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What A Summer It Wasn’t

Us, (25th Wedding Anniversary) , 2020

By Bobby Padilla

Mixed media on canvas, 20” x 28”

I took the summer off from blogging, not that anyone noticed. I wasn’t idle during my hiatus, but I wasn’t busy either. As I sat at the ballpark in late May, I contemplated the summer to come with all it’s promise. I wrapped up a series of blog post about the pandemic, and I was looking forward to s busy summer (in regards to paint parties). I had plans to celebrate personal milestones, such as, my 25th wedding anniversary, my son’s 21st birthday, among other occasions. Well, things took a weird turn, in fact they missed their turn completely. We’re still in throws of Covid (Delta Variant), and we’re slowly returning to the protocols that we had when this whole thing started. This on the basis, solely on the fact that 35% of the population simply refuses to get vaccinated for whatever bullshit reasons. Going into autumn, this has put a strange premium on free time and how people will choose to spend it. I’ll get back to that in a moment. First, I’d like to sort out how my summer went.

Now I’ll admit that it’s begins with my lofty and probably unrealistic expectations about life events and their significance. Let’s begin with business, it tanked. With restrictions being lifted and people chomping at the bit for get togethers, it was ripe to be a booming summer. It didn’t happen, huh, who would predict that all the restrictions being eased that that would be the monkey wrench in the operation. To this point, I did better in 2020, in the thick of a pandemic than 2021, where most of my events are outside with no restrictions anyway. I’m still try to solve that puzzle.

As mentioned, this July marked my 25th wedding anniversary. The plan was to travel to Greece, seeing historical sites and traversing the island cliffs eating and drinking with the locals. It appears that while everyone was in lockdown, they planned vacations, with disregard to whatever national or international restrictions were in place. With a mix of unsettled travel restrictions, lack of places to stay, reasonably, and exuberant airline fares, we had to postpone our dream trip until sometime next year, which is fine. We may resign the fact that we need a travel agent. Traditionally niche travel sites such as Airbnb, have been systematically taken over by large hotel companies who can now charge double for crappy accommodations. The airline industry is riddled with staff shortages causing super long delays. An average 3 hr. flight to Las Vegas is now 6-9 hrs. because of layovers. You would think this would lower the prices to accommodate inconveniences, but no, in fact, they charge more. Seriously, it cost as much to fly to Athens as it does to fly to Wyoming? I don’t get it!

Projection from Beyond Van Gogh (Buffalo, NY), 2021

I imagined having a grand party somewhere with opulent decorations and a band and all the individuals that were part of our lives over the last 25 years. Well, that didn’t pan out either. Places were either booked or just overcharging because of a fiscally dead 2020. So, we settled on a beautiful party and vow renewal ceremony in our back yard. We hired a chef to prepare a 5-course dinner and a wait staff to serve our intimate gathering of about 20 people. The day was indeed beautiful. The weather cooperated, which was a small miracle considering July was a complete washout. In fact, local meteorologist said it was the rainiest July on record. The whole party went off without a hitch. It was foolish to build this whole thing up in my mind of what that day might be like and its significance to everyone, when the reality is most of those people over 25 yrs. drifted in and out of our lives. Those folks that have been the common thread throughout the fabric of our marriage were on hand to witness the legend of two kids from opposite sides of the tracks, falling in love and building a life together. The end result wasn’t something that resembled a romcom crescendo but more of poem recited out loud at twilight, heard by those closest to us and were willing to listen.

We went on vacation for a week also to celebrate. Upon failed attempts at Europe, we tried desperately to find somewhere warm and sultry here in the western hemisphere. In this sense, our expectation we’re low. Toes in the sand with a drink in your hand just staring out over the blue water. Well, lucky us, Florida as well as most of the south was hit by a series of hurricanes. Even if we found a place to stay (which we didn’t anyway), things would have sucked. Keeping an eye on the prize, traveling across Europe, we weren’t willing to spend that kind of money on Florida or any other destination south of the Mason-Dixon Line. We had thought about maybe going to a National Park somewhere. A ten-day excursion to Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon was thousands of dollars. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s totally worth it. Having said that, we are somewhat limited in our finances. Having to pay for college for my oldest son and a glut of home improvement projects in the cue, I am willing to scrimp and save for that dream vacation, not that run of the mill summer vacation.

We settled on going to Cape Cod. It’s where we went on our honeymoon all those years ago. We stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast in Yarmouth. Yeah, the loveliness ends there. The weather was dreadful with rain and temps never reaching over 75. We made the best of it, I guess.

Despite the lack of professional parties, my household was party central this summer. In addition to our anniversary, we threw 3 other large soirees. My oldest son turned 21 this June, which was quite the milestone. With tons of deep fried num nums, little liquor bottle piñatas and all the people he’s collected over his brief stint of adulthood, we got down and forged a memory he’ll not forget.

Yet, this poses new challenges for his new found freedoms. There’s nothing more endearing than when your now 21 yr. old son come up to you and says, “Hey Pop you wanna go get some beers?” I’ve taken him to some of my old haunts, that have miraculously made through time and a pandemic. The challenge now for the time being is you must prove your age and prove your vaccinated. For our household, not a problem. However, we’ve discovered that a good portion of my son’s friends aren’t vaccinated, and are turned away at the door. Again, for whatever bullshit reasoning or just plain lazy, this scenario is going to be a thorn in the side of his social life. Seeing the bigger picture, that may be ok.

A full course load and working 2 jobs, he’s going to have to take a serious look at who and where he decides to spend his free time with. In fact, Shan and I have discussed the probability of limiting who comes to our home if they’re not vaccinated. With fall upon us and flu season ramping up and the Delta variant gaining a foothold, we’re not taking any chances, or facilitating the those who refuse to get vaccinated for whatever their bullshit stance is. Yes, it your choice whether or not you listen to science or you want to politicize public health, but it’s our choice of keeping that shit on the doorstep and out of my house.

My youngest turned 19 in August, that too was heralded by a party and a bigger blast capped the Padilla party season a couple weeks ago with my coronation of Shannon’s fifth decade of life. In the end, it wasn’t all doom and gloom there were some beautiful moments.

Video excerpt from Beyond Van Gogh, (Buffalo, NY), 2021

Another highlight this summer was art related, it was the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit in Buffalo. It marks a developing trend in how art is potentially consumed. It’s a complete immersion experience that puts an individual inside the paintings of Van Gogh and envelopes all the senses. Through meticulous animation and carefully composed music, every brush stroke is brought to life. And this seems to be a developing trend in bringing many popular artist’s work to the masses. Even more so than say performance art, that tends to leave those less experienced patrons aloof. It’s really a great concept, take a large vacant section of a mall or building or even an extremely large tent in a forgotten parking lot and convert the space with projectors and speakers, and of course, pop up gift shops. Currently, there are several production companies touring the country for Van Gogh. There’s an instance in Chicago of bringing the Sistine Chapel and all it’s detailed glory to folks that may otherwise never have the chance to see Michelangelo’s magnum opus. Other immersive experiences are planned in the future as well. Monet, Dali, and Kahlo to name a few. There are other immersive art spaces throughout the country that doesn’t need a famous artist even attached to it.

Video excerpts from Beyond Van Gogh, (Buffalo, NY), 2021

In 2017 Artechouse in Washington DC produced XYZT Abstract Landscapes. It partnered with local artists to present art in a non-museum or gallery environment. It incorporated facets of digital and audio components to immerse the viewer in a full sensory event. The same type of art experience is demonstrated in Oklahoma City at Factory Obscura. Art troops like Teamlab or Meow Wolf (an off shoot of Artechouse), use many artists and locations to produce a unique way to present art in a non-static fashion. The trend is expanding as social media outlets fuel the awareness of such events. In fact, you’re encouraged to take as many pictures and videos as you like and post, it’s like free advertising for those companies, artists, and venues. This is counterintuitive to conventional museums and galleries that generally try to stop you from taking pictures or video. The market for such events will continue to expand, as tickets tend to sellout for these events weeks in advance. Even with Covid protocols in place for indoor events, it hasn’t seemed to slow the popularity. Also, unlike say a theater or musical production that may have a limited engagement of maybe a week, an immersive art event such as Beyond Van Gogh last for a couple of months. It’s something to behold and if you get the chance go and see for yourself, you won’t be sorry!

A still from ArteChouse exhibit, Washington D.C, 2017

A still from Teamlab

Still from Meow Wolf

Still from the Facory Obscura

Personally, it was a productive summer in the studio. Currently I’m headlong in a series of paintings (Lyrically Painted) for which I’m 5 paintings deep. Said and done, there may be a dozen paintings in that series when I’m done. For me, it’s rare that I actually a series of work at all. There’s been moments and similar works grouped together, but usually they’re still “one off” complete thoughts. I’ll probably document Lyrically Painted in a future post, or posts plural.

Until next time, find a way to immerse yourself in art. Whether it’s full-on ticketed event, or a walk through a sculpture garden or even planning a paint party with yours truly. Make time to forge those memories, and let art be part of those moments.

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