Instance of Ecstasy, St. Mary’s Art Center


Sorg Chills, Front PorchMy comfortable chilled glass of beer sits with me at this North window of St. Mary’s Art Center. Our art retreat started a couple hours ago. Adrianne & I have settled in to room 15. We weren’t the first to get here; Others have a photo shoot going 3 floors down. The director and caretaker are both around doing their thing, seeing to our needs.


This is my favorite spot. I’m on a church pew by the window at the end of the 3rd floor hallway. No blinds needed here because the sun never hits these windows directly. I sit surrounded by art books, feeling good, being an artist.


If I had a brush I couldn’t paint the shadows that massage the graveyard’s contours on the next ridge over. White headstones and crosses tick in and out of notice. There must be a forest fire somewhere in the region because a slight blue grey lightens more distant hills. Leonardo rendered this natural phenomenon painters call sfumato. The atmosphere helps our eyes to recognize a field of depth.

shots by Adrianne, my honey
shots by Adrianne, my honey

The town above us jingles with sounds and this old building eats them up. A former hospital, St. Mary’s is 4 stories of brick construction. Carpeted throughout inside and with fabrics hanging as curtains and upholstery lining furniture. It makes for a dense and sturdy stay for the weekend.

Artists have been showing up at various times. It’s now our second day and activity has been relaxed and fairly productive. Artists talk of plans, ideas and the future. I think we’re all in love with this place. Connections and inspirations blow through open minds like the winds that seed these junipers and pinyon pines across the Comstock.

I hadn’t planned on poetry. You should be here.

We could host a square dance on this porch, it’s so big. The sun is setting over the peak and I’m listening to the last of the dirt bikes, packing it in for the night. There was a big race today and most of them are staying in nice campers parked all over.

We’ll be reminiscing about the continual chainsaw hamster buzz tonight over our pasta feast together. If it goes like last night there will be rowdy conversation amongst creative accomplices.

If NadaDada were a business, this weekend would be a tax write off. The event will be a great one this June. Good relaxed energy abounds throughout our clan.

Good night Unite Retreat, bonne nuit!

Day 3. It’s Sunday. Check out time is at some point this afternoon or so. Breakfast was our final chance to see each other and it’s a blessing getting to know your friends more deeply. Each of us is on his own path toward some kind of enlightenment and as artists, we don’t have more answers but more practice to get us there. But granted, there is no there. Trying to nail down any kind of destination or relay your roadmap to “there” would be an exercise in futility. And at the end of the day exercise in futility exactly describes what art is.

As these thoughts circle my head, winds swish in my window and dirt bikes race the hills and Virginia City streets around this building. Why do they do it?

I’m told yesterday’s race was 5 hours long. I can not imagine the headspace the riders were in at the day’s end. Did they ever lose sight of their reason for being there? A broken arm or collar bone, a collapsed lung or ruptured spleen, I’m sure, shot those riders into a different kind of understanding in this world. No mind needed when there’s love. They’re doing it for the love.

My mind goes to the image of the whirling Dervishes, the mystical Islamic sect who pray on their feet, spinning gracefully in place. It is said that to let one’s body be moved in space to the rhythms carrying it releases one from the worldly forces holding us back. Letting go, truly journeying with your bliss will, it seems, set you free.

The whirling dervish chainsaw hamsters shift gears to climb a grade and just once maybe they engage the perfect harmony and I would think, I can relate with them to that instance of ecstasy.


9 thoughts on “Instance of Ecstasy, St. Mary’s Art Center

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  1. YES!! I hear you, chad…Instances of ECsTASY!!…SMACenter is all that and more…..good to hear that new artists are coming in to partake of that space!
    Have been going to the center for 10+ years…I’ve seen it develop from a broken structure to one of delight and community!!!..Painting.. poetry..whirling dervishes of the soul!
    .. a blissful place to collect one’s desires; days of painting or sitting there at the north window….yes, I too found that space to collect!!….rowdy conversations, watching sunrise over sugarloaf in my “blue” room!!…..before the attic floor was renovated it offered a place for the ‘ghosts’ to reside and for us to possibly imagine another dimension….
    Good to hear it may also be fulfilling that sense of community!…moonwatcher carolG…..

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