Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Surprising Encounter in a Former Ghost Town

Our wonderful older son (as opposed to our wonderful younger son) gave Jim a birthday gift nearly a year ago that we were finally able to use this week. The gift was two nights at the Shady Dell Trailer Court in Bisbee, Arizona (for both of us. Thanks, Jere, I'd have been sad to have been left out!). The Shady Dell has been written up in Sunset Magazine, among others. A totally unique experience, you arrive at Shady Dell to a group of vintage trailers, arranged in a semi-circle, shaded by trees. 50's and 60's music and decor greet the visitor. Our trailer had a living area, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom.

I don't have a single picture of our 3 day vacation. We agreed not to take cameras. The idea was to relax and not work. At all. Relaxing is actually hard work when you aren't used to it. And being artists in an art town, naturally, time is spent in galleries looking at, yes, art. Which is work. When what you love and what you do are one and the same, it's truly hard to separate work from play. Mostly.

The title of this blog post is A Surprising Encounter in a Former Ghost Town. As you might guess, there is a reason for this title. Bisbee was a copper mining town. When the mines closed, the town languished. I'm not sure how close it ever became to being a true ghost town. At some point, artists began to make their homes here. Although Bisbee is in Southern Arizona, it is a mile high. The elevation makes for a mild climate. The homes are built on very steep hillsides, so steep that you can reach some only by climbing long flights of stairs. To say that Bisbee is in the middle of nowhere wouldn't be exaggerating.

On to the Surprising Encounter. We wandered about town. On a side street, we stopped to admire a nearly vertical garden. The rock terracing was amazing. The plantings provided a riot of color and texture interwoven up the hillside. While we were staring, a guy appearing to be in his late 60's, early 70's, approached us. It turns out that the garden we were admiring was his. He offered to take us up the nearly vertical stairs for a closer look. We ended up with a tour of a number of hidden gardens tucked in front of, beside and behind the homes on the hillside. After climbing what seemed like hundreds of stairs and landing back on the street, our host invited us to visit his studio.

What work. What a studio. Don't I wish I had my camera! Peter owns the entire Old Philadelphia Hotel. The ground level (former store fronts) are all his studio. I have no idea how many square feet we're talking about here, but it's a lot. He treated us to a view of his work, starting in the early 60's and moving forward in time.

He lived and worked in New York in the 60's and early 70's. Not only was he a New York artist, he was (and is) famous! His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the National Gallery in Australia, to name just a few. He didn't tell us any of this, except that he had worked in New York. In fact, to say he was unassuming would be an understatement.

After spending quite a bit of time in his studio, looking at the work and talking, we left to meet an old friend for lunch. Bob Wick, our friend, is an accomplished sculptor (that's a whole other story!) He confirmed that Peter is indeed well known. Bob mentioned that Peter had at one time been married to a famous dancer.

This was all exciting indeed. The minute we got back home, I googled Peter Young. He was married to a famous dancer. Twyla Tharp. Now that's famous! He's been written up in Art in America and Art Forum as recently as 2007. He had a solo show in New York city just a year ago. He's been reviewed in the New York Times. He's had a fascinating life. Wow.

If you're curious, here is an article about Peter Young. If you're really intrigued, there are lots more articles available. Just google him.