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A night to remember 

Paintings, pals, and paparazzi

SLO County’s glitterazzi are out in force tonight, Saturday, July 16, at Cambria’s Vault Gallery, where the work of former SLO Town painter Mark Beck—now of Albuquerque, N.M.—is on display.

click to enlarge IN THE VAULT! :  Vault Gallery owner Laylon shares an embrace with her featured artist, Mark Beck, at the Saturday opening reception. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • IN THE VAULT! : Vault Gallery owner Laylon shares an embrace with her featured artist, Mark Beck, at the Saturday opening reception.

There’s painter Steven deLuque and Marshall’s Jewelers President Jeff McKeegan, who’ve been together for, like, EVER! They joke that their home is “the Mark Beck Museum” since they own so many of Mark’s paintings.

And there’s Phoenix Books owner Bruce Miller and his partner Michelle. Bruce was an early champion of Mark’s work and bought some of his paintings at a time when Mark really needed the support. Bruce has been studying under plein air artist Libby Tolley and says he’s become a “real painter.”

“Bruce,” I say, “I think of you every day … when I’m peeing. That little seascape you gave me is right over my toilet, but don’t worry. You’re in good company. There’s a little Mark Beck right above it.”

Then I see J.C. Whittaker, another of Vault Gallery owner Laylon’s excellent artists, whose self-portrait I just viewed on the other side of the gallery, which recently doubled in size and also includes a small outdoor sculpture gallery.

“Wow, I love your new self-portrait,” I gush.

“Thank you,” says J.C. in his utterly charming British accent. “Someone recently asked me who had painted the self-portrait of me.”

click to enlarge SYMBOLISM :  In Common Problems, artist Mark Beck could be referring to underwater mortgages, but more likely this painting is symbolic of Americans’ shared interconnectivity—what befalls the least of us should concern all of us. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • SYMBOLISM : In Common Problems, artist Mark Beck could be referring to underwater mortgages, but more likely this painting is symbolic of Americans’ shared interconnectivity—what befalls the least of us should concern all of us.

“Ha!”

“Isn’t Mark getting better and better?” J.C. asks, scanning the gallery. “Looser strokes.”

“Yes, he’s really unclenched,” I say.

“He’s gotten looser, but I’ve gotten tighter,” he laughs.

Then I spot Kathy Friend, who ran the I Madonnari Street Painting Festival for many years. She had cancer, but she kicked its ass!

“That’s your best wig yet,” I tell her, eyeing what is obviously now her real hair. “How do you feel?”

click to enlarge SIMPLE PLEASURES :  Who doesn’t recall the simple joy of riding your bike, tassels flying from your handlebars, training wheels rattling along, hair swept back by the wind? Looking at Bike Ride, it seems you could go anywhere! - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • SIMPLE PLEASURES : Who doesn’t recall the simple joy of riding your bike, tassels flying from your handlebars, training wheels rattling along, hair swept back by the wind? Looking at Bike Ride, it seems you could go anywhere!

“I feel great,” she says, and I can tell she means it.

Then, as I’m chatting with Mark, I see Frank Zika, the terrific glass sculptor.

“Frank Zika?” asks Mark, extending his hand. “What a memory I have! At least long term.”

“Short term’s not so hot anymore, eh, Mark?” I ask before wandering into the backyard sculpture area, where world famous photographer Arthur Tress is holding court.

Arthur’s got a new show coming up in San Francisco at the nonprofit SF Camerawork gallery and a monograph to go with it. Seems after his sister passed away, he discovered a box of negatives he took back in 1964 at San Francisco’s Republican convention. He was just 23 at the time.

click to enlarge REUNION :  Because of Mark Beck’s deep connection to SLO County, longtime friends—like Peter Yelda and Linda Seeley—came out of the woodwork to attend his reception. - PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • PHOTO BY GLEN STARKEY
  • REUNION : Because of Mark Beck’s deep connection to SLO County, longtime friends—like Peter Yelda and Linda Seeley—came out of the woodwork to attend his reception.

I wander back into the gallery, where I find musician and luthier Peter Yelda deep in conversation with former midwife and current peacenik Linda Seeley. So many friends coming out of the woodwork for Mark’s show! He clearly had an enduring effect on the people of SLO County, and his work is more interesting than ever. Rich with symbolism and atmosphere, the paintings are as beautiful as they are stirring.

This is definitely a night to remember, and since the ABC won’t let Laylon serve wine, I suspect I actually will remember it! 

Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at Myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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