Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pauline Walsh Jacobson: Austin Artist

Yesterday on Facebook, I ran across one of my very dearest friends from our days tripping around together in high school and college, a friend whom I have not seen for 25-years -- Pauline Walsh Jacobson. She was more like a sister than a friend, actually. That close. She is an artist living in Austin and our roots trace all the way back to the art classes we took together in junior high.

Of course, we are both children of the revolution & anti-war movement of the 60s-70s. Pauline remained involved in art; I moved from carpentry into counseling. After 20-years in the profession, I think of her model of therapy as holding forth every bit of the promise in the spiritual journeys we all undertake as that of any of the great talk therapies.

Pauline's poster art was once part of the Austin Progressive Country music scene that contributed to Austin's distinctly bohemian-hippie character. The poster above announced the final concert at the Texas Opry House, a concert that was moved to the Armadillo World Headquarters due to Willy Nelson's problems with the IRS that temporarily forced the closure of the Texas Opry House before it reopened as the Austin Opry House.

What memories her art brings back! I lived two blocks from the Opry House on Newning Avenue, up past the old haunted house near the Opry House, which was on Academy above Riverside Drive. My freak neighbors and I used to walk down the hill to the original Schlotzsky's close by on Congress Avenue, run by Don and Dolores Dissman. On the way back, we'd say hello to Cosmo, Jack's friendly pitbull who had a ring around one eye and looked just like Petey from the Little Rascals.

Sadly, that neighborhood subculture -- Travis Heights as well as East Austin and other Austin neighborhoods -- is currently being devastated by an all-vanilla-flavored gentrification that will only be slowed by the collapse of the housing market. These neighborhoods are part of Austin's "magic circle" within which students, members of the underclass and newly independent youth can hardly afford the rent.

"Onward thru the fog!"

Much of Pauline's poster work from the 70s is now part of collections at the Barker Texas History Center, at the University of Texas at Austin.

For me, her work recalls the Vietnam War, my years of drug abuse and the days of protest we all struggled through while our country perpetrated an unjust war against a people in a foreign land, an immoral war no one seems willing to acknowledge today even as we suffer the presidential candidacy of a man now insulting the sacredness of the anti-war movement and our great dedication to the Satyagraha of those times by pretending to be a hero of that war. Just as egregiously, his supporters continue to ignore the atrocities such wars facilitate or to hold accountable the despots and oligarchs of the Military-Industrial Complex who are committing war crimes even today in the name of self-aggrandizement. Indeed, they have broken us.

It seems the memories just won't fade for those not in denial. But these are necessary memories that will not relent even under revisionist attack vis-à-vis the zealot-directed hubris of the Christianist right-wing that now serves as "the base" [which ironically translates into Arabic as "Al Qaeda"] for Neocon war criminals.

Here is a clipping from Pauline's website describing her work from the 70s. [The links below were inserted by me to make the trip more fun and informative]:
The Austin Music Scene had a number of very talented poster artists including Jim Franklin, Danny Garrett, Michael Priest, Guy Juke, Kerry Awn and others who have gained local and national recognition for the work they did mostly for the Armadillo World Headquarters during the 1970's. Though not one of the major artists, to my knowledge I am the only woman to have created a significant number of Austin music posters during that time. The original printings of these posters are sold locally at art festivals and book fairs. I have yet to see any of my posters turn up at these events, which makes me believe that copies from the original printings are extremely rare. I don't even have a complete set myself, and I donated most of my originals to the Barker Texas History Center in the early 1980's when they put out a call for artists for a retrospective they were putting together. The posters that were in that show and many more ended up at the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

The Texas Opry House closed in December of 1974 just before the Ray Charles concert due to Willie's problems with the IRS, and reopened in late 1975 as the Austin Opry House. The Ray Charles concert was moved to the Armadillo, and as a result, my favorite poster was never printed. The Austin Opry House closed in early 1978, thus ending my time as a music poster artist.
As I recall -- as the story goes -- one fateful night in 1978, as the Opry House's financial crisis continued, the manager, or someone associated with management, absconded with the final night's receipts and the abandoned Opry House partially burned only months later. It was renovated and now serves as office lease space.

Pauline and her husband are scuba divers. She has applied her creative spirit to the sport and has produced some very fine works highlighted here. Perhaps I can talk them into visiting Austin's sister pool (Barton Springs), out here in Balmorhea -- San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park -- where scuba diving is all the rage among fresh water divers.

The above video, by GuenLovesScuba and edited by DerickSharpeye, features the endangered Comanche Springs pupfish [pictured left below] and the equally rare Pecos Gambusia [picture right below]. The song featured on the video, "This Swimming Song," is by Loudon Wainwright III, whose latest album, "Recovery," is now available on his website.

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