September 29, 2004

From hearts on the street to bars without drink


So many people tell me that San Francisco is one of their favorite cities. I can see why now. When I was there last weekend, I was free on Friday to walk around, see the sights: Chinatown, the Italian section, browsed in City Lights Bookstore (bought a Sherman Alexie novel and a pin that says “Fuck Art, Let’s Dance”), walked on down to Fisherman's Wharf and took a ferry to Alcatraz.


That was a real treat, a spooky, eerie, interesting site, a photographer's paradise. The audio-guide quoted prisoners saying the hardest part was that they could see the world they were missing--the San Francisco life was real, visible but unavailable to them.


Originally Acatraz was very strict with the inmates but in the 60's the looser hippie culture affected the routines and the less violent prisoners were allowed radios and drawing materials. Still, the abandoned building reverberates of frustration and the cobwebs of lost lives.



Posted by leya at 02:29 PM

September 28, 2004

Some like it blue and some like it red but this one is yellow

At the reception last Thursday, the “big hit” painting was my yellow triptych, a 5’ x 7’ piece. The one that was over my piano. The one that when Linda asked me to send it to her last spring when we were planning this show, I told her it would break my heart to part with it then, that I would send it closer to the exhibit. It was good to see it again and good that other people responded to it, connected to it as I do.


I seem to get two questions about my work lately: what is the inspiration and what do the titles mean. My usual, short-form answer is that the painting is the inspiration and the titles are the hardest part of painting and necessary just as people need names. So from my point of view, you really don't have to know a lot about painting to appreciate it. Just be there with it.

At the opening I was asked why I titled that yellow painting “Some Like It Blue.” (See January 2 entry for full explanation.) It was because I thought of it as a turning point painting, a hot painting, passionate, one that means a lot to me, one that I am still learning from. So I thought of the song “Some Like it Hot,” and just substituted Blue because this is about color and this painting is not blue. That makes sense, eh!

And by the way, here are the red and blue permutations that apparently do not go with the San Francisco light, but I am sure they will find a home soon:



Posted by leya at 07:29 PM

September 27, 2004

Interesting: color form and space slowly revolving around light

Now for a few words about the opening reception for my exhibit at the Linda Fairchild Gallery: it was good! A few more words: the work looked exceptionally good in a beautiful clean space, with high ceilings, that soft San Francisco light, white walls, so different from the clutter of my studio. I always enjoy seeing the work in another environment than my own, especially out of my work space. And the response was very positive. Two paintings had sold before the opening (those delicious red dots!) and other people expressed interest. I met some very wonderful, friendly people. Interesting conversations.

Linda is having lots of small gatherings in this space to promote my work (and herself). It will be mainly a living space. Very beautiful, fancy, elegant, etc. A large loft space, perfect for exhibiting artwork. So her future exhibits will be at the other space and this one will be for entertaining. A more private space. I'm not unhappy about any of it. Just want more sales (so I can buy more paint)!

On the plane to SF the woman sitting next to me talked with great, tender love about the city, again about the soft, pastel light. Linda had talked to me before about it being a muted color city and encouraged me to “think light.” Seeing SF helped me understand Richard Diebenkorn’s later paintings. Those colors are not my usual palette: I‘ve always been more attracted to intense reds, blues, yellows, purples, intense color of any kind. So when one woman said she was more attracted to intense color and she could feel that intensity in my work, I was relieved that not all of SF was sold on soft color, and we had a long conversation about color and environment.

When I was studying painting at Yale, under Josef Albers, he said repeatedly that color is relative. You can have perfect pitch, hear a note and know what it is, but if someone says to describe fire engine red, ten people would give ten answers. So what seems to be happening in SF is the city defining the art.

In Nova Scotia people in the country paint their houses with colors left over from painting their boats: bright greens, reds, blues. Bursts of joy in the often grey fog encrusted landscape. The art in Nova Scotia is……..well, anything goes. And so goes it.

Posted by leya at 05:21 PM

September 26, 2004

Subject to changing change as change is the only thing that is constant

My exhibition in San Francisco is titled Subject to Change. And change it has, many times. First I was to exhibit with another person. Then she dropped out because she didn’t have enough inventory. (Nice for me!) Then the location changed. From Linda Fairchild’s usual gallery space (921 Front Street) to a new space (One Buxome Place), then back to the old space, then finally to the new space, which is where it is now. Because of the new space needing attention, the date was changed from September 9 to September 23 which is what happened. And here I am now in Los Angeles with Tamar, Dan, Damian and cats Dante and Cocoa.

And one further big change: Tamar, Damian and Dan were to come to San Francisco but at the last minute, due to Damian starting kindergarten and all the changes in his life due to that, they were not able to meet me there after all. So now I am at their house in Los Angeles, soaking up the warm sunshine of Los Angeles, storing it up to carry me through the cold Nova Scotia winter approaching, and enjoying being with them, if only for a short week.

More later. Now off to buy persimmons and Asian pears at the Farmer's Market, an LA Sunday ritual that is special for Tamar and me.

Posted by leya at 03:38 PM

September 21, 2004

Blue yonder

So I am off to San Francisco tomorrow morning for the opening of my exhibition at the Linda Fairchild Gallery, this Thursday, the 23rd. (Hope to see you there!) Tamar and Damian are joining me; Dan is coming on Friday. We will enjoy the city and then drive down to Los Angeles. I will stay and play in LA for a week. (I will be missing three classes but have them covered by very competent instructors and am really looking forward to this time away.)

I’m traveling with my trusty computer and will be connected via Tamar and Dan’s technologies so will probably be posting from LA (where I started this blog last Christmas, with Tamar’s help navigating the templates). I haven’t seen Tamar and her family for almost a year. Far too long. And I think I will be going to school with Damian, at least for a day. See what it’s like to be in kindergarten again! (Oh, have I mentioned that I was a nursery school (pre-school these days) dropout?) to pack!

Posted by leya at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

September 20, 2004

Dance, baby, dance!

When I started reading John Irving’s A Widow for One Year I wasn’t sure I would continue to the end. But it was overall an interesting story with offbeat characters. A long book that could have been edited down, about a young man (Eddie) who falls in love with a (much) older woman whose two sons have been killed in a car accident (when they were around his age, sixteen). And also about that woman’s daughter (Ruth) and her journeys after her mother abandons her to her father when she is four years old. It is a story about loss and love and loss and love. The heart of human life.

I enjoyed the conceit of foretelling the events of the storyline long before they happen chronologically. But the level of slapstick humor at the beginning of the novel did not work at all for me. I rarely relate easily to that kind of humor but in writing, at least here, it became more ridiculous than funny.

But I enjoyed the book, not only because the story was intriguing, the people quirky, but also because it didn’t keep my attention long enough to interfere with my sleep (as did Blessings, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier and Dry). So I suppose that is a good enough reason for me to like it.!

Until near the end. Then I found the novel absorbing and worth waiting for the final one hundred pages. There were two passages that warrant quoting:

Hannah (Ruth's friend) asks Eddie (now in his 50’s but still courting much older women) what he is thinking when he is with his “older women”, is he attracted to her as she is or is he really thinking of someone else when he is with her. His reply: “I try to see the whole woman. …..A whole life, I mean. I can picture her when she was much younger than I am—ageless. An old woman doesn’t always see herself as an old woman, and neither do I. I try to see her whole life in her. There’s something so moving about someone’s whole life.”


Harry (Ruth’s second husband) had always been attracted to people who contained a lot of anger. As a police officer, he’d found that uncontained anger was nothing but a menace to him. Whereas contained anger greatly appealed to him, and he believed that people who weren’t angry at all were basically unobservant.

So we (older women) are not trying to make up for lost time; we just don't know that we are older and want to open the valve after having observed so much!

Posted by leya at 05:49 PM

September 19, 2004

Hey 'round the corner

I went out dancing last night. My intention was to have dinner and listen to music with my friend Inge. It was lively music in a neighborhood pub, friendly people, loud, irresistible music. So—dancing.

Then I came home and logged onto a dating site just because (well why not when all those pheromones are still racing around) and read a profile written by a 64 year old man saying it disturbs him when he goes to a bar to see all the older women dancing. Are they trying to make up for what they didn’t have when they were younger, he asked. Well, geez no! They are no doubt enjoying the fact that the body is a great pleasure to have and use, especially when you are older.

Yet the only people on the dance floor were female. I saw only two men dancing, somewhat reluctantly. The women were having a grand time. It still surprises me. You would think that since men have all this Mars energy, the need to move, a physical restlessness, they would be the ones out on the dance floor. But they seem to have more self-consciousness about it all when it comes to social movements such as dancing. I mentioned all this to my friend Rita this morning and she said I should go to Greece; men dance there. Okay!

Posted by leya at 04:33 PM

September 18, 2004

Behind the door next door

Another instructor at school told me that yet another instructor lived in my neighborhood. So when I saw him at school last week I asked him about it. Yes, he has been living up the road for two years and I didn’t even know it. He and his wife bought the house next door to Yoko (my piano buddy). So I told him he really missed out, I live on the lake side of the road with a dock and boats and great swimming. The other instructor with him was laughing but I think I upset my neighbor. He said they moved out here to get away. (But he was interested in possibly car pooling, if our schedules can coordinate.)

Then I start thinking about what it means to “get away.” I’m not exactly an invasive neighbor. If anything I am alone far too much. I did not move out here to get away. I moved here because it is so beautiful, peaceful and I love the closeness to nature (bears, deer, slugs, ants included). I would like more people to visit, more people to experience the beauty here. I work alone by necessity. (It would be difficult to paint with an audience.) Most of my (social) life is in Halifax, a twenty-five minute drive (on good days, i.e., no snowstorm). Other people out here with children have a busy life with their neighbors.

In The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, Carrie asks her mother (who never remarried, much less dated, after her husband left) about loneliness: “Lonely is a funny thing,” (her mother) said slowly. “It’s almost like another person. After a while, it’ll keep you company if you’ll let it.” Loneliness can be palpable, almost solid. A sometimes interesting, sometimes irritating, unwanted friend. Everyone relates differently to loneliness. Keeping busy or pulling back, avoiding or not. Sometimes I just sit in my living room and “feel” lonely, get to know it better. It is often hard to move out of that lonely state of mind. To call someone, make plans, move into a social state. I find it easiest to have last minute events, unexpected visitors, unplanned dinner parties, all easier than setting up dates when things feel so fluid all the time.

I once asked a Buddhist teacher about loneliness. He asked me when I felt it worse, with other people or alone. He said when it feels more lonely with people it is self-indulgence. That’s a lot to think about. So maybe it is okay to be lonely when you are alone. It’s just part of being human, a social being.

Posted by leya at 02:42 PM

September 17, 2004

As if it was normal to expect chaos.

I think these hurricanes and tornadoes and terrorist attacks are getting to me. Last night I woke every two hours from the same dream: that the terrorists were about to attack the whole eastern coast of North America and we needed to get ready, stock up on water, food and find safe places to hide. It was very frightening, very visual. I kept seeing the events unfolding, the coastline of North America from Florida to Nova Scotia and more. And I awoke this morning exhausted from so much preparation work.

I really don't want any of this to be real, to happen. Please.

Posted by leya at 06:50 PM

September 15, 2004

A day that passes and is still here

No, I have not forgotten about September 11. It is just too painful to talk about it and too painful not to talk about it. It was a turning point. A marker. An upheaval of the worst kind. Other than on the radio (CBC of course), I hear little about it here in Nova Scotia. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I gave an alternate homework assignment to use it as inspiration for a drawing. Most students said they were tired of hearing about it and did another assignment. Only one felt the way I did and she was a “mature student” (i.e., over 25).

But September 11 is also the birthday of one of my closest, oldest friends, an old boyfriend (he’s not old, only 57 now), my first relationship after the end of my marriage. We are still good friends. I cannot imagine what it would be like to share a birthday with such a catastrophic event. Especially when his life has been and continues to be so difficult, being confined as he is to a wheelchair and slowly losing the use of his hands as well because of progressive MS. He is a very talented artist, a voracious reader (sends me books after he has read them), someone I still enjoy talking to, always perceptive, always slightly irritable. A tower that could crumble any minute. A very sad situation.

Posted by leya at 02:27 PM

September 12, 2004

If only every day was a summer day

It’s been getting really cool at night, great for sleeping, but heralding the end of summer far too soon. Today was sunny, a precious warm day, a day to savor, a memory to save for the long dark winter so close ahead.


Apparently Kiku (the dog) will ride in any boat that comes along, even little ones. The parents and the girls came for one last sweet swim. I tried out my new wetsuit and was so pleased. It really works! My season in the water is extended!

Posted by leya at 07:06 PM

September 11, 2004

Integrating integrity

I was asked (recently) if say, someone wanted a green painting, would I do a green one to please that person. Well, yes and no. That is a complicated question. I wouldn’t “do” and sell a painting that was just “done” to please someone else. I have to feel it works for myself as well. I do multiple panel paintings and each panel is intended to work alone and also within the context of the other panels. But I will sell them separately, sometimes. I have a (painting) habit to feed. Separating parts of some paintings works but there are some paintings that I refuse to sell as separate parts.

I sincerely believe that integrity is the main quality that is important for a good piece of art, be it visual, auditory or verbal. I also sincerely believe that it is ultimately possible to see or hear or read this quality. And today I came face to face with my need for integrity in my work. When Linda Fairchild was here this summer (June 30 entry) she suggested I stop using “x’s” in my paintings. I mulled it over and tried it out and found it very provocative, exciting, rewarding, etc. And difficult. I had to find something else to make the paintings work.

But……… I found myself putting some “x’s” back into some of the paintings and especially a very large painting that has been hanging in my living room (over my piano). This painting absolutely needed that big bold “X”. It screamed, it cried for it. And even though Linda thinks she has a buyer for it without the X, I put the mark back in today and feel much better. If no one else wants it, I can live with it, with keeping the painting, as long as it has the X in it.


(You know, the color comes out different on every screen, so I hope this doesn't look too dark on yours. It's not a dark painting at all. Sometimes I am surprised how a photo can change depending on whose computer is showing it.)

Posted by leya at 02:17 PM

September 10, 2004

School again and thoughts from that

School started yesterday not only for Damian but also for me. And it was anything but boring. The student lounge was a beehive of activity. One student said it felt like a “free lunch” day: crowded, noisy, busy. I had been quite nervous beforehand, not sure about the course I am teaching, Aqueous Media. I’m an oil painter. Sometimes I do use water media, but basically, oils are my true love. Nevertheless, the first day was good. A very full class and I encouraged them to try new approaches to using ink. At one point, I went around and spritzed their ink with water, just to see what would happen. It was effective!

One student told me he was new to Halifax, a transplant after five years in Vancouver, with a home base in Edmonton. So he has experienced cold winters and wet winters, and now he will have cold and wet winters. But he likes the pace of life here. That’s what everyone says first about the Maritimes—the pace of life. People are nice here and that counts for a lot. Driving home in rush hour (which was just a concept when I first moved here 20+ years ago) there is frequent stopping by one car or another to let other cars into the stream of traffic. Now that feels good, especially when you are in the car that needs to come into the flow.

But there is something left out when I hear people talk about the “laid back” energy here. It sounds like we are pleasant, easy going, not competitive or ambitious. Quite the contrary. People are usually pleasant here (if you ask where the band-aids are, for example, in a drug store, the salesperson will invariably get down from the ladder and take you to the section), yet that doesn’t exclude the ambition, creativity, intelligence that has room to blossom here. Some of the best, most interesting people I know choose to live here. Instead of the tensions coming from the outside pressures of a large metropolis and aggressive people packed too close together, it comes from within, an inner drive that can be just as intense but more intimate. An okay place for me right now.

Posted by leya at 02:50 PM

September 08, 2004

reading about Alexie

When Aaron & Jessica moved away, they left me with a nice pile of magazines. I especially enjoy the Utne Reader. They make great bath tub reading, something to keep me there (I am usually too restless and prefer a long shower). Last night I found an article on Sherman Alexie. I had read Ten Little Indians a while back (April 22 entry) and thought his writing exceptional, a good view into the Native Indian off the reservation assimilating into American culture, a process that many minority groups have experienced. (I know it first hand from my parents as Jewish immigrants.) In Alexie’s case his desire to proclaim (emphatically) what it is to be “Indian” from a reservation in America sets him apart from other writers.

What struck me about the article was the emphasis on Alexie’s desire to succeed. He might not have been the most talented writer in his university classes, but he had the most determination. “More dedication” his college writing professor, Alex Kuo, once said. Alexie knows there was a gap in writings about Native Indians and he is determined to fill it. And he has the “star” personality--witty, handsome, outgoing, charming.

Reading this article will certainly make me look at his writing differently. If the desire to succeed is more important than the urge to create, express, communicate, it would be a shaky hand holding the banner of greatness. I don’t think that is all there is to his urge to write. There is an underlying introspection, wisdom, vulnerability and wry humor as well. Real passion for what he is communicating. His goal is to reach Indian kids by being accessible with his “star” status, give them a hero who is like them, cut from the same mold. And he’s doing it.

Posted by leya at 03:43 PM

September 06, 2004

It was one of those perfect mornings

Earlier today--the air was crisp, the mist on the lake magical, sweetening the end of summer.


Posted by leya at 02:36 PM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2004

Busy with.........

When people ask me how I am these days (and these days it seems to be often), I find my self replying “busy.” Then, of course, they ask “busy with what. “ So then I have to think about why I feel so busy.

Well, for example: Wednesday the shipping company I use came to pick up five boxes of paintings I had, with the help of my friend Brian, packed up on Monday. Two boxes are now on their way to the Linda Fairchild Gallery in San Francisco and the other three are flying across the pond to the Halde Galerie in Switzerland. In the evening Yoko came over and we played duets and I was responsible for dinner.

Thursday I went to visit my friend Rowena who very generously showed me a lot of techniques and ideas she has learned studying watercolor and other water media. I’m going to be teaching a course entitled “Aqueous Media” this fall and need to learn everything I can before school starts next week. (Most of my technical skills are self-taught, I must admit, so this was a joy to have her show me new approaches.) Then, to top off the enjoyable morning, Rowena made a delicious lunch for us.

After lunch I went to visit another artist, a photographer, who had asked me to come over to see her work. She is new to the provence and interested in finding avenues for her (very good) artwork.

Friday morning some people came to look at my work. They were visiting from Toronto and had seen my work in the Studio Rally Map. (They bought two serigraph prints, a red and a blue.) Then, fortuitously overlapping the people who bought the prints, Susan Wakefield, who actually was the printer who helped me with the prints (she did the dirty work, inking and pulling the prints, and I had the fun, painting the artwork on the screens) came for lunch and to talk about Aqueous Media. She will teach the two classes I will miss when I go to San Francisco in a couple of weeks for the opening of my exhibit there.

In between, I am painting, doing Pilates, eating, reading, sleeping, swimming when possible (considering the weather, as usual), taking care of the photography, slides, emailing images, etc. And this is just a typical week. So I guess I have been busy. But I suppose it would be smarter just to answer “fine” and leave it at that. Easier all around, for everyone, and then I might not feel so busy. Maybe.

Posted by leya at 12:59 PM

September 01, 2004

Another piece of paradise

I went to Kingsburg (a small village on the south shore, near Lunenburg, very beautiful scenery) over the weekend to visit with friends (lots of people I know were there as well.....a surprise and fun). It was good to get away from my own piece of paradise, to another kind of paradise, one where I couldn’t do my own “things" (i.e., fuss in my studio), so I just read (The Time Traveler’s Wife, a wonderful book which was my host's and I read the whole 500 page book in three days!), ate, swam and enjoyed the company and the scenery:





Posted by leya at 04:47 PM