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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Altered Books: Cranberry Red

The Marin Museum of Contemporary Art will be exhibiting artist's altered books from April 26th through May 21st in their galleries at Hamilton Field in Novato, California. The exhibit is a benefit for Marin MOCA and their programs. My submission is shown above - a very personal response to the challenge of altering a book and making art from it.

Cranberry Red was a novel written by Plymouth, Massachusetts newspaperman Edward B. Garside, Jr. Ted Garside was a good friend of my father, and during my childhood served as an inspiration to me - he was a real writer, and that was one of the things I aspired to do. His biggest career accomplishment was to review books, especially histories and biographies, for the New York Times. He wrote a column of “things that interest me” for the Old Colony Memorial, a weekly published every Thursday.

Ted was like a kindly, rather reticent "uncle" with a dry sense of humor. The book critics savaged Cranberry Red, and my dad said that he never got over it. He tried to show what life was like for the Cape Verde islanders who provided the hard labor for growing cranberries. The large local Portuguese immigrant community in southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod did not accept the Cape Verdeans.

They were dark-complexioned and their language was a distinct dialect. They were also ignored by the majority of the white population, and lived their lives in their own small communities surrounding the cranberry bogs. Garside had made many friends among the workers, and the book was sympathetic to their plight. But the tone of the times was not kind to an account of immigrant agricultural workers, especially dark-skinned.

Ted Garside’s book is no longer available and he never wrote another novel. However, the Cape Verdean population has assimilated into the population at large in the 70+ years since the book was written. The cranberry crop is still a major source of agricultural income for the area, and the distinctive "screen house" barns and bogs have survived, albeit in smaller numbers as development of new housing has encroached.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Home Town Notes

Fairfax, California lies twenty-five miles north and west of San Francisco, bisected by the Marin County-wide east west thoroughfare Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Located in the geographic center of Marin County, the town has approximately 7,500 residents, and for many years has been known for its political independence and laid-back qualities. The icon of the town's center is the 1948 art deco Fairfax Theater which has added screens over the years to become on of the county's top first-run movie houses.

Fairfax is home to many unique businesses including the oldest natural foods market in Marin, Good Earth Natural Foods.
Currently occupying its second location in thirty years, the market will expand to a new facility twice its present size in October 2011. Other businesses include art galleries, music stores, a famous ice cream spot, bakeries, restaurants and great bars featuring live music. I've lived in Fairfax since 1978, and my children grew up here enjoying the small town ambiance and comfortable atmosphere. We chose Fairfax as a place to live not knowing much about it, and have come to love it.

To the west is Taylor State Park, San Geronimo Valley, and Point Reyes National Seashore with the wonderful coastal hamlets of Inverness and Point Reyes Station only 40 minutes away by car. We're close to San Rafael, the Marin County seat, and about 45 minutes from San Francisco. We are situated in a series on conjoined canyons with hills covered with native live oak, redwood, and other indigenous varieties of flora and fauna. It's truly a unique place, and I truly think of it as my "home town". Come visit us some time . . . .