A couple of nights ago I dreamed I went into a small room, probably a bathroom, put a scarf on my head and some new glasses and then came out of the room to tell the people there (I don’t remember who) that “I am now a different person.” In truth, I picked up new glasses the next day, yesterday. My old ones broke a couple of weeks ago and were just patched up so I could wear them. I loved those glasses, thought they were the best yet, but I think my new ones are even better. At least for now. My broken ones are six years old and the prescription was wrong so all and all it is a good change. Yet before picking them up I was getting minor “Did I make the right choice?” thoughts. Glasses are a major article of clothing, a major presentation of body. It feels like a major body renovation. Granted I don’t wear them all the time, but still, they feel like part of me, an appendage, attached.
I was also supposed to have my paintings photographed Wednesday evening but because of (yet another) snowstorm and icy roads, it was postponed until Monday evening. That was a lucky change. I, of course, reworked most of the paintings I intend to have photographed. Being away for a week gave me a fresh view. I am impressed with the changes. Change in glasses, change in paintings: what else is going to change (the word of the times!)? As they say, the only thing you can count on is change. It's inevitable but it still involves choices.
Even though I enjoyed my trip to NY/NJ, and I did, every minute of it, it is so very nice to be home, looking out the window at yet another snowfall, at the lake in its many shades of grey right now, to be with Lila and to be back at work painting and teaching. Where else but in Canada would you hear on national radio a half hour program dedicated to pot-holes? And that favorite joke (also on the radio, CBC of course): “How do you make 20 Canadians get out of the pool? You say, 'Please get out of the pool.'” Of course.
Lila was a little angel while I was away. She enjoyed being with Sean and he enjoyed her. But I must say, the first evening home she decided to test me: You’ve been away; I’ll show you! Paws and mouth up on the counter, jumped onto the couch, tore up my shower cap. She realized quickly it didn’t work. So she relaxed. A few longs walks in the park and we are both happy to spend a quiet day watching the snow fall.
It was just as exciting seeing the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus Saturday as it was when I went with my children so many years ago. Tamar was surprised how excited I was to be at the circus. She thought I used to take them because you take children to the circus: that’s what you do. But I always went as much for my enjoyment as theirs. Damian enjoyed it too.
After the circus we went to Chinatown to meet my friends Leah and Pedro for Dim Sum. Then Tamar and family went back to their home and Leah and I went shopping for Tai Chi shoes (for me) and food for dinner (for us). I spent the evening with them. Some other friends also came for dinner, friends from the time I lived below Leah and Pedro’s loft on Spring Street. We stayed up late catching up and making new memories.
Yesterday Tamar and Dan hosted a brunch for the members of my family who live in the area. It was a warm fuzzy afternoon. We ate, talked, laughed, and Damian played the drums for us (a super-drummer!). The last time I had seen my relatives was at Marcella’s memorial service last August. I do enjoy my family get-togethers now that we are older. It’s nice to grow up.
Today, my last day here, Tamar and Dan gave me a choice: whatever I want to do. I feel I should want to go into the City, go to museums, be the artist. But . . . I need a quiet day. So . . . the sun is brilliant in the sky and we are going to go to a big park for a walk and enjoy the countryside. I’ll have plenty of excitement/activity when I go back to Nova Scotia.
Yesterday we went to the Bronx Zoo. We saw the birds, bears, monkeys, tigers, some deer and lots of people. The people weren’t in cages, nor were many of the animals. For the most part the animals were in spacious more-or-less-natural playgrounds. That was good. Not like the zoos I went to as a child. Everywhere we saw stories posted of conservation and devastation. Another very big change. It was painful to read.
When I was in Europe with my then five and eleven year old children, we went to zoos in London, Paris and Rome. It gave us a strong flavor of each city. The London Zoo was the first stop on our first day. The three of us took the Underground there and walked back through Hyde Park to our B&B. Everything was beautifully laid out in the zoo, lovely gardens, clean cages. In Paris there were cafes in the zoo, pleasant places to sit and sip. Rome was a bit more chaotic.
Times have changed. Environmental issues are being pushed to the forefront. A necessary, but difficult, change.
The thick soupy fog in which I landed here a couple of days ago has dissipated. The weather has turned sunny. We are going to the Bronx Zoo today. Yesterday we did the necessary trip to Whole Foods. It still surprises me, the differences in the prices on some items between here and Canada, or probably more specifically the Maritime Provinces. Sometimes as much as $20 more at home for the same product. So much for free trade. Borders seem very solid at times.
We also went to Damian’s Tai Kwan Do practice. It was fun to watch the young children kicking and running around, working up a sweat. It is so perfect for children. And so different from the Tai Chi I am now learning. I think Damian (and other children) might be very bored with Tai Chi. My teacher, Dr. Robin Wu, taught Tai Kwan Do to the military in China before he learned Tai Chi. He is often showing us the difference between the two. Where Tai Kwan Do focuses on force, Tai Chi is about relaxation. There is no force involved in the movements. Dr. Wu shows us how all the Tai Chi movements are used in fighting, still with no force. It’s fascinating. And not always easy to relax. I’m working on it.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. I went in to teach in the morning. Discovered the model had canceled. (Every other person seems to have a bad case of the flu.) Luckily we were able to get a substitute at the last minute, a favorite model for some students so there was no problem.
For one of the exercises, I put the model in the closet (I’ve done this with him before so he didn’t mind, didn’t take it personally). The students had to get up from their seats, go to the closet, remember what they saw, and go back to draw. It’s hard. I’ve done it in art school myself. My teacher used to put drawings by Inge at one end of the room with the model in an adjoining room and we had to draw the model (in the other room) in the style of Inge. I’m not great with visual memory drawing and so I was often the one who got up from my seat the most.
Yesterday one of the students had brought in a big container of popcorn she had made. She put it near the closet and the students could grab a handful on their way to and from looking at the model. Very entertaining!
At about 11:30 (class is from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm) I told them I was putting them on the honor system: they’ve paid their tuition and it is a rare privilege to have a live model to draw (and we almost didn’t have one yesterday) and I had a plane to catch at 3:15. They were fine about it so I headed home to pick up Lila and Sean (who is staying with her while I am visiting Tamar and family).
I made it to the airport with time to spare. But was told the planes were delayed because of bad weather in New Jersey. Low ceiling on the entire Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Once we were almost about to board when they told us all planes were stopped in Newark. Another hour’s wait. In total I waited four hours to get on the plane. It was a mildly bumpy ride but I’m here at Tamar’s. And after a good night’s sleep, feeling good.
Friday evening I went to a talk at St. Mary’s University by the Irish writer, Colm Toibin. It was titled The Reverse Side of the Picture: How to Make Fiction from Truth and below that title it said: An evening with Colm Toibin. He is, without a doubt, a most interesting person. An amazing face that looks to me like it is molded out of soft clay, very malleable. He talked a little about his reasons for the title, about looking behind the picture, how this makes fiction as it is not the picture we see/experience. He read from his new novel, still in process, and also a story he wrote about a priest’s indiscretions with young boys and it’s effect on the priest’s mother. A strong story.
Yet I walked away wanting more. I would have liked to hear more about Toibin’s life, how he feels about it, who he hangs out with, what he reads, even what he has for breakfast, if anything. But apparently that was left for a few select people. One of them being my Irish friend Sean (who will be staying here with Lila next week when I go to visit Tamar and family) who teaches Irish Studies at St. Mary’s. Sean told me he stayed up until the wee hours talking and drinking with Toibin. Irish conversation that he, Sean, misses here in Canada. I’m not sure what he means, not having been in Ireland, but Irish humor and view of life must definitely be unique. I am looking forward to asking Sean more about this.
I suppose it is similar to the New York flavor that I don’t find here often; it’s only in people who have lived a long time in New York. Something Tamar missed so much in Los Angeles. I don’t miss it myself, partly because I do get injections often enough for me when I visit, but also my life here is what I need right now. And I do travel a fair bit. It’s something to think about, for sure.
When I was in art school, my teacher told me not to look at other artists’ work, just to paint. Not to be influenced by others. Of course, it’s impossible not to want to see what other artists have done, are doing. I couldn’t follow his advice. Now I can see that what he meant was to trust myself.
For a long time, I listened to other people, was upset by what they said if it was critical of my work. When I was about twenty-six, a friend came down heavily on me for covering up old paintings, using them as a basis for the next one. I went under the covers for two weeks. Now I deliberately put down images I know I am going to cover up. That’s what I like to do. Make layers of possibilities resolve into one image.
Another time, back in the ‘60s, a friend came down heavily on me for using acrylics. I went under the covers again for a couple of weeks. A few years later, when I had gone back oils, he was using acrylics.
But now, after years of exposure to the critical eye of the public and friends, I trust myself. I know what I want a painting to do. I know how to get there most of the time. Still, there are times when a little helping eye is invaluable. I’ve been working on this twenty-five panel piece for a while, took some photos of it on the floor of my studio and sent it to the gallery owner who has someone possibly interested in it. The client saw it and said she didn’t like the dominance of blue in the piece. She had, apparently, seen a previous one I did that had some “ochres and rust” (probably alizarin crimson) in it and wanted one more like that. So it was back to the canvases. And, in this case, I am grateful to someone else’s opinion. The piece looks much better.
I went to the Coronation Street event Tuesday evening. The Halifax DownEast Streeters brought Steven Arnold who plays Ashley Peacock on “the Street” over to talk and answer questions to an audience of seven hundred people. (And by the way, about a third of the audience were men.)
Steven Arnold is much better looking in person than on the show. Apparently he is an avid boxer, works out. He’s also a very personable, intelligent, lively, playful young man (thirty-three and single—he had a lot of offers from the audience!) with a good sense of humor and propriety. Some of the questions the audience asked him were a bit off color, not appropriate, but he answered them with diplomacy, was very impressive. He refused to give any spoilers, but did so with humor. He also refused to say anything unpleasant about anyone on the show: the cast, the directors, the writers. It is obviously a very good place to work. The cast seem to genuinely like each other and to work well together.
One of the more intelligent questions to him was about the quality of the drama. It seems that over the past couple of years the level of disasters and crime has increased dramatically. The person asked if this was being done to attract a younger audience. He said yes, you have to go with the times. That says a lot about our culture, and not a happy lot.
Since last Tuesday when my car window was smashed, I’ve been pondering how close, how interconnected my car, my house, my body are. I wasn’t in the car; I wasn’t hurt. Nevertheless my body seized and I was physically in pain, just as if I was physically attacked.
After getting the window fixed, having some acupuncture and a couple of hours in my tai chi class and I’m feeling fine. But it’s been interesting.
I think it's almost done--the twenty-five twenty inch square paintings--to become one big piece. I laid it out on the floor again this morning: