I am biased) and I was delighted to be sent home with half the bag. I have the perfect onion tart recipe for these.

And then I ran across Eric von Bargen of Walla Walla Wood Works and his lovely array of turned bowls. I've admired such bowls for a long time, but have not been able to afford any of them until now. These were so reasonably priced that I couldn't resist treating myself to an early birthday present. The one in back is made of honey locust which has a connection for me. I had such a tree once in Wisconsin and dearly loved it. The other two are of apricot wood.

Eric only uses wood obtained from salvage of trees already being removed and usually headed for use as firewood. The apricot, he has found, is particularly tricky to cure without it splitting. While he makes beautifully symmetrical items, I was more drawn to these unusual shapes with the bark left on the rims. The little on eon the right particularly amused me because of the natural gap in the bottom. "Nice but totally useless," my friend joked. "Only an artist would buy the ones with the holes," quipped Eric. "That would be me", I replied! Thanks, Eric, for giving me a great deal on the three. They make a lovely grouping.

Next, a stroll through Walla Walla before heading home...

1 comment:

Katney said...

I have a silk sari I purchased in India. The shopping was an experience. My plan was to make a dress of it. I was persuaded not to. I am glad. When I do a presentation to middle schoolers on India, I dress one of the girls in it--and two others in the cotton saris I also purchased. I tell the story of going to purchase the silk one, seated on the floor with our salesman, surrounded by other family groups purchasing a sari for the daughter's wedding. I won't cut it, and occasionally I will wear it as it was meant--except not for my wedding.