Beauty and the Beast

By: Bill Whaley
2 January, 2017

The job was simple: a ride along to the City Different. My client needed a sidekick. I figured there was an angle: keep the suds at bay and the babes away. He drove fast and popped off about “hexagons” and “Dzogchen,” black holes and the force wherein light and sound disappear. Infinite spaciousness reappears from primordial black holes. Stuff like that. Course he lives on the Upper Hondo Mesa near Taos You get the picture.

If I believed in a concept so full of holes I might shake loose at my moorings. Strange things occur in the midnight sun on the Mesa. But I’m just the bodyguard.

We stopped for “The” preliminaries at the Hard Cider Taproom, where the art on the walls and the reverberations in the sound box bar makes a dick feel the ache in his bones. (At O’Houry’s exotic coffee klatch next door, I knew a peripatetic journalist and defense attorney who shared Mitote about cops and robbers.) The client signed a couple of books and bought a Cider beer for “The” cheery-eyed sales nymph.

Then we got down to the hard-boiled business of beast and beauty.

I’d heard rumors that reality (grotesquerie?) had surfaced at Phil Space, a strip mall on Second Street. Somebody said a longtime El Norte resident, Tony Hassett, who has cast a wide net over the exotic Middle East, South America, and other points, too, had masqueraded as a bodyguard. But he fell afoul of graphomania and hit the edges hard. No niceties.

Maybe Jean Dubuffet called Tony’s madness “art brut” or outsider art. The definitive agent of “The Stranger” referred in the “Rebel” to the “Artist” as exemplifying “ascetic insanity” or the yearning for “metaphysical unity” and a “substitute universe.” Who didn’t need an alternative in the “Age of the Tweet?”

But I didn’t expect to see Hunter Thompson and Ralph Steadman doing Jean Genet and “The Maids,” Castro-style SF at the Phil Space in bucolic Santa Fe. Linked greeting cards from the underground spread across the walls featuring snapshots, collage-like and calculated to blow away the miasma of Peoria, Durham, and the retro Rust Belt. Vaginas and phallic protuberances, the succulent honey pots and exploding dipsticks had been detached and reconfigured below bulging breasts and tight pectorals. Beneath appearances and below the belt the gender splendor surged in a hundred variations.

Given the guns and bare asses, the threats and beatings, the violent underpinnings of contemporary life, one artist unfolded his unified vision, which seemed less shocking than the euphemisms presented by the Empire’s propaganda arm as nightly “normalization” in the corporate media. The atmospherics at Phil Space seemed more at home with Abu Grahib or Gitmo than Sants Fe for those who like to “look.”

In the age of the tweety bird, here, is the antidote to 1000 Arabian-American nights.

Reeling from the images that stuck to the viscera like pine pitch, the client and I jumped into the brutal four-wheel truck, survivor of a dozen West Mesa search and rescue missions. We sped off, winding through traffic on Cerrillos south to the Santa Fe warehouse district on Fox Road, looking for a nondescript storage unit or garage behind Home Depot, where we heard they saved appearances and kept Beauty as salve, safe from prying eyes.

The micro-master Marc Baseman stood tall outside a nondescript example of industrial architecture. And here was son Max, the progenitor of Beauty, he who offers temporary respite from bestial reality on Second St. or the crass Tweets on Canyon Rd. .At the underground 5. GALLERY,” 2351 Fox Road, critic Ann Landi had curated the delicate and diminutive, remnants of art for art’s sake, objects strategically placed to advantage on white walls and so seamlessly executed that I’m not sure if I was dreaming or awake to the “thing in itself.”

Maybe somebody slipped the Moly into my drink or was it nectar and ambrosia?

The works dedicated to the muse can be remembered by a list slipped into my pocket: Jan Sessler, Ted Larsen, TJ Mabrey, Sheila Miles, Beverly Rautenberg, Marc Baseman, Susanna Carlisle, Bruce Hamilton, Christine Taylor Patten. Wes Mills , Desiree Manville, Gendron Jensen.

I slipped back into the black hole on the way up the Canyon and up into El Norte proper. The Beauty and the Beast haunted me just as O’Connor’s 4s and 6s, quadrilaterals and hexagons, redefined other memories. As Tradition spars with reality for the soul of a culture, the demigods spawned by the devil creep up out of Pandora’s Box, heading toward the Plaza: Beauty hibernates in a monk’s retreat. In Taos the governors have walmarted the Plaza with the green-red lights not of Christmas chile but in an “Ode to Empire.”

So America went to sleep with an American eagle in 2016 and woke up with a Tweety Bird in 2017. The world has changed…utterly. The rebel and the artist meet at the sign of the beast and the beauty.

Me? I just do my job. I’m the bodyguard.

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