Vine of Death MOP

Vine of Death: John Davenport

February 17 – March 5, 2023

Pirate Contemporary Art

Opening Reception: Friday, February 17, 6 – 1o pm

Artist Talk: Saturday, March 4, 2 pm

In Vine of Death, artist John Davenport addresses his father’s career at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and his role in producing chemical weapons of mass destruction. This is John Davenport’s second exhibition as a full Member of Pirate Contemporary Art.

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) was a United States Army chemical weapons manufacturing and storage facility located in Commerce City, Colorado. The site was originally established in 1942 to produce chemical weapons and later expanded to include the production of pesticides and herbicides.

During its operation, the RMA produced a variety of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin, and VX nerve gas. In addition to the production of chemical weapons, the site was also used for the storage and disposal of hazardous waste.

In the 1980s, concerns were raised about the environmental impact of the RMA, particularly the contamination of nearby water sources and soil. The site was eventually designated as a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1987, and a cleanup effort began.

The cleanup effort at the RMA was one of the largest and most complex in Superfund history, and it took nearly three decades to complete. The site was officially declared clean in 2010 and was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as a national wildlife refuge. - Chat  GPT

His mixed media display was very interesting.  I have spent lots of time at the Arsenal since it’s conversion to a wildlife sanctuary but we should not lose the history of what this once was.

I had a great chat with John about the many dangerous places in Colorado - The Arsenal, Rocky Flats Plutonium Plant, Cheyenne Mountain where NORAD was housed and was ground zero for any nuclear exchange with the Russians.  All three have been decommissioned though the Rocky Flats is still highly contaminated underground.

Damn It - Eat Beef

This is a common theme in the Midwest - trying to tell you what to do.  Don’t get an Abortion, Pray to Jesus, Don’t do Drugs.  There is the famous sign on the way out of Garden City, KS that says Eat Beef - Stay Slim .  Well let me tell you if you you only ate beef and left off the double stuffed potatoes, Salad Bars piled high with shit that isn’t salad then you would stay slim.  But this is not how Americans rolls ( BTW you have to leave off the rolls too)

Diane Arbus - Photographer you need to Know

I have been a big fan of Diane Arbus for a long time.  So much so that my dachshund - lab mix was named Arbus.  Diane is known for taking photos of “freaks” and given that my dog is definitely different I thought Arbus was an appropriate name.  Her reputation for taking pictures of freaks was and is inaccurate.  Susan Sontag in a famous editorial slammed her for taking advantage of people on the fringes.  Arbus on the other hand called her subjects freaks because that’s what they called themselves.  And how convenient for Sontag to attack Arbus several years after her death by suicide.  I suspect that Sontag never spoke to Arbus to get a better understanding of her style of photography and selection of subjects.  On the other hand in previous blog posts I’ve indicated my disdain for Sontag - her book ” On Photography” is to me an incomprehensible word salad.  People still swoon over her.  Anyway please enjoy this short YouTube.

Julie’s expired Film

My sister in law, Julie gave me some out of date color film to see if I could use it.  First roll was a disaster - this is from the 2nd roll.  It’s Kodak 800 that I decided to process as Black and White ( only because the cost to develop C41 is intense and BW I can do myself).  Decided to “pull” the fill by shooting it at ISO 200 ( two stop pull) and then developed it in Kodak HC110B for 6 min.  The film curled terribly but I have a scanner that can handle this.  So there you go folks.

Thanks Julie

Tumblr might be the new Instagram

Photographers are disgruntled about Instagram.  I certainly am.  Last year the person in charge at IG announced that they were gonna be de-emphasizing photography and pushing video to compete with Tik Tok .  Well this didn’t work out as they get whooped.  So now the same person is saying that this was an over reach on his part.  Nothing really has changed as the platform is really now more geared to Tik Tok and reels.  Also their algorithm pushes some really weird crap.  Mine started to push Arabic posts - not that I have anything against this - it’s just that I have no interest!!

Someone made the suggestion that photographers should look to putting their work on Tumblr which I have been subscribed to for some time.  I wasn’t really using it much to post.  I decided to take the leap and start a whole new Tumblr called ColoradoPrairie  The first thing I noticed is all the ads.  Well for a little over $3 per month you can get rid of them.  This is a fair price.  My other place the I post film photography Grainery charges $3/month to upload, they don’t have ads.  So this is comparable.

Jesus in the Wheat

This is Jesus in the Wheat - I just found about this from surfing the ‘net - It is a double sided billboard off  I70 as you come thru Colby, Kansas.  Never noticed it before but there it is.

Wheat Jesus Billboard History

Wheat Jesus has been blessing Kansas motorists since the billboard was erected in 2009. 

A local couple, Tuffy and Linda Kay Taylor, were inspired by other billboards they’ve seen and decided to create their own. They hired a local artist, Phyllis Shank, to paint Wheat Jesus. The Wheat Jesus billboard purposefully does not have words; the Taylors wanted viewers to think for themselves, so its interpretation is up to you. You can find more details on the history of the Wheat Jesus billboard .

Sand Creek Massacre Exhibit

The Sand Creek massacre (also known as the Chivington massacre, the battle of Sand Creek or the massacre of Cheyenne Indians) was a massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho people by the U.S. Army in the American Indian Wars that occurred on November 29, 1864, when a 675-man force of the Third Colorado Cavalry under the command of U.S. VolunteersColonel John Chivington attacked and destroyed a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho people in southeastern Colorado Territory, killing and mutilating an estimated 69 to over 600 Native American people. Chivington claimed 500 to 600 warriors were killed. However, most sources estimate around 150 people were killed, about two-thirds of whom were women and children.

It has taken longer than it should to finally shine a light on the massacre.  This exhibit at the Colorado History Museum is a big step in this process.  Dialog is from the Indian perspective as is appropriate.  An interesting side light is that Territorial Governor Evans is buried in the same cemetery along with Silas Soule who is arguable one of the heroes  of Sand Creek for NOT letting the troops under his command enter into the massacre.  Here is a link to Riverside Cemetery here in Denver.

“A Misplaced Massacre” is highly recommended.  It is not only the story of Sand Creek but also a recounting of how we finally have a National Park Service site where we think the massacre occurred.  A very interesting read.

Nikon F2A

This is the predecessor to all the modern film Nikons:

Nikon F2 is a 35mm film professional, mechanical shutter SLR system camera by manufactured by Nippon Kogaku K. K., Japan (Nikon Corporation since 1988), introduced in 1971 using Nikon F mount for interchangeable lenses. It is the successor of successful Nikon F. Instead of an upgrade of Nikon F it is a completely new body only sharing with its predecessor the lenses, some accessories and the philosophy.
There are different versions of the F2 depending on the finder attached to the body. The body comes in chrome or in black. The plain prism finder DE-1 also comes in chrome or in black. All other finders are in black only.
Though very different internally, the F2 was made as ergonomically identical to the original F as possible. Even the weight of the body with the initial DP-1 finder was kept within an ounce of the weight of the departing F with an FTN finder. But the improvements were extensive: • Extended shutter speed range of 10s to 1/2000 and 1/80 flash sync
ISO 6 to 6400 with initial DP-1 head
• Larger reflex mirror to minimize viewfinder vignetting with some lenses
• Shorter 120 degree stroke, and integrated On/off switch in film advance lever
• Rounded contour body for better ergonomics
• Rewind crank with a 6mm raised position for easier manual film rewinding
• Removable hinged back 

These images were shot on Rollei Paul & Reinhold film which is rated at 650.  I was very happy the way they turned out.  The lens was a very slow f/3.5 35-70 Nikon zoom which in the past I thought was a pretty sharp optic and these photos confirm that.  The exposure window is sometimes hard to see and if shooting in low light it is not possible to see it at all.  Hence the invention of LED lights to indicate correct exposure.   But overall a very nice experience.

End of an Era

The Porsche 911-996 has left the building!  Decided to sell it which was no easy task and in the end had to take less than I was hoping for.  I had a good run using it at Highplains Raceway out of Byers, CO but I was gonna have to put some more $ into it for tires and other minor things = but at Porsche pricing minor things are still mucho dinero.

Lynne Cohen Photographer

A mystery wrapped in surprises.  Many years ago I was given this book of photography, The Photographer’s Choice.  As I’m thumbing thru it I came across this 2nd picture:

The 3rd photo is of the picture that had been hanging in our basement since whenever.  Then I thought for sure this photograph had been taken in the waiting room of my Father’s office.  It had all the period correct furniture.  So began my chasing this down.  I found out how to get ahold of Lynne Cohen and sent this letter to her.  I received a nice reply and my surmise was all wrong.

Then the next phase to find out who did this painting.  Well it turns out that the copy that I have inherited is not an original :(. Nonetheless it’s a part of my visual memory growing up.  I have always loved this picture.  It used to hang over the upright piano in the basement.  So frequently when I was bored with practicing the piano I would look up at that picture.  The frame is made of worm wood and is a perfect match to the picture.

The artist for the ‘Cowboy Picture’ was Ray Strang:

Ray C. Strang (1893 in Sandoval, Illinois, United States – 1957) was an American Western artist and illustrator. He was educated in Centralia, Illinois, and attended the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Students League of New York and New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. Strang’s education was interrupted by The Great War, in which he was wounded in the Forest of Argonne.[citation needed] During World War II, he took part in the Consair art colony at the Tucson division of the Consolidated Aircraft corporation. For 17 years Strang was a successful illustrator in New York for such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, The American Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Country Home Country Gentleman and Harper’s. He created covers for Dodd, Mead and Company and other publishers.[citation needed] He then went West to become a well-known painter who specialized in nostalgic depictions of the Wild West and the prairie life. His paintings hung in many galleries, including Grand Central palace in New York, Bender Gallery in Kansas City, Alden Gallery in St. Louis, the Chicago Art Institute and the New York Art Center. His most famous painting was a work called “Slow Poke”, of which there were many reproductions printed.
Strang was an active member of the Fine Arts Association, Palette and Brush club and belonged to the Salmagundi Club of New York City. He had a ranch near Safford Peak in the Picture Rocks section of the Tucson Mountains, where he died in 1957. Ray Strang did many paintings including “Playmates” which is a canvas painting of two foals. He married and had a son. 

Now a little about Lynne Cohen

Cohen was known for her photographs of empty institutional interiors: living rooms, public halls, retirement homes, laboratories, offices, showrooms, shooting ranges, factories, spas, and military installations. Despite this interest in living and working spaces, Cohen’s photographs are usually devoid of human presence.She photographed using an 8 x 10” view camera, allowing her to capture great detail, and create very large prints beginning in the mid-eighties. Her work has been published in catalogues such as Occupied Territory (1987) and No Man’s Land (2001).In one of her last monographs, Cohen described a major goal in her work, a “long-standing preoccupation with formal, intellectual and ideological camouflage.”

Charley Crockett - Artist of the Year

For me, Charley Crockett is the artist of the year.  He might be heir apparent to Dwight Yoakam and certainly is a breath of fresh air for the country music scene.  I doubt they have noticed as mainstream C & W has drifted off beacon and beyond the buoys!  His music combines sounds that I’ve never heard together before.  I can almost hear the noisy air conditioner and clink of water glasses as I walk into some distant honky tonk bar.

And this he has done beautifully

I Shall Be Released

I have one more day being under contract with Centura.  This will be my last time with Centura and I’m happy as hell about that.  There have been so many former Centura employees that have quit, fired , discharged who are competent, compassionate.  We could start our own hospital system.  

Tony Vaccaro has left the building

It is with sadness that I learned that one of my favorite photographers, Tony Vaccaro has passed.  Born December 20, 1922 he just made his 100th birthday.  I started following him once I purchased his book ” Entering Germany” .  This book was born of photos he took while serving in WWII in Europe.  Ever since then I followed him on social media, most recently Instagram.  His work was shown at Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe which I would visit almost like a pilgrimage.  He came down with COVID months ago and I thought that might be it for him but he rallied to make it to his 100th.  He will be missed.

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