Friday, June 13, 2014

Fun with Bob Diven

Bob Diven, I discovered shortly after moving to Las Cruces, is everywhere. Designing and building his own airplane. (He’s a licensed pilot.) Kneeling on the hard pavement at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market, creating a masterpiece. (He’s won top awards in street art competitions here and in Denver and El Paso and founded a festival to share his skills with new generations.) Officiating at a colleague’s wedding. (He’s an ordained minister and established his own “secular church:” the Church of Bob. He’s an erstwhile missionary currently focused on dinosaurs and evolutionary truths.)
I first admired his paintings at exhibits around town and in his downtown studio. Then I found him performing with a group at a friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party and learned he’s also a composer, singer, musician and recording artist. (His CDs are among my most prized possessions, and it’s hard to imagine feeling anything but cheery while listening to gems like “Steel Rail/Split Skunk Blues” and “I’d Like to Paint You Naked.” (Several generations of area women have said, “Sure, Bob.”)
“I write original songs about life, love and road-killed animals. But I also compose for theater and film, orchestra and band. I play guitar and Irish percussion and sing,” Bob notes on his website. (He’s also performed his original works with the Las Cruces Symphony.)
I’ve been entertained at several of his plays. Who do you know in the world who could write the play, design its sets and costumes, compose and perform the music and handle the lead role? In his play “John Singer Sargent: Painting Madame X,” he did all that, while painting an impressive portrait on stage. (And Bob, a talented commercial artist whose creations include really cool beer and coffee labels, also designs promotional posters for his own productions and those of others.)
I’ve watched him play an amorous singing dinosaur in another of his own plays, “Extinction,” and deliver a strong and touching performance as Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” one of his many starring roles in regional comedies, dramas and musicals.
I’ve sat on hay bales at Young Park discussing the mysteries of the cosmos with Bob while he was setting up his “ratapult” at RenFaire. He designed and built the device, of course, along with armor and assorted medieval weaponry, costumes and accoutrements.
He and his works have starred in fiestas, on stage and screen. He’s worked in many capacities in movies and produced a few of his own.
He does a weekly editorial cartoon for us. He’s also been my first go-to expert in two cases when possible new photos of Billy the Kid surfaced. He probably knows Billy’s features as well as anyone in the world. He’s done numerous portraits and sculptures of the Kid, most recently for a life-sized series of bronze sculptures.
Many of us are still wistful about a larger-than-life project Bob proposed before downtown revitalization projects reopened Main Street. He envisioned giant statues of Sheriff Pat Garrett and Billy at each end of what was then the Downtown Mall, poised for daily, high noon laser light show shoot-outs. Giant Billy was to have a revolving restaurant in his hat, a kiva fireplace in his derriere.
I have a feeling historians and future generations will rebuke us for not acting on the downtown Diven-Billy option, sort of like Santa Fe regrets turning down Georgia O’Keeffe’s offer to paint a museum plaza mural, in the days before she became the City Different’s most famous icon.
But we still have some opportunities to acquire some municipal marvels, including AdobeHenge and maybe at least one of the Billy bronzes. I hope we do it. And stay tuned for more wonders from the fecund brain and restless soul of Bob.
“I fall in love all the time,” he told me recently. “I guess it’s part of always being on the watch for beauty of all kinds.”
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or Tout or call 575-541-5450.

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