Almost 20 years ago I cut a small photo out of the LA Times of a group of women awaiting the arrival of the caskets of men killed in war. I was struck by the range of deep emotion expressed on each individual woman’s face and body language, and by the perfect composition. A brilliantly captured moment of profound truth. The small photo has lived on my refrigerator door for a long time, slowly curling and turning yellow. I looked at it every day and thought about these women. A couple weeks ago I got a request to participate in a gallery show at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights. The concept for the show is The Culture of Communication—how people express, translate, misinterpret and see themselves as part of a larger community. OK, I thought. Time for me to interpret this photo. Decided to paint the women in oil pastels—their expressions are key and, for me, this means lots of layers. No time to do the grouping in oil paint. I thought of each woman as I worked to capture the sorrow, disbelief, anger, shock and resignation. I hope that, 20 years after the photo was taken, each woman has found peace. Here is “Waiting.” Oil pastels on canvas, 18×24.
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Nothings Ever Easy – Spring Cleaning
Why is it that nothing is ever easy—have four white Ikea bookcases in my office and decided it was time to go and get the extensions for the bookcases. Never thinking they would have changed, granted I don’t blame Ikea my bookcases are like 14 years old. This week went and got the extensions brought them home four of them, put one of them together. All excited cleaned off the top of the first bookcase and go to top it off only to find they don’t match. The new version of the bookcase is two inches wider, so now the dilemma return and no extensions (not the plan) or get new bookcases. So after a week of weighting all the options—decided it was time to refresh the office onto new bookcases. Design wise always loved when color is put on the inside of bookcases but I had found this fun wallpaper so now I’m going to wallpaper the inside of my bookcases. As always for me a little project becomes a big one. So starts my spring cleaning.
Most of the time, artists admire the sources of inspiration from a distance. Many are already dead. Lucky are we who have a chance to work, even briefly, with the master. Yesterday I was able to spend a couple of hours with the artist who has carried on a family tradition of celebrating the Day of the Dead in papier-mâché, Joel Linares. His calaveras, or skeleton tableaux, are world famous.
A few times a year, Joel trades his studio in Mexico City for one in Pasadena, hosted by Rocky Behr of the Folk Tree. Anyone can sign up for a class. Joel is generous with his time and his expertise. I was all thumbs in his presence, but did pick up a few nifty tips along the way (for example, wrapping wire with masking tape for really thin, strong appendages). Still, the paste is still just flour and water, and the paper is just newspaper and craft paper. It’s all in the doing. Check out La Sirena (the Mermaid) being born in the studio–a collaboration of Joel Linares and Sarah Davis over many, many sessions. All pure joy for the creators.
The event of the year is Tomatomania!–at least in this household. For the past month, Mark has been anxiously waiting for tomato planting season. (No matter that when we lived in Massachusetts that was after Memorial Day…not St. Patrick’s Day) The anticipation has been killing us. We’ve argued long and hard about which heirloom tomatoes we are going to plant in our small plot on the north side of the house. OK, I have taken over the rest of the yard so the decision is Mark’s. This is the one holdout and homage to his roots deep in Pennsylvania Dutch country. The first heirloom we ever planted was “Brandywine,” courtesy of the Amish. It’s a big ugly beefsteak that tastes great. Since we’ve moved to LA, we’ve chosen some just for the names…my favorite last year was the politically incorrect “Big Syrian”, which conjured up images of one of my relatives. An old standby is “Cherokee Chocolate”. A couple of years ago we planted a variety that was touted as the heirloom version of “Early Girl”. The last letter of the label was smudged so it looked like “Stupid”. All season, we picked tomatoes from what we called “Stupid Girl.” She might have been dumb, but she was a great producer. When we tried to pick her up again last year, we realized our mistake. She’s called “Stupice”. I think she’s Russian. We have the utmost respect for her.
Tomatomania will be in Encino this weekend and Descanso Gardens next. Click here for all the info. There’s a million good reasons to plant heirlooms; you can get the low-down on the website as well (curse you GMO manufacturers!)
For my birthday this past February a very good friend gave me a lovely big jar and a stack of paper tabs. Instructions: At the end of every day write the highlight of that day, drop the paper slip into the jar and, on my birthday next year, read through this diary of 365 things I was thankful for. I love this sort of daily practice…a reminder to give thanks for all the bounty in my life! I soon discovered that many days are full of exceptional moments, both positive and challenging (why did I think I was only going to record the happy, fun stuff?). And then there are days I have to search for just one happening. The practice has evolved into a short written stream of consciousness listing the events that break the baseline of each day. On my birthday in 2014 I’m going to read this haiku of the past 12 months and give thanks to my good friend for his beautiful life-changing gift.
…is just a piece of string. My husband, without a hint of sarcasm, asked, “Is it OK if I throw away this piece of string?” Baffled, I looked up from my coffee and saw him holding a piece of string that I had left on the kitchen counter after opening a bag of birdseed. When it dawned on me what the heck he was talking about, I was horrified at what a tyrant I had become. The poor guy was terrified to throw *anything* away for fear of reprisal. “How many dishes did I have to wash before I could use that Palmolive bottle to make a mermaid–or is it a seated cat? Now I’ll never know!” (Crazy woman shakes fist at garbage truck.)
All sorts of things that would, in a normal household, end up in the recycle bin are the raw materials for unborn art: Ajax bottles are angels, honey jars are owls, chopsticks are arms or legs, plastic forks and knives are claws and wings. Bleach bottles are elephant tables and pigs. Coke bottles are monkey tables. I even collected lint from the dryer to use instead of paper pulp (unsuccessfully). And then there’s the recipe I found on the web that uses egg cartons and glossy magazines. I am going to do it, one of these days, hopefully before the mountain of trash comes crashing down around our ears.
Here is the string, immortalized, before going into the trash.
This is my current embroidery pattern, Arrows three will be on one side and still need to set up the other three for the other side. This one is my fourth embroidery pattern later will show you my other three. Today I prepped my next one, for that one this is the second time I set it up. For the first one the fabric wasn’t working it was pulling the stitches so I stopped and went back to the linen type fabric, but had to dye it for the correct color. These are all going to be wallet type clutches ordered the metal clip frames. After I finish the next one will switch gears and construct the clutches.