Sunday, November 9, 2008

Where does the time go? What has come and gone since my last post six months ago?
Well, sadly, one of the best things on this planet has gone. My soulmate-close friend: the brilliant, beautiful Melissa Martin, who was killed in a motorcycle accident on vacation in Hawaii.

She was an adventurer, passionate about marine biology and horror movies, and funny as hell. Melissa taught herself how to emerge from troubled times that might have cowed a lesser person and instead take a giant bite out of life. She will always be my inspiration, venturing forth from practically demure when we met as singing waitresses in San Francisco, to leveraging her talent to become a successful commercial actor, to leveraging that experience to build one of the best (and first all-digital) commercial casting agencies in Los Angeles. And in between doing things like learning to jet ski, salvaging and refinishing furniture, and having a kid at 40.

The spirit of exploration and the drama or destruction that can go with it, or in its wake seems to be a theme now. I've never quite been able to express why I've been fascinated with historical photos or landscape paintings. But an article in yesterday's NY Times helped me figure it out better. I have always loved the peephole into the past; the ability to see what was there before. From the photo I have of my NYC street corner as it was in 1928, to the way the Hudson looked when Church painted it in the 1800s, or the imagined or recalled look of the plains when only Native Americans enjoyed the land. Now I understand a little bit better. And it has to do with loss.

Writer Miles Unger does a great job of helping me understand this all because of his review of an art exhibit of art from the 1800s to about 1930s, that just opened at the Peabody Essex, in Salem, MA, called "To the Ends of the Earth: Painting the Polar Landscape." He says, "most artists were also acutely aware of their potential for spoiling the wilderness whose beauty they captured on canvas.

And I just love this summary:
“To the Ends of the Earth” traces a mournful journey, from the earliest encounters with a strange and wondrous new world to more contemporary views where once-terrifying vistas have been reduced to fragile ecosystems just barely hanging on after centuries of human assault. There are still artists who draw sustenance from these austere landscapes, like the photographer John Paul Caponigro, whose images capture the eerie, otherworldly quality of those distant shores. But with each new revelation about human mismanagement, it gets harder to find a spot on earth, no matter how distant or inhospitable, that doesn’t come with muddy footprints on it."

It's the good news, bad news of adventuring. We want to know and see and experience. But it isn't without its risk and destruction.

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