When Linda Fairchild came out on Friday and suggested that I get rid of the x that I had been in almost every painting, it made sense. I worked on them over the weekend and everything looks so very good. Like a door opened up. In many places what needed to happen in the painting was a surprise to me. Without the x, the paintings are much stronger, more definite than with the x, the opposite of what I had expected.
Today she came to make the selection for the exhibit in September. She also had been thinking a lot about the x’s and had a very thoughtful comment. She said sometimes when something from the past has had its day, when you know it is time to let go, it becomes even more entrenched because it is hard to see that it has to go--and so hard to let go. Very interesting.
I have had a couple of very interesting days. Yesterday, Friday, my gallery owner from San Francisco, Linda of Linda Fairchild Contemporary Art, came for a studio visit. We are planning an exhibit September 9. (How I met her is an interesting story. Aaron was walking down Argyle Street in Halifax last summer and saw a friend out on a restaurant patio having drinks. He joined the group of people his friend was with and met the sister of his friend’s friend, who said she was looking for Nova Scotia artists to represent in her gallery in San Francisco. So Aaron said: “My mother’s an artist.” I can imagine what she thought: “Everyone’s mother is an artist.” I emailed her, she called me, I sent some work, I've been sending work, she's been marketing it, and the story continues.)
Linda was very enthusiastic about my new work when she saw it yesterday. But she also challenged me to lose the “x’s” that I have been putting in almost every piece. Now, I’m not attached to the “x’s”, I just get tired of circles and lines and need a mark, a color in a specific spot. And being obsessive (not compulsive), I sometimes get carried away with a mark. So this morning I worked into my new paintings, finding ways to either eliminate or sublimate the “x’s.” And I do see what she means. The “x” is a universal symbol that has deeper meaning than the painting needs. It stops rather than illuminates. The other symbols I use have mutated so that they don’t read only as themselves and I can see the “x” is finally doing the same because of the prod from Linda. Interesting.
After seeing Yoko’s photo of her young self, I found this picture of my second grade class at Ginter Park Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. I’m the third girl from the right in the front row, next to Amy Perkins on my right. At the end on the left is Twyla (we called her Trudy) Wily. I don’t remember any one else’s name except that a boy named Billy gave me my first kiss in kindergarten and also that I had a major crush on a boy named Dabny Stuart.
My parents were acutely aware of the racial and religious segregation and did not enjoy living in Richmond. I liked it there. It was warm and friendly. I had good friends that I still think about. (We moved back to Bethesda, Maryland after The War.) A sore spot is when my good friend Trudy showed me how to cheat on math, to write the answers lightly and then when there was a time-test, we could race through and win. Of course we were caught. And I’ve never thought of math as fun since. I wonder if she did/does.
I went back to visit Trudy Wily a couple of times, once when I was in the fifth grade, and once when I was probably about 15 or 16. I remember getting on a bus with Trudy and starting to go to the back to sit and she quickly caught me, saying we couldn’t sit in the back, that was for the “colored people.” (The term “black” had yet to surface.) Trudy also told me that it was good that I had left Richmond. I wouldn’t have had an easy time because I was Jewish. I wouldn’t have been accepted with the children who had been my friends. I’ll never know. That decision was made for me. And prejudice wasn’t quite so bad in Bethesda. I'm glad my children grew up in New York City.
Yoko showed me this photo the other day. She was four years old. The children in her kindergarten class were all dressed up for the Buddha’s birthday celebration. In Japan they have an interesting mixture of Shinto and Buddhist rites, depending on the occasion. Shinto for weddings and Buddhist funeral ceremonies. An intelligent eclectic mix, taking the best of what is offered.
Before class Monday morning, I mentioned to the few students who were hanging out early that the room smelled like someone had been smoking pot in the room during the night. One student said there is often cigarette smoke in a room beside the painting studio. When she asked about it, someone said it was just the instructor, Joe Boss, he always smokes (even though there is a no smoking policy in the school). And no one says a thing, they just let him smoke.
It is all in the attitude. It reminded me of an incident a few years ago when one partner in a marriage was having an affair and subsequently left his wife (and two young children) for the “other” woman. The wife was devastated and began publicly accusing him of indiscretions with his children. Her manner was accusatory and anxious, whining and insecure. His new partner was proud and supportive. So the one who was seen as the problem was the wife, not the woman whom he left her for, nor the man who could quite possibly have been disregarding important boundaries with his children.
The one who smokes (against the rules) walks around the school feeling his importance, acts his importance and so no one questions him. (Not even me. Our paths don’t cross and I don’t seek him out.) Too bad. But it is a good lesson for all of us.
My father wrapped packages with excellent finesse.
With perfection he kept all loose ends from fraying
Kept all feelings from freeing
Kept me wrapped in wonder
When would he see me
when would he
Now I wrap my precious memories
of being with you
so that I can take them out
in the middle of the
when you are not
The devil got in bed with me last night.
He jumped in three times in rapid succession.
I sat up and screamed and he went away.
He was tall and thin and wore brightly coloured dance tights
and his long-tailed jacket forked behind like dressy tucks
flapped in the air behind him as he dived in to get under the covers
and steal my place
when I was just beginning to be warm.
And later in the night as I wandered, afraid still of my bed,
my voice still sore from screaming at the devil,
I found myself descending in an elevator in a tall building and the
car was going much too fast and I was afraid it would crash
and so I put my fingers together in Buddha fashion
and willed it to slow down
and it did
and then I could rest.
(For young girls each and every one sing fearfully
in their sleep to their fathers, O, daddy please,
dance with me
and circle round my life
and warm my waist
for then will I perhaps
be free to dance with Anyman.)
It was indeed my father’s birthday once
when he was seventy-five and I was too
fearful to say the yes I am glad to know
you and yes thank you for being in my life
and including me in your
(but did you yet)
and thank you for never having really made love to me
in the flesh though we were both fire
and thank you
for waiting while I burned and for
not burying my charred body with your mind.
And now you are free from wanting me.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day and there have been several commentaries on the radio about the changing roles of childcare, the reconfiguring of balance in families, how it is more common for dads to stay home and take on the role of caregiver while mom goes out to make and bring home the bread.
Andrea Doucette was interviewed (CBC radio) for her book Do Men Mother? She (and others) admitted that social acceptance of this role reversal is still an issue. A lot of the men who are doing the main childcare role also work at home or part-time, like women have done for the past 20 years. What was most interesting was the comments on the style men use as compared to women: men promote independence more easily, encourage the child to be strong on his own, take more risks, are more physical in their play, are oriented to a more outdoors style. Of course, the men are still men, operating under the influence of male hormones, yet (and) quite capable of taking on the nurturing role.
In my childhood, the feeling was that children were to be “had,’” not played “with.” I don’t remember my parents ever playing with me, either one. It felt to me as if a child was more a possession. One to be carefully dusted and groomed. These days I often see both parents more involved in their children’s lives than in my childhood (although I am sure there must have been some playful parents back in that dark age of parenting).
What kind of a parent I have been is for my children to tell. (And I hope you ask them on a good day!) They basically had an absentee father. And for sure, I could have been a more playful parent (and lots of other “could have done’s”). Whatever lapses in attention I may have had in the past, the present is strong. They are wonderful people. (As in Japan, on May 5) we need a Hallmark style Children’s Day.
I never thought I would turn down a teaching job. But I just did. I was asked to teach an intensive Foundation Drawing I class: three and a half weeks of teaching every day during July and August (along with the Drawing II class, once a week, that I am already teaching all summer). It was hard to turn down (the money question) but I need to have a summer (if Mr. Weather will allow it).
Teaching year round is hard. The advantage of part-time is no committe work and time to do my own work. The disadvantage is obvious: no vacation pay, no sick leave, no dental plan, low salary. But if I taught any more than I do, I am sure I would hate it. And that wouldn’t help anyone!
The clouds were making fascinating patterns in the sky this morning, seducing me away from my studio.........
Think I'll get arrested for cloud p*rn*graphy?
Playing Satie (four-hands piano) with Yoko is an amazing experience. Satie must have understood intimacy. His music goes straight to the heart. And there are times when we cross hands and other places where I take a note from Yoko or she plays the one I have just left. Amazing.
I have unconditional love for my children. I do not have unconditional love for my students. I do love them when they work hard. They did work hard yesterday. So I felt good. (This is a required drawing course so sometimes it is an uphill battle, depending on the group.)
In order to have them think more about how to compose, I put out some "arbitrary" objects on the floor in no particular order (far enough apart not to be closely related visually): a (white) plaster foot with a (white) sock on it, a (white) plaster leg with a foot with a (white) sock on it, a fairly tall standing (clay) figure, a standing fan, a large stuffed chartreuse snake, some dried flowers. I asked them to make their own composition of the objects, rearranging on the paper as necessary to make it work compositionally. They were attentive and did some interesting work.
Then I asked them to do a drawing using their first composition as reference point, and draw as if they had moved 90 degrees in the direction of their choice. It was hard, but they enjoyed using some new brain cells. It was like working on a jigsaw puzzle, only using their own drawings. Fun.
A couple of nights ago I had a very disturbing dream. It still haunts me. I dreamed that I came home to discover that my house had been robbed. Everything was gone. I went down into my studio and discovered that they had even taken my paintings. I said to myself, “Now who would want them?” Then I went upstairs and saw that my sewing machine was still here.
I find it hard sometimes to interpret dreams and so I called my beautiful daughter Tamar for her help. She suggested the dream was about vulnerability. We decided that being robbed is a metaphor for not feeling like I deserve something. Right now, I am very busy getting ready for several big exhibits, one in San Francisco, one in Switzerland. I have so much at stake in my artwork: livelihood, joy, enrichment on every level. It hasn’t been an easy road to get to the point where my work can be exhibited and sold and it feels good to be here. And also scary. At least I still have my sewing machine to make a new dress for the exhibits!
I just had a funny phone call. A man from some resort down on the South Shore offered me and my “loved one” a very inexpensive two days and eight meals (as long as it was before the end of June). Would I be interested?
I told him it sounded lovely, but the problem is, I don’t know anyone right now I would like to spend the time with at his resort but if he could find me the man, I would be very interested.
He said he would keep an eye out for me, see what he could do. Cool!
The sun is still shining and the sky really is blue:
and they say we will have a few more days of this amazing (shocking/beautiful/unusual) weather (before it rains again).
Here is a photo of my mind these days. Too much to do, too little time:
Well, really, these are the equipment we use in my Pilates classes at The Interlude in Halifax. I love the machines, the toys. They make me feel powerful, sometimes, that is, when they don’t put up too much resistance.
Occasionally, my mind calms down a bit, a nice place to rest, but still a little work to do:
Just a couple of days ago it was too cold to believe. Wool sweaters, wool socks, hats, gloves. Yesterday, 32 degrees centigrade (90 degrees F.) in the shade! Yet today it is perfect, cool breezes, possibilities of sun later, not too cold, not too hot. Perhaps…………..
Cold, cold, cold. Rain, rain, rain. Gave up and wore extra extra and more extra warm clothes today.
Someone told me a joke at lunch, about people going to the pearly gates to be sorted between heaven and hell. St. Peter (or whoever does the job) was making three piles.
Knowing that one pile was for heaven and one was for hell, St. Pete (or whoever) was asked why the third pile. He replied:
“Oh, those are from Nova Scotia. Too wet to burn.”
Been out on the town the last few nights. Interesting. Usually I find it hard to leave my beautiful house and land and wonder why I am alone so much. But after a long cold winter and a spring that doesn’t really want to happen, I feel like seeing what is out there, out beyond my known territory.
Usually when I look at the Nova Scotia landscape I expect to see dinasours, not dancers. But Thursday evening I went to an opening of a former (mature, i.e., not just out of High School) student’s exhibition of photographs. She has taken young dancers and placed them in the exotic settings of the Nova Scotia coast. The photos are very beautiful: large format, clear color, technically stunning.
Friday evening Wayne Boucher and Kay Stanfield had a duo exhibit of their paintings at the Secord Gallery in Halifax. Really good show. And out to dinner afterwards with friends.
Saturday dinner with a friend and a dance concert. Verve Mwendo. The dance company of one of my Pilates instructors. Always a real pleasure to see dance (or hear live music) in a small theatre space, especially when it has the energy and finesse of this group.
Today this butterfly is happy to be home with Aaron & Jessica here for company. And the sun is shining high in the sky, three days in a row: such a blessing!
A photo of Jacinte Arstrong and Jenee Cowing from last night's performance:
A friend brought these over from her garden to brighten up my house on those (hopefully now gone) grey days.
I put this photo of the tulips on my desktop, just in case I need their cheerful faces again.
Another beautiful sunny day. Two days in a row, setting a record for this year! Imagine that!
Some friends were over for dinner a few nights ago and we started talking books. I was just finishing reading Anne Lamott’s Blue Shoe and described the story line to them (a woman’s journey post-divorce). The man friend (it was a couple) said that he would never read it, it’s "chick lit." Men don’t want to hear about emotions, he said. It’s offensive. They just want to move things. Act. Rarely talk to another man about feelings. According to him, all men are naturally competitive and want to read about events, history, things, not emotions. (But telling me this, he was, after all, talking about his emotions even though he will definitely not read this book. That's decided!)
Nevertheless, it is the protagonist’s problems with men (discovering what her relationship to these men means, her role in what happens) that is intriguing to me (but told definitely from a feminine perspective, that is, from the emotional aspects of the relationships with men): Mattie is having a hard time letting go of her husband (not him as a person but as a lover, a comfort), is discovering who her father really was (far different than the man she knew), developing friendships with a man, a lover, her brother (all separate people, by the way). She is also examining motherhood, her mother as she was, as she is, how her own life might have been different if her mother had been more like she is with her grandchildren, and wondering how she, Mattie, effects her daughter.
Lamott’s writing is very easy to read, straightforward, direct, deceptively simple. As the novel progressed, the underlying tensions surface and a depth that was not apparent through the first half of the book reveals itself. At times the ease with which the story flows feels like it is overlooking too much, that time moves too quickly, too much is left out. At the end I did not quite understand what Mattie really felt about the man she was “in love with,” how much she had really come to terms with all the men in her life and her relationships. But I did enjoy reading the book and was fascinated by the style of writing. It’s a good book.
Today was a perfect day for gardening. Warm and sunny. And a light breeze to keep the black flies at bay. After what seems like endless weeks of cold and rain, it is a welcome reprieve. I had forgotten what a blue sky looked like! Yesterday I gave up on thinking it was Spring and bundled up in wool sweaters. (I don't mind the cold if I am dressed right, but putting on long-johns again was just not an option, going too far, over the line! Although I did see people in down jackets in Halifax yesterday.) Now we hope to see another day like this before summer!
When Yoko comes over she takes beautiful pix of my flowers.
Yoko came over last night and we worked on the Satie (four hand piano) pieces we are learning, 3 Morceaux en Forme de Poire. Again we were often doubled up with laughter at our mistakes. We took turns making (the big, obvious) mistakes. The music is a language that transcends the fact that I don’t speak Japanese.
It is so fascinating to me that Satie’s harmonies are so unusual and yet playing a wrong note is so very wrong. It really taxes my attention, but when the playing goes well (i.e., right), it is so very beautiful.
I (really) can’t sing or play the guitar, but what a luxury, to spend an evening playing Satie.
A man I met briefly once told me what women’s expectations in a man are: he should be smart, funny, handsome, a fighter, good lover, good at sports, good dancer, and sing and play the guitar. This man was smart and rather good looking, and I found this funny, but I don’t know if he can sing and play the guitar. And what does he expect from women?