Greycloud at The Diner by Jim Neu

Jim Dikel & Jessie Dunn-Gilbert
at the Greycloud Diner Opening
by Niles Dolbeare

Pilar Claro y su hija Nicole Titus
at the Greycloud Diner Opening
by Niles Dolbeare

Jim Neu & Yosarian on the deck
Bella Oaks, Rutherford, CA '97
by Carol Mullins

Bob Dylan
'Photos from the Far West'
The Yountville Diner
March 9 to May 10, 1999

Leonard Greycloud proved to be the most provocative presence at his own opening of recent photographs in March at the Yountville Diner. Greycloud has never been the most verbal of artists, often communicating with a gesture or a look or a grunt. But few of his friends were ready for his mood of this evening, which bordered on rudeness early and eventually became something very close to hostility.

The show itself was vintage Greycloud. Whether he's focused on wide views of sky and horizon or an intimate close-up of a small garden, it's always clear what he finds there. Greycloud's work celebrates natural beauty with the directness of John Ford. Like Ford, the images are so naturally composed you don't notice how perfectly the camera was placed.

The series of landscapes in the show were as striking for the variations in sky as they were in terrain. From "Soda Dry Lake" to "Mono Lake" to "White Winter", you see how endless the sky can be–not only in size, but in cloud shapes, light, shadow and color. You can also see how these play on the land below, a relationship most of us never get far enough away from to perceive.

Not that the hand of civilization doesn't intrude in Greycloud's work. One of the details you detect on the desert floor of his haunting black and white photograph "Baker Hills" is a tiny stagecoach–I mean car. In "Hard Rock Hotel" he seems to use the giant neon guitar in the foreground to light the rich sky behind it.

"Woodshed" is a place I'm familiar with. The photograph captures a balance between the structure and the area around it, making it seem to belong the same way the path it's next to seems to belong. These man-made additions conform to the surroundings, rather than the other way around. Knowing the location helped me realize there's only one place from where it looks quite like this.

This writer's personal favorite is "Eddy's Studio", taken from the inside but revealing the beautiful surroundings as if by accident, through the door and two windows. These openings also just seem to happen to present a very satisfying array of framing variations. One of the definite crowd favorites was "Self-Portrait", a shot of the artist lounging handsomely in his back yard. Perhaps it's popularity is one of the clues to the way he acted that night.

I know Greycloud. I won't try to defend his behavior, but perhaps his friends owe it to him to look a little deeper for the reasons. The evening was an exceptionally successful social occasion. One of the most often heard remarks was "Wow, what a great party!" Many came. Few left. I think Greycloud detected a note of sentimentality to the proceedings and attempted to send a message. He is a talented artist, and serious about his work. I think he was foiling any attempt at forming a cult of personality around him and trying, in his unique way, to focus attention on his work.

Yes, Greycloud can be gruff, but friends know he's got a great sense of humor and loves a good time. I think it's relevant to remember that one of his favorite artists is Bob Dylan, a singer who changes the melodies of his most famous songs at his concerts to prevent the audience from singing along. I think they're both willing to risk some hard feelings to break people out of patterns and get them to see or hear something new.