Arizona Diaries: Burning in the desert & Celaya at LA Louver / by Laurence Fuller

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As we are liberated from the constraints of metropolis burning down an open highway towards Arizona Film Festival where a short film I shot called "Mother & Brother" screens. The absence of the Colorado river desert gives space for reflection, on the melody of this trip; liberty.

I walked into LA Louver gallery for the exhibition of Enrique Martinez Celaya last night, I love LA Louver, the dealers are charming and the art is great, it's surely on the forefront of progressive commercial galleries on the West coast, what compels me more than influence is taste, in terms of permanence the two are linked, in this case LA Louver's artists tend to reach as far back as they reach forward in their thinking and aesthetics. The art is rarely disposable. Louver shows contemporary artists working in our time, but like Celaya are inspired by universally great ideas, the man reads, writes and then paints, the mediums not directly connected to each-other, but provide a lens through which to see his memories and express them in the present with the hindsight of wisdom, we are let in to the poetry of his childhood.

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What is most impressive to me about Celaya, is his liberty. He does not appear to answer to anyone but himself for what he chooses to focus on and that focus has given him a prolific output of a pursuit for truth. Celaya seems to be connected to the pages of history and transforming the story of his life towards an alternate vision of the future (as any art is ultimately an alternate proposition to the reality principal). He asks nobody for permission to be a poet of several mediums (publishing his writings through his company Whale & Star), in this liberty that he takes for himself, he offers the world many gifts.

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In the first room we are brought into a boy who looks down, the mirrors surrounding him reflect the river of tears that envelop his feet. As a moment passes in the presence of this youthful emotion another tear drips into the pool. 

In this interview with his son, Celaya discusses the concept behind Lone Star. He must see much of himself in the boy through which he lives vicariously. I  cannot help but wonder in which paintings is the boy Celaya and in which is it his son. I feel he is communicating compassionately with the boy, and with us through his conversations to his sons the poetry of fatherhood.

Taken from Enrique's journal:

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"On the evening of a turbulent day in my childhood I searched the night sky for something in myself that was adrift and looking at those stars and at the abyss of nothingness between them, I felt both a piercing awareness of selfhood and an equally intense sense of self-negation. Although I had considered that dome of stars many times before, it had never seemed as relevant to who I was nor as distant from my life, but what struck me most was the awe and dread I sensed at facing the mystery of the vast hole above me."

In this way can we ever truly say that any man is not alone, even when he is with others. And like a Lone Star Celaya burns with a singularity and passion. The example that a man like this shows me, is that to appeal to people in hopes of obtaining a practical function from them in a chain of upward mobility, or to lessen their sting is to pursue triviality. Focus on creation and all things will fall in line. 

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The boy in Lone Star looks with the power of imagination afforded him by socialism reflecting its flaws, restricted in their understanding of the world outside, they are unable to see too deeply into the past, the future or the world outside their own, yet in the present they see so much.

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I felt for the little boy in those pictures. The world seemed so confusing to him, like his experience of the world is not the same as what he is being told by his elders. The boy felt deeply and saw in the natural world around him great meaning. The animals and the world of nature around him hold great meaning, companionship and consolation. Birds serve as his companions as they enter and exit his chest cavity, he is not alone with them. We see the birds up close, like we are a child with our face pressed up against the cage.

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I bought my first cockatiel four years ago, after a few months, I felt I could not keep him alone, I bought him a girlfriend, after a year they had four babies. Now I have 6 cockatiels. Their need for attention is much like people's, often when I work they will will rip apart my keyboard and the corners of my computer screen, just to get a scratch on the head. When their not causing domestic havoc they perch on my shoulder or my knee. I was fascinated to learn that birds see more colors than human beings their aesthetic experience of the visual world must be amazing, I often wonder as I look into my cockatiels eye, what he sees?

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A huge presence commands your attention as you walk in the gallery, a painting of a burning tree standing three and a half meters by four and a half. The flames blow embers in the air, a road leading to the horizon.

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"There is something cleansing about fire" - Celaye

Enrique stands by his painting, surrounded by people. He is The Lone Star, although he is in a cluster of people we see only him, our perception is that he is alone, (alone) in a crowd. The light from his star on the walls surrounding us, in the poetry of his ideas, that emanate in a search for truth, within himself and the experience of others. Enrique speaks not only for himself, or others like him but in an interweaving fabric of himself within history, presently a man unto himself, but in many ways in communion with the great philosophers and poets who preceded him and no doubt those who he will speak to in future, by the trace that he leaves on the wall and the page.

The sparse landscape, the confusion of childhood and promise of liberty all make me think about Mother & Brother. As we pull up to where we're staying, I begin to wonder what Arizona International Film Festival has in store for us, the small desert town of Toucon does not yell glamour, but welcomes the promise of authenticity and the communion.