I have been friends with the Barnaby Conrad family for over 40 years, starting with Barnaby Conrad III, my Yale classmate and author of Absinthe and Ghosthunting in Montana. For many years, Barney, the son of writer Barnaby Conrad (himself author of 38 published books), has been the center of a throwback group of reactionary bohemians in San Francisco which includes art writer and dealer Richard Polsky, Martin Mueller of the Modernism Gallery and conceptual artist John Keats.
What leavens this group is the winsome and gorgeous Cayetana Conrad, painter extraordinaire, who came to prominence a few seasons back with a series of erotic swimming pool paintings at the Laurie Frank Gallery in Los Angeles. Tani, as we call her, is now showing new work, depicting the briny woods around her Santa Barbara home, at M. Sutherland Fine Arts on East 80th Street, Sept. 29-Nov. 9, 2011.
Tani has taken the bohemian life a little farther than her male familiars. She met her former husband, Glenn Gazin, a dark, mysterious, black-bearded dandy, when he was doing a mind-reading act in Central Park and chose her for his subject. Together they produced three spirited children, two of whom are the prominent comix artist and Vice magazine correspondent Nicholas Gazin and the budding tagger and caricaturist Helen Gazin.
I was particularly touched by Tani's new work because Hurricane Irene managed to destroy two large oaks at my woodsy home, trees that somehow landed like butterflies on my driveway, missing the fence and the mailbox, causing no damage except to my soul as I counted the rings on their stumps, which added up to 80 years of tree life.
Hence, I look upon new tree paintings with a shudder and upon Tani with adoration. At least, I got to observe 70-year-old tree-care genius Joe Gentile, the chainsaw master of Westchester, carve up the next decade's worth of firewood into a large, fragrant stack. Such are the allusions and affinities of the art life, of which my pal Tani Conrad remains the mistress of all she surveys.
Cayetana Conrad, "Oil Paintings: A Tangled Wood," Sept. 29-Nov. 9, 2011, at M. Sutherland Fine Arts Ltd., 55 East 80th Street, New York, N.Y. 10021.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).