Thursday, June 05, 2008

Kitchen at Kam Wah Chung: A New Painting

Kitchen at Kam Wah Chung

Acrylic on Canvas Board
11 x 14 inches

As some of you know, I'm writing a book of poetry that features the voices of 5 characters who settled the American West. One of those characters is Ing Hay, a Chinese immigrant who made his home in John Day, Oregon. In March, I took a trip to John Day to see his home, a store known as Kam Wah Chung.

Kam Wah Chung is now a museum. It was formerly a store, doctor's office, and pharmacopia run by Ing Hay and his business partner Lung On from about 1890-1950. These men were only teenagers when the arrived from Taishan County, ready to mine gold on "Gold Mountain." They arrived to find the gold mines largely played out, so Lung On turned his hand to business, and Ing Hay to medicine. They became business partners and lifelong friends.

Stepping into Kam Wah Chung is like stepping into history. The walls are lined with smoke-stained red paper, the shelves are lined with comestibles and herbal remedies from 100 years ago. I wasn't allowed to take flash photography, but the curator shone a flashlight on items I wanted to take pictures of.

This painting depicts the wok and tea kettle that Ing Hay used to prepare traditional Chinese food and drink for Lung On and their many boarders. Here is the photograph:

If you ever get a chance to visit Kam Wah Chung, you won't forget it.

Frist Apartment at Tivoli: A New Painting

First Apartment at Tivoli

Acrylic on Canvas Board
11 x 14 inches

On the banks of the Hudson River, in the heart of Dutchess County, New York, lies the little Village of Tivoli. This is where my sister chose to make her home during the first year of her marriage. This painting depicts two of the earliest possessions of that marriage--a pair of blue lawn chairs.

I love painting objects that are overlooked in life, but beautiful when objectified. The most challenging parts of this painting were rendering the chair material transparent, and making all of the lines of the chair legs line up properly. I always fall in love with my paintings, and this one is no exception.

Here, for your enjoyment, the painting in all of its various stages:

Above: I've roughed in the basic shapes and colors. I like it already.

Above: Things are starting to look solid. The chair lying on its side is wrong, all wrong.

Above: Okay, now we are getting somewhere. The chairs are starting to look like they are the same size.

Above: Almost done, just a few tweaks left to make. Man, getting those chair legs to line up properly was a b****.

Above: Once again, the final painting.