On the Way to WorkRichard Soberpaintings

Brief Social Life

Somewhere between the plaza of desire and a cloudless afternoon just west of the Pecos. In the mind and memory of one always walking—a starving coyote in slim times, staggered dazed across a field in frozen solitude of one early morning winter. The pick-up truck on the side of the dirt road is almost a shrine. Heartbreaking loveliness and extreme economic disparities coexist under a spectral silence of sun, of sky, of light, indifference of river, woodland, desert and mountain. Indifference of us to each other. You will not hear anyone’s voice singing a clear song to match the clarity of light, open heart, shimmering silver light of a cottonwood leaf under the moon. There might not be anyone around to ask even if you are listening, were you drunk or were you blind when your eyes lost their wonder? If you came looking for the soul of D.H. Lawrence, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Gustav Bauman, Ernest Blumenschein, or Dennis Hopper, it is best to throw darts at another region of the map and load the van. If you came to live there is no use explaining the scenery. The dismembered wilderness can be found in every bend in the road, down every dirt path leading to corrugated roofs and piles of discarded appliances framed by arroyos, foothills, mountains.


I was poking around the crowded graveyard of Al’s Auto Body and Paint shop on Old Las Vegas Highway. Stalled time inhabited this place strewn with cars and parts of cars. Wind, sun, earth breezed through abandoned memories of deserted crossroads of half-alive towns. Monuments of speed and steel turned to squalid wreckage, turning back to nature which both resisted and embraced the slow metamorphosis from the excitement of space to a world of guesswork and anarchy. When I was adrift in Al’s wild field of scattered pistons and cylinders, I remembered looking into my mother’s coffin, placing a pouch in her hands. It was packed with “worry people,” forsythia blossoms, a small painting of a house, a drawing of a spiral, a hand with an eye in the palm, a copy of a postcard of the “Berengaria,” the ship upon which she came to America in 1929. I could not hear the sound of a bird in that crazy garden of machinery, glass, metal, leather, and rubber—only the sound of my footfalls on the afternoon dirt. I went back in my car, turned west on Old Las Vegas Highway toward Santa Fe, the city indifferent to strangers who leave behind spiders, ants, crickets, and ladybugs—desperate charms accompanying the dying and the dead to their resting places and the living to their temporary comfort.

I sat at a table between the racquetball court and the swimming pool at the Sangre de Cristo Racquet Club. Tito and Petra provided the background classical guitar music. A serene evening, a hidden oasis. Like many who came here before us hope is based on expectation, not fact. In other words, there is a price to pay for everything. I emerged from my thoughts about Al’s field of debris, but I also left behind conversations about hypnoprosperity, lies about a doublewide being a house, haiku, and who is a “real” person and who isn’t. I heard a retired astrophysicist say he ran the cyclotron used on Ernest O. Lawrence’s mother in 1943 to try to cure her of cancer. Now, benign-looking men are searching for the source of dark energy which comprises most of the universe, if not of this planet. The club is elegant in a worn island within an island kind of way. My wife and I were here because we were invited to the birthday party of a friend. Where can your paintings be found, a friend of a friend asked. In my studio, I said. I breathed in the intoxicating evening air. It is like kissing the desert on the back of the neck.

RS 2007