March 9, my husband, Bob, and I left New Mexico for Penland, North Carolina with our two small dogs in tow. It was a 2 1/2 day drive, and when we arrived it began to snow, and then snowed some more. It has all melted off and we are left with the purposes of our trip: me to teach an 8 week concentration and Bob to take an 8 week sculpture class.
I have eight students in a lovely, fairly new painting studio. I've never worked with students this long, and this intensively(we meet everyday). It's also a much smaller group than what I'm used to working with. I have a corner of the classroom for my own materials and work, and have set it up to be as much like my studio at home as possible, which is tricky since at home I have 1200 square feet of studio space and roughly ten tables plus wall space, as well as complete privacy.
I've done a weeks worth of demos for the students, but haven't really started anything of my own yet, and I have quite a bit of trepidation about starting. I will try and work on the weekends, but have already seen, with this weekend almost gone, and next to nothing done(a trip into Spruce Pine, the nearest town, to buy art and household supplies)how quickly it goes by. I will be way out of my comfort zone in terms of my ways of working, plus my normal, extreme anxiety anytime I start something new. I'm going to try and post every few weeks as we progress, so, sit tight, and send a few prayers my way.
As a lonely child I ate for comfort, usually while reading a book, devouring entire bags of potato chips and many many candy bars. Then, as a young woman, on my own, I found myself seeking out food when I was distressed or upset, which, it seemed, was most of the time. In the mid to late sixties, there was no information about eating disorders. I just knew that I was eating too much, always sweet or salty foods, and that I was gaining weight. I couldn't control it, and it caused me terrible distress. I told no one about it.
Years passed, and I learned not to use food to avoid my problems, instead, dealing with those problems directly. In 1997 I did this painting. At the opening of the exhibit that included it I noticed a young woman standing in front of the painting, rocking from side to side, clearly distressed. My memory is that she was very thin, slight and probably in her mid twenties. I asked her if I could help her, and she turned to me, and said, in a very angry voice, "Why did you do this? Why? And what does the red mean anyway?"*. I don't remember how I replied, only that later I found out that she was from a very wealthy family in Canada and came to live at a resort in Tucson every winter, which is where the exhibit was. She was, of course, struggling with her own overwhelming and destructive eating disorder. I wished I could have helped her in some way, but, of course, I never saw her again. *The red path refers to the cessation of periods in women with eating disorders
My relationship paintings almost always portray the woman as being the larger figure, and this painting is no exception. The woman is from an older photograph of my younger self, and the man, as well, a younger version of my husband. My shoes are red(appropriate), and his green(appropriate but I'm not sure why). Like the relationship, the making of the image was complicated, involving, but not limited to: many layers of acrylic paint, oil paint, crackle medium, transfers, and direct gluing(not necessarily in that order). The text is Japanese, from what is, I think, a Japanese textbook, but there is no way to know for sure since I don't speak Japanese and don't have any friends that do. I don't know what is being said, and even if someone were to read the text it would be backwards since it has been transferred. I simply love the visual look of the letters, and the way they exist and politely enhance but don't intrude. I've found my husband several times pausing in front of the painting and nodding his head in approval. I liked it to begin with, but, with every nod of his head, I find myself liking it a little bit more.
On Jan.16 my husband and I flew to Boston for the opening of my retrospective at the Griffin Museum of Photography. I don't think that Paula Tognarelli(the director of the museum)and I ever exactly planned it as a retrospective, but then, all of a sudden, there it was: 33 years of my work, stretching from 1984 to 2017. It turns out Paula and I are on the same wave length, twins from different mothers. She choose tough images, but also found and underscored the darkly funny ones, like "Sperm and Ovum" and "Snake Truck"(seen above). She ended up selecting over 60 images, filling the beautiful space beautifully, grouping the work following a rough time table of 1984-2003, 2005-2014, and 2015-2017.
I was there on the opening night to give a walk through to a full gallery, probably 45-50 people. I went through the gallery selecting images that were especially important or timely for me to talk about, and discussed as well my techniques and processes. People asked questions so that I could fill in what I do, what I think about, and what I react to when I work. It was a truly wonderful evening for me, seeing all my children, lined up on the wall, patiently waiting to be appreciated. I felt proud, a little overwhelmed, and extremely grateful.
There are people like Paula Tognarelli in the art world, but they are few and far between. She is one of those unique people who love art and artists and have the means and the where-with-all to support us on the rough and tumble journey that we have chosen to take as creative people. It was a night like no other for me, and I can only give thanks to the art gods(and Paula)for having made it happen.
On Christmas Eve of this year, I received a phone call from a friend who had invited my mother to Christmas Eve dinner. My mother hadn't been home when they went to pick her up and it was beginning to get dark. Her car and dog were missing as well. I knew that, most probably, she had gone out and then gotten lost trying to return home. She has no short term memory, and her cognitive functions are getting weaker and weaker. I called the sheriff's office and spoke to a deputy, reporting her missing. After gathering the pertinent information,the deputy went to work, finally issuing an APB for Mom. Meanwhile, my husband and I gathered our dogs and headed up to Santa Fe(from Corrales where we live) to look for her, knowing we would probably be spending the night there.
By the next day, from credit card receipts which my sister had access to, we were able to track her voyage, from 2:30 in the afternoon in Santa Fe, to the last place she stopped for gas at 4:00 a.m. in Roswell, New Mexico, 200 miles to the south. In the meantime, a "Silver Alert" had been issued for her describing an 88 year old gray haired Hispanic woman driving a brown Honda CRV with a brown Aussie mix dog in the back(she isn't Hispanic). The alert scrolled across the bottom of the screen during the late news and then again in the morning. About 9:00 a.m., as we were getting ready to head back to Albuquerque(60 miles away), we heard a knock at the door. It was my mother. She had almost no memory of where she had gone or what she had done, just that she knew not to let the gas run out, and that she had made it back on her own. I took the car and drove it over to a neighbors so that she wouldn't have access to it, and was accused having always wanted to get her car away from her. We have no idea where she went(other than the credit card receipts), or what was calling to her that would cause her to drive for over 19 hours, in the dead of night, refusing to ask for help.
the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design
Adjective: fortuitous; accidental;
Verb: do something by accident or without design;
do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome
Recently, I've found myself only interested in creating things that happen by mistake. It's very "listen to the sound of one hand clapping" because I can want it, and want it desperately, but I can't make it happen. Woman Dancing(with Purple) was formed when I pulled the tape off of the hard edged line I was trying to make. The paint on top came up in a big chunk, revealing the purple and black painting underneath. Revealed, it was, of course, the body of the purple woman.
Two friends of mine, an aunt and her niece, come from a very large family--11 brothers and sisters. Recently, when I asked them about their Thanksgiving plans, they told me that over 50 people would be coming, and that they would be cooking two large turkeys. When I asked them if everyone got along, they looked at each other, then smiled, and the aunt said, "Mostly. We do fine."
I don't know how they do it. Our parents are fading, fragile, and under the constant decay of dementia, which is eroding away what little memory they have left. Once they are gone, I'm not sure what will tie us siblings together. Taking the responsibility of their care has already caused large riffs between us, and as we've aged, the things that bothered us slightly 40 years ago are now huge issues that we can't talk about. There is anger, resentment, and in some cases, because of the current political climate, horrible exchanges on social media. And even within the close circle of our immediate family we have altercations that seem absurd, small things that blow up out of all proportion. I wish I knew the answers to making a family work, but I don't, and I worry that if we can't even work out our familial issues, then what hope do we have for running a country or a world.
"Old Cowboy" is very loosely based on my husband's grandfather, Irby Downey, who, as a young man, was a ranch hand, first in Texas, and then in Albuquerque on the West Mesa back in the 40's. He was a dashing, handsome man(he looked like Richard Boone ), as well being charming and personable. And of course, the real deal: the quiet, rugged, western man with a drinking problem. But then, to make a living and support his wife and three children, he became a masonry contractor in Albuquerque leaving most of his cowboy life behind. I fabricated the rope from a coiled hose, and his belt buckle from a bird's nest, his "bones" made of tree branches.
Jealous: hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage Merriam Webster
One of the seven deadly sins is envy, not jealousy, but close enough(Envy: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage Merriam Webster). The two cross over in my mind, and lay on top of each other, like dead, smelly fish. I am burdened, a lot, by the combo. I'm jealous of people I know, people I've never seen, dead people from history. I'm envious of friends and family members, even people that I feel sorry for. The duo sit on my shoulder and whisper mean crappy things in my ear, mostly about how worthless I am. To make myself feel better, I like to watch one of my dogs stack all the dog pillows on top of each other and then lay on them so that the other dog can't use them. It turns out it's not just me after all.
It was a horrible day starting with a restless, sleep interrupted night as the pressure tank that connects to our well kept cycling off and on, off and on, keeping me awake, worrying. At 3:45am I got up, unplugged the pressure tank, then, finally, managed to get a few hours of sleep. The next morning I woke up, groggy and irritable. After my husband called the well people, we had an idea of what might be wrong and called our plumber, who never called back. Next, to the studio, where I was denied entry because the lock to the door, after a few days of hard rain, had frozen. Went in through another door, turned on my computer with my brand new monitor attached and got nothing from the new monitor(it's a dual monitor system). I caller Acer and they determined that it was my computer and not the monitor that was the problem, so I piled all in the car(two monitors and my Dell desk top) and headed for PC Experts where Vu, the owner, met me at the door of his completely torn apart store. Boxes and boxes of old hard drives, cables, dead computers, monitor screens, and desk top carcasses littered the floor. Vu was moving. The rent was too high. Amidst the mess and confusion(his workers in the background talking and smoking, "Can't get this f****ing thing up!)", Vu looked at my problem, and after an hour of digging around through all of his things determined that what I really needed was a new computer. I loaded everything back in the car and headed home, the beginnings of a hard driving headache starting up as rush hour traffic swirled around me.It was clear what I need to do: swing by my local thrift store(Savers)and shop. An hour later, with a new(used)pair of plaid leggings,and a new(used) teal green down vest, I was okay, back on the planet. Headache gone. Life would be okay.
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