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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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13. ON THE BATIK BUS 2003


In May 2003, my life took an unexpected change of direction. The previous year in India, I'd received an email from a young woman in Colorado who found my website and wanted to read more of the Confessions. Beth McCoy was a batik artist also and was doing representational work similar to mine. We corresponded a couple of times but when I went to Maryland on my US Green Card run in April, the volume of emails suddenly stepped up. Beth was in an unhappy marriage. I was happy to put in my two cents worth and be supportive. Our emails became daily and then it grew to several times a day. It was all just friendly and fun. When I went back to Hastings in May, our emailing continued and then Beth decided to see what was real and what wasn't and flew over to England. Our relationship scarcely missed a beat and a virtual fondness became instantly real. From the beginning, everything was incredibly easy between us, we were both batik artists, both love music, yoga, walking, talking and travel. And amazingly, we were exactly the same size and could even wear the same clothes.


When Beth had to go back to the States to do art shows during the summer, I quickly tied up some loose ends in England and followed her to Colorado where she was now living in Colorado Springs at her brother, Marc's house. She'd come with her ancient dog Possum who lived in a corner of her room and did little more than sleep, stagger up wagging her tail to go outside or drink water and laid very low most of the time. Marc, a successful jazz and classical bass-player, had two much livelier dogs and his little house quickly grew pretty busy. It was situated in the most interesting part of town, in walking distance of the center but in a quiet back street on the edge of old Colorado City. This was classic cowboy country, a growing town with a community consisting of middle class upstanding citizens, a strong military presence, (the whole area is overshadowed by the NORAD installation inside Cheyenne Mountain) all those would-be cosmic cowboys, more bikers than I'd ever seen, a soft New Age element and a few homeless drunks and derelicts. I'd been there before in the early Nineties and liked the feel of the place; high mountains ring the town from the south west, real country was easy to get to and you didn't have to have a car to get around. Actually, our household had several. Best of all, Beth had bought a huge Ford Econoline van the week before I arrived and it was in our Batik Bus that we really got to know one another when we set off to do outdoor art shows all summer.


Our Batik Bus is probably the nicest vehicle that I've ever had; it is almost 20 years old but had been well maintained and has incredibly low mileage for its age. It drives beautifully too, has cruise control, plush throne-like seats and a lot of space. We threw out the back seat and bench but kept the black and white TV. And I went out straight away and had a good sound system installed. Of course the monster guzzles gas but gas is still cheap in the US thanks to the Republicans' foreign policy and we can sleep in the back and don't need to stay in hotels.


We spent more time this past summer on the road and in the van than we did at Marc's house. We did outdoor weekend art shows all over the State and I got to see a lot of Colorado that I didn't know about. The first trip was to Silverton, a high-altitude old cowboy town with a dirt main street, old Victorian houses and a lot of tourist shops and cafes. We parked our Bus down by the river at night, far from any madding crowd. I soon got the routine down. We'd arrive the day before the show started and zip into action, putting up our tent, unpacking all the art and putting our little portable art gallery up. For years Beth had done this on her own and I constantly marveled at her strength, commitment and determination. These art shows are not for wimps! I believe we?ve done eight of them in the past three months and took a few weeks off in August to drive to the east coast to spend time with Beth's family at a beach house in North Carolina. On the way, I visited old friends in West Virginia, which has lost none of its rustic charm. It was there that I met Lois Airgood, without whom this website would never have been possible. Beth and I drove back to Colorado by the Southern route, following the old Route 66, passing rusted-out gas stations, forgotten farms and the ghost of a golden America, which has long since passed away.


Back here in Colorado,(the Land Where Squirrels Run Free!) winter is on the way; the leaves are turning and falling, not without a final spectacular display of colour. At Marc's house, we're hurrying to finish the new studio, which Beth has built in the back garden before the first snow arrives. It'll be really beautiful and I've lived in much smaller and less-appointed spaces. We've started to work together too, which is thrilling. Our first project is a large four-sectioned batik screen. Beth has just opened a solo show of new work in Pueblo, which I helped her with. It was relaxing to take on the role of wax-slave, to do some mindless work, which I was good at, and to take no ultimate responsibility for the results. I have four of my Indian portraits in a group show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Washington DC. I've been able to catch a lot of good jazz music since I've been here- Colorado Springs has a thriving jazz community, an unexpected side benefit of the heavy military presence in the area. Jazz was my first musical love and likely to be my last. And we've seen a lot of the high plains country around Colorado Springs. We climbed up Pike's Peak too, the highest point around here at 14,500ft. But we found that civilisation had left its indelible mark on the landscape- a heavy brown pall, caused by pollution, could be seen hanging across the sky over Denver, some sixty miles away.


And so Life goes on, relentlessly, as it always does until it stops. And our honeymoon, happily, continues unabated. If we have a plan, which we don't, it would be to make some money as soon as possible and to go back to my house in India before too much more time elapses.


"You're either On the Bus- or Off!" -Ken Kesey


"America is a big dog in a very small room. Everytime it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair" -Arnold Toynbee

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