The salons of 18th century France were a hub for writers and artists, where ideas were spawned and intellectual discourse flowed, like fine wine, in the Age of Enlightenment.
On the second Friday of each month for the better part of three years, well over 100 people have been gathering in an actual Basalt salon, Art of Hair, to enjoy the visual arts, live music, libations and an author reading. That tradition returns June 14 from 6-9 p.m. and all are welcome.
John Wyman, owner of the hairdressing salon and artist cooperative, decided to continue the monthly art walk through downtown Basalt despite waning interest from other galleries, which didn’t see the kind of foot traffic that traipsed through Art of Hair, located at 160 Midland Ave. in a funky 19th century building with slanted wood floors.
Wyman said the monthly art opening lives on because, “It’s just too much fun. We had 150 people last time and I didn’t get to talk to everyone.”
On June 14, author Bruce Berger will read from his book, A Desert Harvest, New and Selected Essays, that was published in March. A launch party at the famed Algonquin Hotel in New York, once home to its own round table “salon” of writers, actors and critics in the Roaring ’20s, celebrated Berger’s tome, an excerpt of which begins on page 4.
Classically trained in piano at the Yale School of Music, Berger will showcase his musical talents on the Art of Hair’s baby grand piano. On Tuesday, he was warming up his fingers with pieces by Debussy as well as Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
“The feel isn’t French, but it’s salon-like,” Berger said as he was tickling the ivories of the baby grand.
“A place that’s a hair salon that sells books up front, has art on the walls and a grand piano in the middle, that is not typical of this particular time. But it goes back to what Aspen was,” when Berger first moved to the valley in 1968, he said.
Lamenting how the final drops of bohemia have been squeezed from his beloved Ute City, Berger said, “The last vestige of Aspen is in Basalt.”
Doc Eason, the much-decorated magician, is also part of Friday’s party.
Gallery was ‘lifelong dream’
The Art Base in Basalt has remained a teammate with the Art of Hair in the second Friday openings except for this month, when circumstances required the date to be moved up by a day.
“Due to an unanticipated memorial service conflict, our artist, Deborah Jones, could not do Friday, so we changed it to Thursday, June 13,” said Jocelyn Murray, exhibitions manager for the Art Base. (Please see related story, page 1).
“In July, August, September, October and November we plan on continuing the second Friday openings,” Murray added.
Even if Art of Hair is the lone wolf to host a monthly salon, Wyman said he won’t throw in the barber’s towel.
“It was my lifelong dream to own a gallery. This is my fifth space, but the first one that lended itself to a gallery,” Wyman said.
As notes of Berger’s piano playing spilled outside the gallery walls, passersby were drawn into the Art of Hair, which features original works by Pam Dodge, Richard Okun, Carrie Corder, Holly, Jesse Belle Denver, Art of Winifred, Gaard Moses and others.
“Some of it comes from my own personal collection,” Wyman said from his vantage point behind a barber’s chair. He noted that the building’s sloping floor originally had an 8-inch shift from one end to the other. “I did fix the spot where I cut hair. Otherwise, we’d have some really crooked bangs.”
Like Berger, Wyman is something of a renaissance man, having written one non-fiction work, Against her Will; A Cautionary Tale, which reported, often in graphic detail, the abuse suffered by his mother in an Illinois nursing home. She eventually escaped and came to live her final years in Basalt with her son. During a five-year period, Carol Winifred Wyman produced an enormous volume of contemporary paintings, some of which are displayed on the gallery’s walls.
John Wyman is at work on a second book, which has reached its final editing stage. But first, the preparations continue in advance of Friday’s festivities.
“I plan on having one every month,” Wyman said. “There are 24 months left on my lease and hopefully, 24 more great parties.”
Excerpt from ‘A Desert Harvest’
Published in March 2019, A Desert Harvest, New and Selected Essays by Bruce Berger, contains many gems, including the following essay entitled “Time Out.” The book, which was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, retails for $26.
“To blend one’s consciousness with the universe seems pretentious to a Westerner and to strive for ego loss seems a contradiction in terms — but I was briefly tricked into something like it one late afternoon, driving through Monument Valley. The stranded formations were deep-shadowed, russet and cayenne in the low sun. A few horses wandered in scrawny solitude and each sage seemed lit an independent silver-green. I was enjoying it all in a touristic way, in that last light that flares each object with its own radiance, and particularly I relished the shadow of my own jeep tasing over the sage like an elongated Model T. To be the eccentric eye through all that depended color was personally satisfying. Suddenly the jeep passed into the shadow of a monument, the image I so identified with vanished, and the rest of my awareness was sprung loose. For an instant I felt, this is how the place would feel without an external intelligence: landscape aware of itself. My thought spread out for a moment, freed from its source; then I caught myself being aware of my own absence, identity flooded back, and long before the jeep emerged from shadow my brain was back in my skull.”
— Courtesy of the author