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Matters of the Art: Prose, Sand and Neon

Matters of the Art: Prose, Sand and Neon

Duke City DimeStories knows there’s power in brevity; Ra Paulette's caves exert a magnetic pull on the imagination; Nixie tubes experience a resurgence as the most visible components of charming, retro timepieces.


Matters of the Art: Prose, Sand and Neon


Ten cents a dance

There’s power in brevity. No offense to fans of “Infinite Jest” or those “New Yorker” short stories that run on for 40 pages, but sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Duke City DimeStories has been serving up bite-size nuggets of story read by their authors for the past six years. Normally, they meet the third Thursday of every month at The Source (1111 Carlisle SE), where anyone can sign up to read a piece of three-minute original work — as long as it’s not poetry. “I love poetry,” explains Jennifer Simpson, who co-hosts with Andy Paquet, “but there are tons of venues where poets can share their work, and very, very few opportunities for writers of prose. Unless you’re like me and sneak into a poetry open mic clutching your flash fiction or nonfiction, hoping no one notices it’s not a poem.”

To celebrate the hexaversary of Albuquerque’s only open mic for prose, they’ve gathered the cream of the crop from the past year’s events. At least 19 readers descend upon Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW) on Sunday, February 21st, at 3:00 p.m. for a whirlwind of a reading. At three minutes a pop, you won’t have time to get bored.

“The stories are funny, nostalgic, sad, creepy and sweet,” says Simpson. “They touch upon themes of family, love relationships, friendships, death, grief, trauma, growing up and identity . . . We often laugh, and sometimes we are stunned with the force of the emotion that a writer can convey in just three minutes.”

For more information, email dukecity.dimestories@gmail.com or call Simpson at (858) 254-4669.


Soul spelunking

Everyone knows a cat can’t resist a cardboard box. But humans are possessed of their own itch to climb down into shadowy confines. “The tradition of caves as the antechamber of the classical underworld, the land of the dead, a halfway point from which to contact the gods in their separate reality,” scholar Victoria Nelson has written, “was firmly entrenched from archaic times.” From Lascaux to Plato’s cave to the Batcave, subterranean realms, both natural and manmade, have always exerted a magnetic pull on the imagination of humankind.

Spiritual seekers and grotto lovers alike may just find what they’re looking for at the Windows of the Earth Cave Sanctuary, located at Origin, a luxury resort in Ojo Caliente along Rancho de San Juan Road. Featuring high ceilings, 20-foot glass windows streaming with natural light and hand-hewn altars, the cave is a bona fide work of art coaxed into being by the hands of Ra Paulette.

Paulette and his decidedly noncommercial life’s mission to create stunning, wondrous caves in the sandstone cliffs of Northern New Mexico has recently drawn national attention thanks to “CaveDigger.” The Academy Award-nominated short documentary chronicles Paulette’s zealous passion to sculpt enormous, cavernous monuments underground. These are true works of love; Paulette uses only hand tools — mattock, shovel and scraper — and pours hundreds upon hundreds of hours of labor into each cave. He doesn’t own his work, charging only a low hourly wage for his labor.

The Windows of the Earth Cave Sanctuary is open to the public during the winter months. Tours, limited to 18 participants, are by reservation only; email originreservations@gmail.com or call (505) 747-2374 to book an appointment. It costs $20 for each adult, who must be physically capable of a 1/3-mile uphill hike over rocky ground to reach the cave. Children under 12 are free. For additional details and some gorgeous glimpses of the cave, visit originnewmexico.com.


Turn back the clock

Before Apple watches, before digital clocks with LED and LCD displays, before no one could be bothered to set the time on their VCRs, the Burroughs Corporation introduced the Nixie tube. Officially a “cold cathode neon readout tube,” the Nixie’s name allegedly comes from “Numeric Indicator eXperimental No. 1,” which is what I plan to call my EDM supergroup if I ever happen to form one.

Encased in glass and filled with low-pressure gas, an anode made of wire mesh and cathodes bearing the numerals 0 through 9 (or other symbols), Nixie tubes provided an early means to display glowing numbers that could be read easily in poor light. Originally most common in pricey, specialized equipment like voltmeters and electronic frequency counters, Nixie tubes have experienced a resurgence in recent years as the most visible components of charming, retro timepieces.

On Friday, March 4th, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., Palette Contemporary Art & Craft (7400 Montgomery NE) brings us “Tubeternity.” Featuring artists Cristian Dragomirescu and Spencer Woodburn, the show offers up a loving paean to old-timey temporal tech.

Despite their shared love of Nixie tubes, the artists’ work couldn’t be more different. Dragomirescu’s combination Nixie tube clock and weather station “The Blackhawk,” for example, is integrated into a vintage Weston AC voltmeter. It tells the time, date, temperature and humidity in a most pleasingly nostalgic fashion. Woodburn’s Nixie alarm clocks are built into hand-fabricated cases adorned with exotic wood veneers like imbuya burl and quilted bubinga. He also uses VFD (vacuum fluorescent display) tubes, which look similar to Nixies but function differently, and often incorporates LEDs for a dramatic flare of rainbow lighting.

If you miss out on this opening reception, Palette is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Find them by phone, (505) 855-7777, or online at palettecontemporary.com. Fellow nerds and mid-century technology aficionados will no doubt slaver over this collision of design and science.
Lisa Barrow is a member of the Dirt City Writers collective. Visit her on the interwebs at facebook.com/LisaBarrowLikesWords. She most recently served as arts & lit and web editor at Weekly Alibi.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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