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Synecdoche 1.0


A few days ago sleuthing on eBay (what day aren’t I doing that?) I found a wonderful painting by California artist James Hartman. It’s titled “Pescadero” and dated 2010. Clearly this painting is telling a story, though probably not the one Hartman would narrate if he were having coffee with us this afternoon.


This scan of the painting is far too bright, though I have no idea how to tweak PhotoShop and deepen it. Perhaps what I’ve posted has lost a bit of the quiet stillness that drew me in. (Where’s Van Gogh when you need him.) Regardless, what I saw was an artifact, a shard of material culture that would find its way to Agincourt. A vehicle for telling another piece of the story.

So much of Agincourt’s history to date has been urban. Farm folk are invoked only when they’ve come to town to shop or transact business at the courthouse or bank–or to be buried, like Neil Klien’s parents in the winter of 1933/4. I saw this painting as an opportunity to correct that imbalance; to talk about a rural life that is unknown to me. To become less ignorant.

What’s going on here? The lights in that barn (it is a barn, isn’t it?) might be in Pescadero or Bethlehem. Machs nix! I think the lights are burning late into the night because this is calving season and there is a difficult delivery taking place, either late or early; I don’t know which yet. But it has to be a special birth, perhaps an albino calf that will be fodder for conversation at the Koffee Kup Kafe for weeks and a reason to drive out from town and gawk and talk and stroke its milky innocense. What do I know of the sights, sounds and smells of the farm? Seems to me I’ve got a lot of homework for the weekend to tell this story right.

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