an essential reading list

last night was the Chuck Jones Center for  Creativity‘s 2nd annual Red Dot Auction.  it’s one of those projects that is not only complicated (coordinating artists over a several month period–you know, as they say, “it’s like herding cats in a room full of rocking chairs.” –you’ll forgive the trite platitude or turn of phrase today–it’s 5:20 AM, i worked 14 or so hours yesterday, much of it standing and ‘on’; frankly i have no idea why i’m sitting here at the computer five hours after turning off my bedside light after said very long day, but here i am nonetheless, understand?), but also immensely rewarding (see above parenthetical reference to coordinating artists, rocking chairs, and cats.)

after last year’s red dot auction, i went on record saying that it was one of the most emotional and outstanding art events that i had been a part of in my over 30 year career in the visual arts and last night was no different, perhaps it was even more compelling; we worked with more artists, there were a dozen more submissions, the anticipation from the center’s supporters started early with rsvps rolling in as soon as we had sent out a “save the date” notice and went unabated until moments before the doors opened last night at 6 PM. (more on rsvps, serendipity, and the work featured in the photograph above later on in this post.)

over 200 people filled the Center’s new facility at South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa almost as soon as the doors opened last night–it was, as they (them, again) say, “nature abhors a vacuum”, the glass garage door went up, the place filled up immediately (where did they all come from? there wasn’t even a line…all i know is that one moment the venue was empty and the next moment it was alive with the delightful chatter and banter of people enjoying themselves. i love when that happens.)

we ask artists to donate a work of art created on a specific size of canvas, this year it was a 12″ square stretched canvas. the work can be of any media and design as long as it fits on the provided canvas. each work is submitted anonymously; the artists are asked to sign their work on the reverse. by doing this the bidders at the auction must fall in love with the work of art and not worry about the status of the artist based on who they are and where they stand in the art market. we reach out to artists from across the nation, some extremely well-known with decades-long careers, others, well others with more love in their heart than notoriety in the art world. this year, because it is Chuck’s centennial, we asked our contributors to consider the life and times of Chuck Jones as a theme for their submission.

i wouldn’t consider myself an ‘artist’, my talents lay elsewhere, but i like to create things and have for as long as i can remember. collage suits me; i’ve always thought of it as an archeological dig with much to discover as you work your way through the art, twists and turns revealed the more you look at it. “two roads” (above image) was my submission this year. i was inspired by chuck’s “essential reading list” that his daughter, Linda, had shared with me years ago for another project (as yet uncompleted, but it will be one day, it will be.)

chuck’s library (or a portion of the thousands of volumes) has been a part of our working environment as long as i’ve been working for the jones family — 20 years this october — and i’ve always found his catholic taste, i mean the man read everything, fascinating, thrilling, daunting, and inspiring.  i had thought at first that this work would be a riff on robert frost, utilizing some of my photographs of country roads as a reference to frost’s poem, “the road not taken” (…two roads diverged in a yellow wood…), but as i worked on it, i realized that the ‘essential reading list’ was just as important, so the work turned toward sharing that with the viewer. this collage is composed of hand-colored inkjet prints of photographs i have taken, acrylic paint, oil stick, cotton thread, plastic buttons, graphite, paper, bronze, and copper.  on the flaps (like book covers) that open in the center of the image i have written frost’s poem; the rest of the text is chuck’s essential reading list (which is at the bottom of this post for your enlightenment.)

but what has tickled me so about yesterday is this: at about 9:30 AM yesterday morning, the phone at my desk rings and when i answer a woman asks, “is it too late to rsvp for this evening’s event?” to which i replied (jokingly) “yes, it is.” we shared a giggle and i assured her it was not too late and after taking down her name, i said that i look forward to seeing her and her husband that evening. i added their name to the rsvp list and went on my way with the rest of my day.

as i was greeting guests last night, i introduce myself to a charming couple, “welcome, i’m robert patrick, i’m so glad you could join us this evening,” and she said, “i spoke with you this morning!” and we laughed about our little encounter and i wished them well, directing them to libations, nibbles, and the silent auction. we nodded at each other a couple of times during the evening and shared a conspiratorial grin as they perused the artwork that was part of the auction. the evening slowed down eventually, people were beginning to collect their winning bids and take home the art they’d successfully bid on and my ego getting the better of me, i went over to my painting to see who had bid on it.

that’s right, the woman i had spoken with in the morning, and met just that evening, had won my work of art. the serendipity of it all delighted me, but i said nothing and went on my way with the rest of the night. i saw them collect “two roads” and as they were leaving i walked up to them and said, “i’m so glad you could join us this evening and i wanted to thank you for successfully bidding on my contribution to the red dot auction.” the look she gave me was priceless, “this is yours?!?”

“yes, it is,” i responded, “isn’t it crazy wonderful that our day ended this way?” and it is crazy wonderful when strangers come together to support the arts and serendipitous when that love threads its way through their day. so, thank you mr. & mrs. __________. i look forward to seeing you again and i hope you enjoy “two roads” for a very long time, maybe our “paths” will cross again.

Chuck Jones’ list of Essential Books every literate, English-speaking person should read (at least once, probably more often)

  • A Spy in the Family – Alec Waugh
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • A Travel Abroad – Mark Twain
  • A Treasury of Science – Harlow Shapely
  • Animal Architecture – Karl von Frisch
  • Anything by Robert Parker
  • Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis
  • Cabbages and Kings – O’Henry
  • Career in C Major – James Cain
  • Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
  • Damon Runyon short stories (at least three)
  • Double Indemnity – James Cain
  • Elmer Gantry – Sinclair Lewis
  • Farewell, My Lovely – Raymond Chandler
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  • Gamesmanship – Stephen Potter
  • Major Barbara – G.B. Shaw
  • My Life and Hard Times – James Thurber
  • Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
  • Roughing It – Mark Twain
  • Seventeen – Booth Tarkington
  • Short Stories of Somerset Maugham (at least two)
  • Silent Snow, Secret Snow – Conrad Aiken
  • Sir Niguel – A. Conan Doyle
  • Stalky and Company – Rudyard Kipling
  • The Autobiography of Lincoln Stephens
  • The Bar Sinister – Richard Harding Davis
  • The Crock of Gold – James Stephens
  • The Elements of Style – Strunk/White
  • The Gnome King of Oz – L. Frank Baum
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • The History of Mr. Polly – H.G. Wells
  • The Jungle Books – Rudyard Kipling
  • The Killers — Ernest Hemingway
  • The Little Drummer Girl – John le Carre
  • The Moonstone — Willkie Collins
  • The Poems of Robert Frost
  • The Red Pony – John Steinbeck
  • The Short Stories of Ring Lardner
  • The Short Stories of Saki (H.H. Monroe)
  • The Spy that Came in from the Cold – John le Carre
  • The Touch of Nutmeg – John Collier
  • The Varming – Owen Johnson
  • The White Company – A. Conan Doyle
  • Three Men in a Boat – Jerome K. Jerome
  • Treasure Island – R.L. Stevenson
  • Turnabout – William Faulkner
  • Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh
  • Words at Play – Willard Espy


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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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