November 27, 2004

My self-portrait; perfecting imperfection

They’ve painted the walls again at school. The washroom looks different, for sure. Right away one student (I assume it was a student, not faculty or administration) wrote “I miss the free reading material.” That too was painted over quickly. But some of the previous writing still shows through the new paint and another student wrote: “The pen is mightier than the paint.” I wonder.

The quote beside the mirror at the Art College—“Watch out for the two way mirror”—reminded me so much of my pre-teen years, when I had a serious crush on a young man and almost convinced myself that he could see me when I looked in the mirror in my bedroom. So I studiously avoided looking in the mirror. And still don’t much.

But my figure drawing students have challenged me to do a self portrait. This because I told them my self-portrait stories. The one I mentioned on March 31 was a turning point in my life. Not because of the portrait but because of the paint. I discovered a love of painting. Another experience I had with drawing a portrait that was revealing to me was when I was about fifteen. There were a pair of girls, very pretty twins in our school. One of them was in my art class. As I was a very jealous little teenager, I decided I would draw her and show all her imperfections and thereby let everyone know she was not really so attractive. So I set to this task, focusing on what was not so beautiful about her. And in the end, my drawing looked exactly like her. AND, she was beautiful in my drawing. So I learned the reality of perfection, that it is not perfect.

I also saw an article in Newsweek or Time magazine a few years ago that showed photographs of famous people, like Elizabeth Taylor, Ted Kennedy and so forth. In these photos one side of the face had been duplicated onto the other, so that both sides were the same. And surprisingly it was hard to recognize the (famous) faces and also they were no longer as attractive. So once again, imperfection rules.

Nevertheless, I’ve been, finally, drawing my self portrait and it is not so painful as I expected. It’s coming together and I just might like it. I definitely like doing it.

Posted by leya at 04:07 PM

November 26, 2004

Sometimes things happen

Well, it’s a done deal. Today I am a year older than I was yesterday. But yesterday was soooooooo much fun! My Aqueous Media Class gave me a party. What a surprise! After class last week, I was chatting with one of my students and happened in the course of my conversation to say that I had a birthday coming up. And as she has a big heart, she brought in the most extravagantly decorated cake, gingerbread ladies with gum drop breasts and licorice curls, moons and stars on top and blower/noise makers and confetti all around.

As it happened, the model didn’t show up, so after looking at homework we indulged in the cake and then the discipline fell apart. The students wanted to party (why not) so we took a vote, all those in favor of staying in class and working (none) and then all those in favor of going to the Split Crow Pub (all). I made them promise they would draw while they drank. And they did. They did some exquisite corps drawing (one person starting a drawing, folding the paper, passing it along, until it is finally a complete composite piece) and some individual drawings. The waitress was amused. I couldn’t say thank you enough times to express how good it all felt.

And we had some wonderful conversations about, among other things, painting, color, being an artist and the need to be open and such.

Can the real birth day top that!

Posted by leya at 10:16 AM | Comments (3)

November 25, 2004

Up in the air junior birdman, up in the air, upside down


With the holidays approaching and people traveling, Tom Allen was just commenting (on the radio) that 24% of people hope that they will make a romantic connection when they board an airplane, will sit next to the love of their life for that average of a two hour flight, and a more realistic 14% hope to make a business association.

Wow! How’s that for fantasy in the air!

Posted by leya at 08:26 AM

November 24, 2004

The piano lesson

Today Yoko and I did really well when we were playing Satie, enough to give ourselves a big congratulatory smile. But when we played the Grieg, which we had known well just a while ago, it was not so good with mistakes tumbling over each other and our smiles turned to laughter while playing.

Then I told Yoko that yesterday I showed some slides in my figure drawing class (and then projected some onto the model to create interesting compositional elements). One of the slides was Matisse’s Piano Lesson. I told the students it had been a favorite painting of mine early on. It reminded me of the days in my youth when I was practicing the piano, feeling trapped behind the keyboard, with a parent in the next room saying (because I used to like to improvise) (and I repeated to the class in a very funky nasal reprimanding voice): “If you can’t play it right, don’t play it at all!” And one of my students said “I have a good doctor if you need one.”

Well, I still play and not always right. So that’s right!

Posted by leya at 04:36 PM

November 22, 2004

It's all oh so relative

After looking in several bookstores in California, I finally found here (and read) a copy of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s A Theory of Relativity that Rachel recommended a while back. It’s a story with so many changes resulting and continuing on from one catastrophic event, the accidental death of his sister Georgia and her husband Ray, that the title becomes evident, especially in the words of the main character, Gordon.

A high school science teacher, he tells his students:

“The science of genetics is like the theory of relativity in that there are so many detours and apparent contradictions that it’s difficult even for biologists… get their minds around it. ……….Even George Mendel, who was the father of what remains the basis of all genetics, ……….gave up in despair when what worked with yellow peas didn’t work with other plants which he tried the same method of hybridizing. He quit and became an administrator.”

In a previous conversation Gordon had with his now deceased brother-in-law Ray, the theory of relativity is further elaborated:

“Nothing,” Ray told Gordon, “was truly objectively measurable, because all things were made of particles and all particles were in a constant state of change……..Even this conversation is only real while we’re having it, and you’re having a different conversation from the one I’m having because you’re confused about relativity and I’m not; but you will remember it more clearly because you’re sober and I’m shitfaced……..And if you wrote it down it would be a third conversation, and if somebody read it, it would be a fourth conversation.”

“Even if I understand the words you’re saying, I don’t understand what they mean,” Gordon said. “And so this is a fifth conversation, a conversation that isn’t really a conversation because only one of us is having it.”

The body of the story centers around the body of the child, eighteen month old Keefer. At times it seems almost like the custody battle has nothing to do with the child until someone can quit talking and begin to understand the importance of the conversation that is labeled “the child.” It’s a good, thoughtful book.

Posted by leya at 06:09 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2004


At a dinner party last night (and by the way, the meal was fantastic, delicious broiled salmon and other goodies) I was asked if I ever do work on paper. (The person asking had actually purchased a piece of mine on paper that was a donation to a charity auction, a situation which all artists are called upon and consider somewhat painful after too many requests but now I do very small pieces just for that situation.) I think the question might have referred more specifically to drawing but I answered it more in the context of painting.

I do paint on paper, but less and less often now. In my beginning painting days, paper was less frightening, not as much of an investment, financially or otherwise. Now I find it more tedious, not as exciting as working on canvas. And when I exhibit my work I rarely show the paper pieces any more. Because when I do, people don’t look at the work on canvas as much. The work on paper is easier, more accessible. Perhaps this is a factor of the difference between paper and canvas: the paper just lies there and receives whereas the canvas, being taut on stretcher bars, talks back. Has bounce, gives as much as it takes.

I enjoy the conversation I have with the canvas, sometimes gentle, often sassy, usually demanding, never letting me forget its needs. And the goal of this is a continuing conversation with the viewer. I think the questioner, being an excellent graphic artist recently bit by the love of paint, understood, had the same experience in his explorations with the medium of painting.

Posted by leya at 05:12 PM

November 20, 2004



Just as the storm was starting last Saturday, I was in Halifax (and Friday evening) for a Tango workshop. Tango fascinates me, has for quite a while. It's a very beautiful community dance and Margaret Spore is developing a Tango community here. (The photo is taken from her site.) She had a visiting teacher, an Argentinian from Montreal, here for the weekend. The dance is amazing. Very precise, yet total improvisation.

The first thing we learned was how to communicate with our partner. By leaning into him/her, literally. Creating a magnetic field so that we could sense what was going to happen. Talking with our bodies in a very direct way. We changed partners frequently and as always, there were many more female than male dancers so I was changing from follower to leader and back to follower and found I enjoyed both places. (Usually I have preferred following, liked being pushed around, so to speak, but that seems to have changed.)

I had taken some classes with Margaret eight years ago and thought I had forgotten everything. But the sensation of the dance, the feeling, the flow of it, came back eventually. At one point, one of the women said something to the effect of confidence being the key. Without that it is hard to relate to the other person, to let them know what to do.

Because of the storm, I had to leave before seeing some videos of the dance and hearing more about the history but hope to continue dancing.

Posted by leya at 12:18 PM

November 19, 2004

The long search for power


Last Friday I put new snow tires on my car. And of course Saturday afternoon it snowed. And not the light gentle snow turning to rain they predicted. It was fierce wet icy snow. Driving home that afternoon from Halifax was not fun. Cars skidding. A few accidents. Very scary.

After a few winters here and some bad skids I opted for 4-wheel drive and am very glad I did, living out from town and on back roads as I do. Once, driving home from the airport after ten days in Florida in February (enjoying swimming in the ocean and shorts and sleeveless tops), the roads around here were so bad, so icy I had to drive in first gear/four-wheel drive just to get home. Any time I put the car in second gear that night, I slid. Last Saturday was not quite that bad. But almost. The first snowstorm of the year always feels like a surprise. No one is ever prepared.

But the aftermath of this one was far worse. Around 6:30 pm the power went out. And it stayed away (for me) for five days. Fortunately my house is fairly new and is well insulated. But after a couple of days the damp cold began to wear away any patience I might have had with the situation. Sunday and Monday I sat on my living room couch and sorted photographs into archival sleeves, reorganizing my life in these albums. Something I wouldn't have done if my usual routines hadn't been put on hold.

At noon on Monday my friend Brian came by with a camp stove and warmed up some canned soup I had and made me some hot water. A meal in a fancy five star restaurant could not have tasted so good. The first hot meal in two days! I have a windup radio which was a blessing. I knew what was happening outside my little retreat. But camping out in my own home was exhausting and cold. Reading by candlelight hard. So I moved into my extremely generous friend Inge’s house in Halifax where I felt very warm and welcome. That was a precious gift.

After Hurricane Juan last October I was without power for six days. Even though I had to go down to the lake for water (and sadly pass by the beautiful old white pines that were felled), it was not as unsettling as this time when it was so cold and felt so disorienting and there was so much talk about the failure of the power company to maintain their equipment. I came back to my house on Wednesday to pick up a few things and lost it, just forgot most of what I came for and left. The house looked like an abandoned ship lost at sea. I found myself welling up with tears over the week and wondered often about people who are forced to leave their homes forever because of wars or natural disasters.

I came home last night and am busy cleaning up and living here again. Life in my home is no longer on hold. Obviously it is time to invest in a generator! Have my own source of power no matter what the winds of weather bring.

Posted by leya at 10:49 AM | Comments (3)

November 16, 2004

lights out

My mom wanted me to post here in her stead since right now she can't. A blizzard took out the power in her neighborhood and they may not get it back until the end of the week. When I spoke with her yesterday, she was worried about the food in her freezer going bad, about what to eat for dinner with no way to cook it, and about how cold it would get in the house with no way to heat it. Fortunately, this morning she took off for town, where she'll be staying with an electricity-intact friend till the lights go on again in her lakeside home.

Posted by Tamar at 01:25 AM

November 12, 2004

The last few mornings

There has been a lineup of the crescent moon, Mars and Venus, visible in the early morning and I was lucky enough to catch a picture of it.


Posted by leya at 09:13 AM

November 11, 2004

Stacking up chutney for the winter

I made another batch of chutney, this time using cranberries, apples and pears.


So, here, finally (I did say I would), is the zucchini chutney recipe Jeanne asked for about a month ago. (Bear in mind that I improvise and am not precise in measuring when cooking.)


Zucchini (enough to make 6 cups when cubed)
Maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
2 tart apples
2 grapefruit, cut up into small pieces
1 1/2 cups raisins or dates
1 lemon, sliced thin and quartered
1 1/2 tsp wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Ginger, cut up into small pieces
White mustard seeds
1 t. Salt
fresh ground pepper

Place 1/2 pint (1 cup) canning jars into canner. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Let boil at least 10 minutes to sterilize jars.

Place all ingredients into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Simmer until thick, about 30 minutes.

Prepare lids. (Check package for directions)

Ladle chutney into hot canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims to remove any spillage. Put lid and screw band on (fingertip tight), and place in boiling water canner.

Be sure all jars are covered with water. Return to a boil and process 10 minutes. Remove jars and let sit overnight.

Check seals. Sealed lids will be curved down. Store in a cool dark place.

The changes I made this time: I added some other spices--cumin, coriander, tumeric (I think) and used a little umeboshi plum vinegar (which gives a salty tange) instead of wine vinegar and added a lot of ginger.

Posted by leya at 12:43 PM | Comments (1)

November 09, 2004

Drawing from the well on the mountain

My friend Brian came over with an interesting snippet from an article. He doesn’t remember where he got it but it reads:

To “draw" from other artists does not mean merely to imitate. To “draw” implies everything the word stands for: to pull or to drag or to draw forth, as from the earth, a vein, or a well…………… When a figurative artist such as Balthus goes into the museum to draw from the past, he certainly is aware of the present. He embrace the tradition of painting so that he can make it uniquely his own. And in doing so, he pumps new blood into the vein, fresh water into the well; for other painters, he becomes seed, fruit, root, and soil.

My young (thirteen years) student asked for an assignment for work while she is away on a three week trip. Considering that she needs to understand drawing fundamentals before she can invent with impunity, I suggested copying drawings by such artists as Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Durer. Line for line, copy the quality of line, copy to understand the necessity of their particular lines.

It’s not an easy task. Tamar once asked me to paint a dragon on the back of a leather jacket for her. As skilled as I think I am in drawing, I didn’t, couldn’t, copy the original drawing exactly. I put my own stamp onto the proportions, my own hand into the personality of the dragon.

That was a frustrating experience. Even though my dragon was still a dragon, I learned how important coordination of observation and mark can be. It seems drawing, which is so immediate an experience, so demanding of acute attention to the art itself, is essentially a process of getting out of your own way.

Posted by leya at 05:35 AM

November 08, 2004

If only.................

Yesterday a friend said to me the Republicans have it right, putting colorful, dramatically trained men as figureheads, letting the boat be steered by the advisors. Reagan, Swartznegger, not bad people, but their strong suit is in their personalities, a personality cult.

Kerry’s face is too long. Perhaps a little plastic surgery would have won him more voters.

Posted by leya at 09:05 AM | Comments (1)

November 07, 2004

It was another one of those beautiful autumn mornings


and I went running outside with my camera in my slippers and robe because I know how quickly the light changes.

Posted by leya at 01:12 PM | Comments (2)

November 04, 2004

A laugh through the Heart

The movie Yoko and I hid at on Halloween was I Heart Huckabees. I did enjoy the film, the flip-flop between eternalism and nihilism, the perfect casting, the quirky jokes and the buffoonery about life altering questions. It is a romp through the theme: “How do I not know myself.” In the movie, the character Albert (Jason Schwartzman), head of the Open Spaces Coalition, goes to a pair of Existential Detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help him understand the meaning of a series of coincidences in his life. In the process of examining his life, his relationships and especially his relationship to his apparent adversary in his fight to save the open spaces, Brad Stand (Jude Law), a rising executive in the Huckabees Corporation, Albert makes, breaks and remakes connections that lead him (and the rest of the characters) around a philosophical map.

All of the people in the movie are fully one-dimensional, flat, very much just what they are, with introspection the theme of their dialogue. A fascinating, engaging experience. I’ve heard complaints that the movie ending is weak, unresolved, but with questions like these, what is resolution? When do these questions stop, what answers are there? The only answer seems to be to know ourselves better and act with more humanity.

After the movie we went to dinner and when that was over too early we went to the drug store and when it was still too early to go home we went to the video store. When we finally did drive down our road there were two large vans stuffed with children in costume so we returned to our homes without turning on the lights in order to remain incognito! It worked. It was a happy All Hallows Eve. Welcome November..............

Posted by leya at 07:22 AM

November 03, 2004

archy speaks again

It was a pretty sad morning listening to the news today. But as archy (the wise little cockroach of archy and mehitabel) would say:

insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat

But let's hope it is not eat or be eaten!

Posted by leya at 04:08 PM