Friday, April 6, 2012

The Oct. 2012 24-Hours of Moab Bike Race is "On"



Well organized and clean tent camping area at 24-Hours of Moab Race - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

In October 2012, The 24-Hours of Moab Off-Road Bike Race Will Feature Family Fun and Environmental Consciousness

In November 2011, as I wrapped up my coverage of the 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race, I did so with a heavy heart. Behind the Rocks, in Moab, Utah, Granny Gear Productions race promoter Laird Knight had just told the assembled race crowd, “We don’t know if we are going to be able to do this again in 2012. Attendance was down this year, and we did not cover our fixed expenses. We’ll head back home, think it over and let everyone know by the end of the year.”

Well organized vendor area at the 24-Hours of Moab, Behind the Rocks, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Having attended each 24-HOM since 2008, I was disappointed that the race might not go on. I was such a strong supporter of this family race event that I had developed my own Moab24Live.com website. Each year, I wrote several blog articles here and then archived them at Moab24Live.com. In 2011, I broadcast a live webcam from the event for the full twenty-four hours. Via the internet, I wanted others to see and feel what it is like to attend, or perhaps compete in a twenty-four hour human-powered race. After the October 2011 announcement, I put the 2012 race out of my mind, thus allowing the universe to find a way.

In early 2012, I looked at the GrannyGear.com website, but could not believe what I saw. Featured on the home page was a banner proclaiming, “2012 Registration is OPEN! Let’s Race!!” In disbelief, I ignored the banner until early April. In October 2011, the race was dead. In April 2012, could it live again? I decided to find out for myself. In an email to Laird Knight, I said, “After your speech last October, I was pleased to see you making plans for 24-HOM 2012. That had to be a big decision for you. Please tell all the fans of 24-Hours of Moab what led you to go forward.”

Moab's "Knut & Sons" use their sparkling clean Mack Truck to suppress dust at the 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race - Click for water action-shot (http://jamesmcgillis.com)The next day, Laird Knight emailed back,
"It's been a tough year but I'm feeling better and better about my decision to move ahead with the 24-Hours of Moab. The ground swell of support has been heart-warming.

This event has become an integral part of the culture of mountain bike communities throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Kids that raced as juniors back in the mid-nineties now have kids of their own coming to the 24-Minutes of Moab kids’ race.

For many of the "old-codgers" of my generation, being ready for the 24-Hours of Moab continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation… to keep riding and stay healthy and fit. But when it's all said and done, it's just about having fun, and enjoying some fine time with your friends and family."
I could not say it better, Laird, so I will not even try.

24-Hours of Moab off-road bike racers stay on course during a crowded and difficult uphill section - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In the past, the 24-Hours of Moab has received a fair, and maybe an unfair share of criticism for its environmental impact at Behind the Rocks. Critics charge that some racers have gone off course, damaging environmentally sensitive areas. From the articles and pictures I have seen, critics accuse a lot, but offer very little demonstrable evidence of supposed environmental damage. To be sure, there are some photos available of bicycle tracks that deviate from the course. Still, there is not one posted image of a 24-Moab racer making those tracks.

During the 360-days each year when there is no bike race at Behind the Rocks, the place reverts to its cow pasture origins. During 98.6% of each year, cattle, off-road vehicles (ORV), bicyclists, hikers and equestrians traverse and sometimes trash the area. During night racing, a few cyclists may deviate inadvertently from the established line. However, these are dedicated racers, not Kamikaze pilots looking to wipe out as much cryptobiotic soil as possible. A few wheel tracks in the softer soil may be evident, yet that impact is insignificant when compared to local potash mining or uncontrolled ORV usage on BLM and SITLA trust lands.

Rebecca Tomaszewski, Class Winner, surveys the scene after her 2009 victory at the 24-Hours of Moab off-road bicycle race - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As Laird Knight told me,
“On a mountain bike it never benefits you to cut the course and trade the highly efficient, low rolling resistance "line" that is on-course for the deep sand that you would encounter off course. I have never seen any evidence of intentional off-course travel. We do educate folks about the importance of cryptobiotic soils and of staying on course. As for the venue itself, what I see every year, for the last seventeen years, is practically the same as what I saw the first time I visited the site.

We do clean up the venue and the course of litter both before and after the event. I can assure you that the volume of accumulated trash that we remove from the course before the race is much greater than that which we clean up after the race. We do educate folks about the importance of low-impacts. Their alignment with this ethos shows up in the practically immaculate condition in which they leave their campsites. The trash that we haul out is sorted and recycled. All that said, I would welcome critiques and suggestions for ‘how we could do it better’.”


All racers are instructed to "stay the course" as they race Behind the Rocks at the 24-Hours of Moab - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)On the subject of environmental impact at Behind the Rocks, I believe it is time for the environmental critics of this relatively low-impact, family event to come out and see for themselves. It is all too easy to sit in a faraway office and study other people’s documentation or photos. It is quite different to experience a great race powered only by the human body and spirit. On the racecourse itself, other than human breath, there are no emitted hydrocarbons. Again, compare the low environmental impact of this bike race to any motorized gathering in Moab.

As I told Laird Knight, I am an environmentalist and write often about environmental issues. This race and its culture of low-impact, family fun are too good to lose. Thank you Laird Knight and Granny Gear Productions for accepting the financial risk and once more allowing us the thrill of a classic Moab Live race event.



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Costantino Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


A 1951 photographic portrait of the artist Costantino Proietto at age forty-one - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Costantino Proietto - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In July 2011, I published my first article regarding the Italian artist Costantino Proietto (1910-1979). Other than the signature “C.Proietto” on our own original oil painting, I then knew nothing about this modern Italian impressionist. At that time, I published pictures of our Amalfi Coast painting, asking other owners of C.Proietto paintings to share them with our world and me. Soon, several individuals in the U.S. came forward with photographs of their own treasured C.Proietto masterpieces. U.S. soldiers stationed near Stuttgart, Germany purchased each of those initial paintings there.

Some people would write and promise to send pictures, but never deliver. One man sent stories about his family’s close relationship to Costantino Proietto, who they called “Uncle Tino”. There was a story about a dark painting designed not to hurt the eyes of a young measles patient. At the Sistine Chapel in Rome, using real gold leaf, Tino had painted an image of the Madonna. I had only one unconfirmed photographic image of a balding man in his mid to late sixties. If that picture was of Costantino Proietto, I could not prove it.

Romantic Italian coastal scene, an oil painting by the artist Costantino Proietto - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In March 2012, I received letters from two relatives of Costantino Proietto, each of whom knew the artist in life. Larry LoCastro, second cousin, and Nunzio LoCastro, first cousin of Costantino Proietto brought life to the artist and the man. Within the LoCastro family in New Jersey, there are almost a dozen signed original oil paintings attributed to the artist. Although there are too many new paintings to show them all here, I will post the remaining works in later articles.

Nunzio LoCastro is now eighty-five years old. In 1951, U.S. Army service took him to Germany for two years. Before shipping out, a relative told him to look up a cousin who lived in Germany. That cousin, an Italian emigrant to Stuttgart, Germany was the forty-one year old Costantino Proietto. Having settled in Stuttgart near the beginning of World War II, C.Proietto quickly established himself there. By the early 1950s, he began painting at his own atelier/studio, located at the fashionable address, Stuttgart-S. Danneckerstraße 34.

The artist Costantino Proietto (right), with his brother, ca. 1951 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Through the wonders of Google Street View, we can see that building as it looks like today. According to one person who photographed it, in 1899 architect Gottlob Schäufelin finished the mehrfamilienhaus (Multi-family property), which later housed C.Proietto’s studio. In describing the studio, Nunzio LoCastro told me that it was had one large room with many windows. Either the center or left side of the second story might qualify for that description.

According to Nunzio LoCastro, Tino lived with his common law wife Gisela at Stuttgart-S. Hohenheimer Straße 62. There we see a four-story apartment building, which dates to the prewar era. Again, with the aid of Google Maps, we can see that his home and studio were only two hundred thirty meters apart. Every day, Tino would rise early, have a cup of black coffee and then walk to his studio. There, he would paint until noon and then return home for lunch with Gisela. After a leisurely lunch, Tino would don a freshly ironed shirt and return to his studio.

The artist Costantino Proietto, in Sanremo, Italy, his Leica camera around his neck, 1969 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Painting there until the sunlight failed, Tino would then go out on the town, enjoying whatever nightlife postwar Stuttgart had to offer. During his evening activities, Gisela was at home. By then, Tino had come to expect two freshly washed and ironed shirts each day. Since he often worked seven days a week, I imagine Gisela at their apartment boiling, washing and ironing shirts well into the night. Although many artists wear a smock, Costantino created his masterpieces while wearing a dress shirt. After work he was still impeccably dressed for a night on the town. With his signature palette knife work, C.Proietto brought elegance, skill and exactitude to his work. For him, creating modern impressionist masterworks in a dirty shirt was unacceptable.

The business card of Costantino Proietto, as displayed on this page, tells us how the man saw himself. On the card, “Costantino Proietto” appears in bold script. The top two entries on his list are in English. First is “Oil Paintings”, followed by “Specialist in spaddle work”. Next, in his native Italian, is “Artista pittore”, meaning “painter of pictures”. In a nod to the French, he follows with “Artist peintre”. Finally, for his host country, Germany he lists “Kunstmaler”, meaning artist, painter or “production painter”.

Business card of the artist Costantino Proietto, including his address in Stuttgart, Germany - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In less than one year, Costantino Proietto and his works have gone from obscurity to fame. Soon, I expect him to be among the most collectable of twentieth century painters. We can now confirm Randazzo, Sicily 1910 as his place and year of birth. We know that at age fourteen he began an eighteen year unpaid apprenticeship to a master Italian artist and art restorer. In his early thirties, C.Proietto immigrated to France, and then to Switzerland. By 1942, he had settled for good in Stuttgart, Germany. By 1951, he had a studio and a nearby apartment home. According to his cousin Nunzio LoCastro, every day, Tino Proietto lived the good life, traveling, photographing and painting exquisite pictures of scenes that people loved. Any observer of an original painting by C.Proietto can see and feel his joy in life shine through.