Friday, January 09, 2009

A New Year

The Happy Buddha (2008)
Franco Mondini-Ruiz

Late into the night of Stacey Hill's housewarming party, as we stood in the driveway at her beautiful new dwelling just a mile up the road from my place, Franco and I had talked about a trade. He made it easy for me to ask by complimenting my LANDSCAPES show that was at Blue Star in September, generously saying that it was "world-class," and calling me the "technology diva of San Antonio." Shortly after that, and just prior to a week-long holiday stint in the wintery north, I'd trekked over to Franco's inspired hacienda on the west side with some DVD editions.

It was a gorgeous San Antonio December day. The place was jumping with the activity of his many assistants-- Kurt and Bryson in the studios, and Rosa in the studio kitchen. Over in the main house, we made room in a tiny office that also seemed to be a bedroom, where the tv monitor sat on a desk. As Franco lounged on the chaise, I showed him my videos, sunlight sifting past the trees and into the room through the window. He loved Michigan (Reflecting Pool) that I'd picked out for him, but really fell in love with Comic Bar Scene, saying that the former represented his ideal state of existence, but this one reflected the true energy of his operations there.

Cheery about his acquisition, we perambulated back over to the studio house, and there in the studio kitchen I was delighted to find Lisa Wolf-- she was there to show off her special reuben sandwich-- my timing couldn't have been better! I was treated to an exceptional lunch. But before food, I poked around the studios, trying to find the Franco piece for me. We already have a gorgeous large painting, Texas Tea, which Jason traded for one of his magnetic-paint-on-glass paintings... I realized that we should supplement with a sculpture.

Timing a little off here, though-- Franco has been pushing his 3D work over the holiday season, and being the awesome hustler that he is, had sold out! But... there on the tiny table crammed into the corner of the kitchen that he painted at... a cake plate was heaped with some headless figurines and a big buddha. Knowing that we share a fascination with trans-cultural fusion, and that my mom is Chinese, he suggested that he could finish this one for me!  And finish it he did, as you can see, dear reader, in the picture at the top of this post.

I love my new Happy Buddha! May it pave the way for a happier, lighter, calmer, and most harmonious 2009.

On that note, I'm in the middle of reading Three Cups of Tea, about the mountain climber Greg Mortenson.  It chronicles the saga of his self-made mission to build a school in a tiny, remote village at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Pakistan. It is a remarkable enterprise, and in the passage I read this morning, he describes the great eagerness and impatience he feels to get the job done in a culture that operates on a different sense of time. One morning, the village elder tears Mortenson away from his position as the project's forman, takes him up the mountain for some perspective, and tells him he's got to knock it off.

"That day, Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life.  We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their 'shock and awe' campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them." (Greg Mortenson)

I hope to be able to improve myself in this respect, particularly in my project of building the New Media Program at UTSA-- to be able to find ways to disengage from the various pressures of my job, to become a less reactive person. My other new years resolutions are: 1 - to spend more time in the physical world, especially outdoors, and 2 - to take more time just to think about things.

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