April 25, 2005

Traveling again!

I�m off to Switzerland today! For an exhibition of my paintings at the Halde Galerie in Widen, near Zurich. The opening reception is Friday night. Then I will take a train (so I can see the countries I am traveling through) on Sunday to Amsterdam, check out the museums, galleries and such there and then fly home on May 5. Needless to say, I am very excited and eager to go. Just need to zip my bag up and turn of the computer.

I think the main reason I am so excited about this trip (besides my obvious love of travel and exploring!) is that I am going alone. Not that I haven�t traveled alone before: to Mexico for a month, to Santa Domingo for a week, and to other places. But this is different. The first time I went to Europe I was with two children. Tamar was eleven and Aaron was five. We were in London for two weeks and had a wonderful time, the three of us. We stayed in a B&B in Bloomsbury, near Sunny Googe Street. They were good travelers, enjoying the pigeons outside the National Gallery, watching the horse races on TV in the B&B, going to museums with me and generally, being in a new city. Then my husband-of-those-years came over for the rest of our six week trip. We took a boat-train to Paris, then rented a car and drove down through Chartres, Aix-en-Provence, the Riviera, Sienna, Florence to Rome. The last day in Rome, I said to my then-husband, �Let face it, our marriage is not good.� He asked what I wanted to do about it. (We had already had a round of marriage counseling.) I told him I thought we should split up when we got back to NYC. And we did. And I have never regretted that decision.

The last trip I took to Switzerland, two years ago also for an exhibit, I had a traveling companion with me whose very subtle, passive ways made him hard to be with. There is nothing like traveling with someone to know how you relate! This time I am going alone!

So. . .more later, probably in two weeks, maybe sooner!

Posted by leya at 06:18 AM | Comments (3)

April 24, 2005

Right on the mark!

The NSCAD University graduation ceremonies were this morning. The distinguished sculptor Claus Oldenburg received an honorary degree, along with his partner Coosje van Bruggen (who unfortunately couldn't make it to the ceremonies) and also Kasper Konig (who was present). When Oldenburg was speaking, he said that he had asked Coosje what he should say to the students. They were sitting on the beach in Santa Monica watching a bug slowly crawl to the ocean. She told him (and he spoke with a strong, expressive voice, arms gesticulating): �Tell them to throw your diplomas into the sea! Liberate yourselves! It is now up to you!�

Posted by leya at 08:15 PM

April 23, 2005

More tango

Ive been taking a tango workshop this weekend with Tomas Howlinan Argentinian from Montreal who has been here before to teach. Its been wonderful. There seems to be more and more people interested in learning the dance. About thirty people in the beginner level. Hes a great teacher. Uses a lot of cute, smutty jokes to help us understand the posture and get in the mood for this very sensuous dance with its elegant form. A dance of one person with four legs! He called it a conversation in music and movement.

The only problem was, I was wearing new shoes. Ouch! I should know better!

Posted by leya at 06:07 PM

April 21, 2005

Great pix!

My friend Heidi Hlubina has started a photoblog and has some amazing pix on it. Check in on some beautiful visions of Halifax!

Posted by leya at 09:38 AM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2005

Portrait on pebbles

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Posted by leya at 07:12 PM

April 18, 2005

Making a seat

The tree cleanup crew came this morning and my land is transformed. Most of the debris that has accumlated from our fierce winter winds is now cleared and chipped. A couple of the trees that needed clearing by the water were felled during Hurricane Juan. I arranged for them to be cleared before winter but the snows came early this year and this was the first time we could coordinate the cleanup. So now the �Lady in the Stump� (December 8, 2004 entry) has gone to a new home.

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But first she turned into a horse:


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and then became a seat on which to enjoy the summer that is coming to the lake:


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Posted by leya at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

April 14, 2005

Boys and girls and girls and boys

Yesterday, excited about there being only three more teaching days, I was chatting with the man who oversees the Service Centre at school. (I often get there long before class starts, leave home early to miss the traffic congestion, prefer to hang out at school than in a car!) I was telling him that my two classes this semester are so very different. It has been a good term, good students. But one class is very talkative, the other painfully quiet. The two classes balance each other out. With the group that is so quiet, hardly talks at all, Ive tried every trick I know to engage discussion and nothing has worked: breaking up into small groups, calling on them individually to choose another work to discuss, working together, etc. The other class is so verbal that I have to limit discussion time. They are a delight to teach, for sure. The Service Centre man, Dave, asked me the makeup of the class, how many males, how many females. So I counted up: more than the usual, maybe one to three in a class of twenty. (The makeup of the College is about three males to seven females.) Both these classes are half and half: half male, half female. And the quiet class is a much younger group, being Intro Figure. The other class, Intermediate Figure, has had more time to adjust to the give and take of art critiques. And maybe it is quite simply the group dynamics.

Dave said its the hormones keeping them from talking, not wanting to expose themselves to the enemy, the enemy being other males. An interesting theory. If so, the male competitive nature has backfired here, limiting the learning process because of their natural protectiveness toward their own vulnerability.

The differences between the sexes has always been a pet subject for me. My children have always been able to have close friends of the opposite sex. And their partners are their best friends. I always envied them, their ease with gender differences. It was not the way I was taught to see the opposite sex. But one that makes so much more sense. I do now have one very close male friend and also know some men I would call friends, men I can talk to, who can talk openly to me.

Liberating women from years of repression, prejudiced situations, and subservience has been a good thing in many ways. So now a woman does not have to be like a man to succeed. Maybe. Although that is still an idea that is percolating for women. But I feel it has been hard in other ways, especially on men. Too many women feel that men have to change, AND they have to change and be what women want them to be, more like women. So this can make some women very demanding, and rejecting, of men. Maybe all these qualities were there before and women are just more open about it, expressing it more openly. It certainly hasn't made it easier for either sex.

One bonus of an art school situation is that it is expected that men be sensitive and aware of feelings. But perhaps Dave is right, the male competitive drive is still strong and can be inhibiting when it comes to communicating feelings and perceptions about something as intimate as creativity.

Posted by leya at 09:08 AM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2005

The Goat

I went to see Edward Albee�s The Goat Friday night (his 2002 Tony Award winning play). I saw �Who�s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe� several times when I lived in NYC but I had never seen this one. The story was outrageous; the theme was the many ways of loving. In Edward�s words (from the program) �it�s about love, and loss, the limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are.� One of my favorite lines was �I didn�t fall in love. I rose into love.� But the situation was so bizarre that the words are provocative. Falling in love, rising into love, not merely having sex. . . with a goat? and not feeling remorse or guilt, Martin, an architect, a loving husband and father, just turning 50, bringing down the structure of his home. . .

The deftly juxtaposed comic aspects�the sarcasm, the complicated play with words, the semantic confusions�with the gravity of the situation kept me alert (and laughing) as many layers of the play unfolded. The comic elements were relentless even as this family�s carefully constructed life dramatically crumbles and falls apart in front of us on stage. When we were young, my sister used to ask: �Is it funny ha-ha or funny peculiar?� This was both at the same time, which made the play challenging.

No one walked out on the production. That speaks well for the Halifax audience.

Posted by leya at 08:28 PM

April 10, 2005

If winter were not so hard, would spring be so special?

The weather has been beautiful this weekend�warm and sunny. Real spring days. The reward for living through the cold winter. I spent this afternoon cleaning up my garden, getting ready for planting. The crocus are now in full bloom.

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Yesterday morning as the fog lifted it left some wet branches behind:

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Posted by leya at 06:20 PM | Comments (1)

April 09, 2005

Creativity grows on Indian rubber plants

Tuesday night I was teaching my group of older students. There is one person who is painting for the first time since he was in the sixth grade at Catholic School. (And not good memories from that experience! He is very brave to put himself in with a group of people who have been working at this for a while.) I had put out a big, healthy Indian rubber plant for them to paint. The plant has big leaves so it is easy to see their differences but there are many of them it is can also be confusing. My assignment: to paint with no drawing involved, using color to create the forms. To think about the space as a major component in creating the forms of the plant.

When we were looking at work towards the end of class (our usual ritual), he commented that this (painting) is hard. He sounded surprised. I asked the others if they found it hard. Everyone said yes, it is. Then why do IT? For those times when it all comes together, when that unique feeling, that great joy of creating something, the magic that comes at unexpected moments from unexpected places and lives on without you being there. All that discipline of �working at it� over and over. And then it is all just magic!

Posted by leya at 09:54 AM

April 04, 2005

Finally flowers!

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There was a break this afternoon in the seemingly endless rains we have been having lately and I went out into my garden to start spring cleaning there. Ive been looking every day for signs of crocus. And was rewarded today. The tender flowers are pushing up through the gravel that was tossed into my garden by the snow plow this winter. He was unusually enthusiastic this year and I am finding stones from my driveway at least six feet into my garden! Spring cleaning is definitely in order.

Posted by leya at 02:19 PM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2005

Looking (around the corner) for the fountain of youth

Last night I saw the movie Monkey Business. It�s an old one, (I love black and white movies!) with Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers and (that great beauty!) Marilyn Monroe. The storyline was about a very serious and brilliant scientist (Cary Grant) experimenting (at first) on monkeys (and then on himself and inadvertently on others) to find a formula to restore youthful energy. The antics that follow are funny, for sure, but also underline the ridiculous thoughts and behaviors that result from trying to be something other than what you are.

When I went into the Art Sales and Rental Gallelry at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to deliver a painting this week past, I was greeted by someone I�ve known for a long time. She had actually been a student of mine many years ago. Her first comment was �Leya, you look so much younger every time I see you!� And when I left, the same comment. I hear this a lot. Reminds me of Max Tivoli, who actually grew younger as he aged (in The Confessions of Max Tivoli). Maybe someday I will write an addendum to that book: What It Feels Like to Look Much Younger Than You Are! Max�s mother gave him one rule to cope with his condition: Always be what they think you are. Not good advice. Very confusing advice for him, especially when he had the emotions and desires of someone his actual chronological age. It is so hard just to be who you are without trying to fool everyone. But maybe that is what so many of us try to do anyway. And that is what made that book so endearing yet sad to read. The pretense and avoiding made it so that everyone was like magnets being rubbed together on the wrong sides: no real connect.

It is nice to look youthful and great to feel it, but most of all, I appreciate the experience age has brought to me. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the shock value of looking so much younger. When I got married at twenty-three, I looked twelve. The Justice of the Peace mistook my then pregnant (and older) sister for the bride. When I was pregnant with Tamar, later that year, I must have looked about sixteen. People stared at me with such pity in their eyes. In my early thirties, I was taken to be eighteen. Shortly after that, with the stress of divorce at thirty-five, I aged to look twenty-four for quite a few years.

Sometimes I get annoyed hearing �you look ten years younger each time I see you.� With the same person saying that it would make me be in the minus age group, not existing at all! When people ask me the secret of my youthful looks I usually say �Stress.� Actually it is a combination of heredity and attitude.

But does that mean there is something wrong with aging and showing it? I once took some (what I thought to be) beautiful photographs of my eighty-five year old step-mother. It was at the beach and the sharp summer sun enhanced not only the wrinkles on her face but the peacefulness of a full life. When I sent the photos to some family members, they found them unattractive, unflattering, too many wrinkles. Just goes to show!

Posted by leya at 06:34 PM | Comments (1)

April 01, 2005

Memories of foolishness

Today, April 1, always reminds me of my mother. She loved a good joke and every year without fail she would substitute salt for sugar in the sugar bowl and every year my father would fall for it and be furious with her. But she would just laugh and do it again the next year. (I know, I wrote about this last year, but it continues to amuse me, like it did her, every year.)

It reminds me of her also because the plants are just beginning to push up out of the ground. I see some tulip and maybe some daffodil and hyacinth leaves just barely visible. (I don't know yet what has happened to the crocus.) She loved her garden. I once wrote a circular poem, one that could be written in a circular form and read from any point. If my memory serves me, it went something like this:

my mother who was secretary to chrysanthemums and planted the hyacinths to bloom after the daffodils in her garden they were my mother who was secretary to chrysanthemums in her garden

Posted by leya at 08:42 AM | Comments (3)