Tuesday, May 1, 2012
226 James St., Clayton, N.Y.
This photo is of 226 James Street in Clayton, NY. It is owned by Greg & Karen Lago. Until a few weeks ago it was home to Winged Bull Studio and Teaism. I drove by there today and snapped these photos. It's really sad to me to see the change. For me it was a source of great inspiration.
I cannot help but think that the village of Clayton has been left with a void. The local art community certainly has. From my view one could not break into the local arts scene with out first walking into Winged Bull Studio and meeting Greg Lago. Greg is a wealth of information about every worthwhile artist from Buffalo to the Adirondak Mountains and beyond. And I am talking about all artists. The more obscure ones that design type faces and hand print books. If you were good at what you did and were lucky you might be one of the few to exhibit at Winged Bull. Greg would do one or two shows a year, some years none. To have a show there was an honor. I was one of the lucky few.
Greg is primarily a wood engraver and Winged Bull was his work place. When not printing his engravings he was framing pictures, sculpting wood, painting furniture, listening to great music, making coffee, engaging in the most interesting conversation. Anytime I needed a lift, whether it be psychological or to get out of a creative rut, Greg and Winged Bull would do it. You never knew what you would find when you walked in the door. It was always a visual delight. I will miss it immensely. I'll have to swing by his house in future and hope to get the same lift.
However, another thing that made Winged Bull (and Teaism) so awesome was the people that came through the place. All manner of people. The down and out folks that appeared homeless (but actually live at a half way house down the street) were greeted by Greg as warmly as a wealthy client in town for the Summer. Senator Moynihan's son was a regular visitor. The couple that owns the largest Corvette parts manufacuring plant were regulars. I saw a destitute old woman come into his studio one day wanting to sell her watch. Greg gave her some time and some money. Any other merchant would probably have sent the old gal on her way with a threat of calling the police.
And there were musicians. There were wonderful parties, terrific food, wine, beer. It just kills me to see such an institution closed. I don't have the time here to really write about just how much I loved Winged Bull Studio and Teaism and to explain to you all how magical of a place it was. It is getting late for me and I do not have the time to get into the magic that was Teaism. But let me try to be brief.
Teaism was an outdoor Summer eatery featuring terrific food by Karen Lago, wine, beer and a variety of teas. It was a tea garden. For the last three Summers I would play classical guitar there, usually on Wednesdays or Thursdays from about 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. The setting was small, intimate, exotic. If someone were to pluck you out of your bed while you were in a deep sleep and took you to Teaism, and you had never been there before, you would awake and think you were somewhere in Europe. You would awake to a dream. A dream of fine food, drink, and music.
So, do you see my dilemma? My source of artistic inspiration has shut it's doors. I never again will sit under the shade of that little tree in Teaism's garden sipping wine and playing guitar. When I was there I was in HEAVEN!
Here is a memory for you. One Winter night Greg & I were at Winged Bull preparing to go to a party at jazz singer Sam Hopkins house (also in Clayton). Greg offered me a beer from his fridge. It was a Dundee Indian Pale Ale. This was the first IPA beer I ever had. I took one sip and was floored! I later wrote a blog entry that that was the best beer I ever drank! From that day on my beer drinking took on a whole new dimension.
Let me clarify something. Winged Bull was Greg's operation and was his artistic outlet. Teaism was wife Karen's culinary arts outlet. Teaism was located in a small, fenced in court yard behind the studio. People would come to visit Greg and check out his artwork and discover Teaism. Other people would come to Teaism for the food and discover Greg's art work. WOW! I walked i ther the first time and was BLOWN AWAY. I saw that tea garden and instantly said to myself " I must play guitar here!" It was the most PERFECT venue for what I do. Let tell you another truth. I normally charge a hundred dollars an hour to play some where with a fee of $250.00 for the first hour. (So if you want me for one hour it's gonna be $250.00 and $100.00/hr after that. Got it?) BUT, Teaism was so good for me, such a perfect fit, I played there for tips. And actually, after the first Summer I basically said to Hell with the tips. Anyone who ever ate lunch there while I was playing guitar got to hear the best I had to offer at that time in my life. I am sure that Greg & Karen do not understand why, (& I'm not sure I do), but those days playing there were priceless for me. Every afternoon was like a vacation. It was therapy. It was simply unexplainable. The Lagos have done more for me, my art, my psyche than I can express.
OK, so enough gushing. I wish things wouldn't cahnge. But thankfully I was a part of a unique Thousand Island experience and you poor Devils that never were there don't know what you missed. It's kind of like knowing Carmen D'Avino. If you didn't know him you missed out om something special. But, he is a topic for another day.
Now let me leave you with this: I love Greg's art work I was so taken by it that I made this animation video from one of his works. This was made pre-HD video so the quality is less than ideal. The guitar playing is by me.