STRANGERS I HAVE MET
I'IT'S JUST BOB.
For the uninitiated, Robert Rauschenberg is one of the icons of the contemporary art world...so when I was young , struggling, hungry, and homeless, the chance to meet him was something akin to meeting an idol... I remember sitting down with him... it happened to be at a show where he was no doubt bored to tears... and he asked me about my own journey... before I could ask the five thousand questions I had for him.... So I shared part of my journey... and as I spoke, his eyes focused on mine in a way that enveloped our conversation... I am sure I called him "Mr. Rauchenberg" one too many times...
"Its just Bob, Ashley" he said... "do you think that anyone understands my art?... do you think all these people running around this room have any idea what I am trying to say... why I needed to do what I do?" You keep painting what you love.... your view of the world through iconism of the horse... A million people will tell you why you cant sell your work... just like they did me.... their views simply do not matter."
As time passed, we became friends, but it was that initial meeting at a point when I was at my lowest, that someone spoke a few words, soul to soul, and somehow in a strange way provided confirmation that I was not alone..... that it was okay if no one understood my art... it was ok if I failed time and time again...
When Bob passed, the world shined just a bit less bright, but I know he is somewhere laughing and creating
CAMBODIA, ANGKOR WAT
Many years ago, it was possible to climb the incredibly steep, stone stairs of this ancient Temple. D and I were ever fortunate to have been in Cambodia before the constant rumble of tour buses packed with peoples hopping in and out with their clicking cameras for the a briefest of moments, and then onward to the next, and the next, and the next…., and the next Temple.
As we stepped off the plane, we welcomed tWe had for a number of weeks… the blast of heat, familiar scents and sounds as if greeting an old friend. Humidity adhering clothes to skin as though we had just walked out of a hot shower instead of walking across the tarmac to gather luggage.
After a few full weeks of focusing upon our charity work (which we conduct face to face no matter which country), D and I and were excited to enjoy a day off and explore….
Arriving at Angkor Wat via tuk-tuk, D and I stopped in awe at the Immensity of the ancient Temple. As we walked down the dusty path where a little brown horse stood by a solitary tree, I felt a Deep Energy tingle and Awaken within me.
In order to climb the worn stone steps, (very slippery), Ashley and I literally had to lean against them and move up sideways. Each step was too small to place the ball of your foot on, and nearly vertical to the ground! It took quite some time to get to the top; once there it was as if we could see the entire country, and then some –
[Below Told by D]
Walking within the maze of gigantic corridors, Ashley suddenly turned and walked determinedly toward what appeared to be a dark, hidden corner. In fact, it seemed invisible to the few other visitors who continued walking by it without a second glance.
I followed and The sweet smell of incense filled my lungs and fueled my curiosity as I moved closer, and watched as Ashley slowly kneeled. I stood respectfully behind a nearby pillar, and saw that across from her, yet very close, sat a woman as ancient and as beautiful as the great Temple itself.
She wore an plain white shirt, with a ceremonial checkered red scarf over her shoulders, her head shaved … her deeply lined visage creased even more when smiling at Ashley as if recognizing a beloved old friend….the smoke of incense twisted and curled in front of them in a marked sort of dance….
Their unwavering gaze was mesmerizing; the sparkle within their eyes seemed to light the dim corner. They were conversing in a language without words; one that I have come to witness over our many years together, and in the most unexpected times and places. It is an incredible, mysterious and beautiful experience to watch….
At some moment, as if the entire universe itself had agreed one could sense not a farewell, but a sort of ‘until next time,’ and Ashley and this beautiful soul both stood up.. each nodding their heads to the other in a sort of bow, at the same time ….
Eyes still bright…Ashley tried to express her conversation, which ended up all over the place in rapid momentum and excitement--- “an exchange beyond the worlds; that which is seen and unseen; known and unknown; beyond space, beyond time; a consciousness, a presence awake; joyful, hope; a furious and powerful love that heals all things……!!“
Ashley had no concept of their time together, (very similar to time spent creating in her Studio), and thanked me for my patience for the ‘few moments,’ and when I smiled and told her that they had been together exactly 1 hour and 43 minutes --
[Back to Ashley]
“It was and will always be timeless…I have always carried her within me where ever I go… and I believe in my heart, she has always held me within an embrace of love.
She was a warrior… of the spirit, and her journey was etched in worlds far outside her body.
Hanoi, The “Simple” Pedicab Driver
We entered Hanoi, not long after the US and Vietnam had opened trade with one another… the cultural difference was vast, the women all wore the beautiful Ao Dai dresses, that seemed to be dirt free and beautiful in even the dirtiest and dustiest of the inner workings of the city.
We had taken a number of Pedicabs, or “Cyclo’s” as there were very few motorized scooters at the time.. Our Cyclo driver had a world weary smile
And a kindness in his eyes…. But what was ore amazing is that he spoke flawless English (we had learned the basics of Vietnemese before going to the country, but truly just the basics…)…
How did you learn English? We asked…
He said, you would not believe me…. So we asked again…and his story unfolded.
“Before the war, I was a commercial pilot… my family and I were well off and life was great… the war did not affect us as it was just beginning… and then I was drafted to become a fighter pilot for South Vietnamese government…. …”
As his story progressed, during the war, he had lost his wife, and his children, then when the Americans pulled out and the South Vietnamese Governemt Collapsed he was sent to prison… and when released, the only job he was allowed to take was that of a Cyclo Driver. He earned less than 3 dollars a day…. We asked if we could perhaps help him start a business, and he replied “No Thank you… I have come to accept this life… and to understand many things…
And that is how quickly life can change…
Some would say that he had given up… but in actuality, the fact that he lost his family, his money, his career… and yet every day he still showed up for his low paying cyclo job, and shared a sincere smile of life evidenced a warrior of extreme toughness, of thoughtfulness, and kindness.
His hands had the callouses of an honest hard living, and spoke his warrior journey.
Hole in the Wall Gang.
In a tiny little restaurant hidden in Santa Monica on Montana Avenue, I was having dinner with an old friend, and at the next table, was a fellow named Robert. I was enjoying my dinner and he was enjoying his… but I knew he had collected my work.. though we had never met…. He had purchased a number of my works in Santa Fe from a dear friend and gallerist Arlene Lewellyn – one of the early gallerist that gave me a chance.
After dinner, somehow we wound up speaking in the street…. We spoke of life, of my own journey, of his journey (he originally wanted to be a painter but his calling was in acting, and in changing the world for the better). He had a twinkle in his eye, and it was nice to just talk, artist to artist, laughing in the middle of the street – our energy was the only light during the late evening…
He had collected a number of my children…..my paintings that he had purchased was titled “Hole in the Wall”… and it was a reminder of one of his more enjoyable projects….. as the Sundance Kid. Robert Redford is a warrior who’s light has shined in helping others, in helping our world, and in the kindness of a meeting in the middle of the street, sharing laughter.