We were blessed to be given an opportunity to return to Mexico, thanks to good friends and a destination wedding in Sayulita. Their wedding happened to fall the day after my birthday (April 1st), so it truly was a weekend of celebration.
To be honest.... I was a little stressed leading up to the trip. It required a lot of planning, and for my parents to fly out to watch Sava... and I have been fully immersed in painting my May show. It seemed a crazy time to leave, and almost too soon to be returning to Mexico, as if I didn't deserve the trip (how could we ever deserve such luxury and abundance??)
What a silly person I can be.
Because this trip, again, saved me. On so many levels.
To start with: this five-day weekend was the first time I have been away from Sava for more than eight hours, since she was born. I was able to spend five days with my husband in which we never once had to have the conversation of who was going to make the breakfast or get the milk or make the bed or get her into the jammies. We could just BE together, and it felt like a honeymoon. It was so nice to get reacquainted with him without all the speech of obligation. I got to see him be silly. We got to be lazy and quiet. We had a couples massage in our room on my birthday. We got to party late into the night with friends every night and be irresponsibly hedonistic, and wake up on our own clock. Yum.
There were a few moments of missing her... mainly, when we would be lounging on the beach and there would be some cute little tyke running around on the sand and one of us would sigh, mournfully, and say, "Wouldn't Sava just LOVE to be here?". But that was the extent of it. Maybe, we were able to feel so free, because we knew she was in the loving care of my parents, and because every time I called home, she would hop onto the phone for a breathless moment (in between jumping into the pool, or sliding down slide, or getting ready to go bungee jumping at the mall) and say "HI MOMMY I HAVING SO MUCH FUN!!! BYE!" and then be gone. She didn't miss us at all.
I fell into somewhat of a trance, there. It was like time was suspended. I kept looking at the clock and it would not have moved much at all. I was waking up at 7am every morning with the sunrise and the pounding surf, and then floating through the day in a warm bubble of pleasure. Gradually wearing less and less clothes, my hair long and wild and tangled. Experiencing the quiet joy of seeing two friends (we introduced them: they were two of our closest friends, and they met and fell in love) get married, and their marriage was one of the most serene, drama-free, assured thing I have seen. Like, I think they spent three hours boogey-boarding on the morning of their wedding. I felt so proud and full.. almost like I was one of their parents giving them away to each other. Is that strange to say? I mean, you go through your life, and you do these things... you go to work, you make art, you make babies. You have an impact on the world... you help to give birth to the future. And I have to say that, helping these two beautiful people to meet and fall in love is one of the best things Jamba and I have ever done.
Oh yes, and then there was all that: COLOR. and BEAUTY. Tropical architecture. Surf and wind and clean sand and fishing boats filled with lacy shimmering nets of color. Fish tacos. Yep, my cup is full.
I just took a walk in the woods by my house with Nico, after dropping Sava off at daycare, and it is the first warm day since we have been back. A soft quiet formless walk through the woods- I caught my breath. I felt the same bubble of timeless pleasure that I had in Mexico. The morning sun casting through the scraggly, budding trees. First carpet of bright green groundcover. And all these throaty birds, invisibly clamouring in the trees above. Man, they were loud this morning! I was happy to have recently learned the call of the cardinal. (I had come upon one sitting high in the tree- caught him in the act of making his warm round stacatto call. It is like being shot with a machine gun loaded with caramel.) So this morning, amongst all the other birdly racket, all those invisible wings, I heard that distinctive call and could guess from the number of duets ricocheting back and forth above my head that there were at least five cardinals in the trees. It was such a voluptuous moment.
Okay, enough. I could talk for hours about birds and weather patterns, but I really have to go paint!
Ach. This winter is dragging on. And I have had a fever for five days. I haven't painted for five days. I am grumpy.
My husband departs for San Francisco tomorrow morning for a week-long work conference, and he is delivering a ridiculously overdue holiday package to my dear friend Rachel... and in wrapping it up, I found this letter that I wrote to her while in Mexico. I was reveling in the expansive quality of time, and enjoying the activity of writing letters by hand: that intimate and specific conversation which, (oddly enough in this time of blogging and multi-purposing) cannot be pirated for other uses or distributed en masse. And yet, because I am tired and grumpy and have nothing really to say, but could use a good cheering up, I will put this one letter down to posterity. Because I need to remember.
There is a deep silence in the middle of the day, here, when Sava is put down to sleep and the rest of us sink into our various attitudes of repose, which feels like such a tremendous silence partly in contrast to the morning's cacophany of adventure- always a voyage into the crowded street, the peals of bells and clanks of traffic and shopkeepers and the noise of all the bright colors bombasticating at you and the sheer delight of being alive to all the colors and smells and sounds, so that when we retreat into our silence it is like entering a dark cafe which is furnished delightfully with the shadows of the morning, so that it is not an empty or boring silence but a rich one with many thoughts to dig up and ideas to digest: in short, the perfect time to write. To sit in the stillness of my mind and think of you and reach out to you in this letter as if we were sitting across the table clasping hands.
So, my dear. The richness of this trip is a treasure to my winter and Virginia-starved senses. I am so happy that I am able to be fully present here: as in awe as if i was standing jaw-dropped in a grove of old-growth redwoods. I have been longing to arrive, to myself, for quite awhile, so that when we were one the shuttle here and Sava chirped happily and grammatically incorrectly "We're almost HERE!" and Jamba moved to correct her, I said "No, she is absolutely right. We are, almost, here."
Alright- so what is here? deeply cobblestoned streets, every facade a shifting pattern of rich color- cacophany of bird song- a wild surreal pink cathedral in the middle of a promeande-tastic square, which for three nights was absolutely crammed with wild party. Mornings of fresh-squeezed orange juice and cafe at a little patio table soaking up the sun while grandma and papa watch Sava back at the house. Sava starting to say "hola" and "gracias" and "buenos dias" because she is finally hearing the language all around her: it makes sense. A strange, utterly foreign feeling of being completely lazy and purpose-less, without the usual attending feelings of guilt. The opportunity to lie fallow and allow deep rest, out of which the deepest creativity usually wells up.
...there is a feeling that life is deeply lived here, by all. And it is opening us up, like flowers. Sava is daily giddy, ecstatic. Meeting little girls here and running around with them gleefully. Even Jamba, tentatively, opening himself up to the experience of joy (a muscle, he told me, which has to be exercised) so that today, wandering around a beautiful gallery, he stopped to play their guitar, and filled that space with a song.
Since returning from Mexico, I have been struggling with how slowly the icy claws of winter relinquish their grip on the land. How tenacious the cold gray sky.
I truly do enjoy some aspects of cabin fever : the simplicity of winnowing down one's activities to those that can be performed while sitting on the cushion in front of the fireplace. Meals? Check. Drawing with stamps and glitter? Check. Book reading? Check. My desktop computer sits lonely and abandoned in a frigid corner of the house, but Sava is a willing disciple of the hearth, and I am proud to have endeared my vibrant earthsign child to a proper amount of fire-worship. And my desk will get organized some warm spring day. I am sure of it.
There is a certain honing in.... and I am trying to reap the benefits of dormancy- for instance sinking down into the depths of my own psyche to harvest some images and thoughts for the paintings of my upcoming show. But I have to admit to a certain amount of depression, stagnation, lassitude. Uninspired by life in general. For instance, for lunch I just scrounged in the freezer for a veggie burger, found two pieces of bread, and threw them into the toaster. Squirted out some yellow mustard and spread it on the bread with my finger, because I can't bear to wash one more piece of silverware. And that was lunch.
I need to go on a cleanse. I need to stop drinking every day of the week. I'm ready to smell that warming loam and ready for some large movement, to get excited by things like cooking and baking bread or meeting people and having them over for dinner parties because you have the energy to be sparkling and then to clean up afterwards, let alone the energy to pack up all your belongings and move to a town in the middle of Mexico.
This show is something, though. Sturdily, quietly, inwardly good. Something to hold onto and to crawl out of the cave with. It was originally going to be called Americana, and was going to be an exploration of images from the lake that I spent all my childhood summers in. But it got a name change at the last moment, for the reason that Americana seemed so leading and restrictive a title. Because really, this show is about not so much about a national iconography as it is about personal imagery, and about sourcing from my own dreams and memories. So I sent out an email with a bunch of name ideas to some friends, and from that dialogue came up with a new title:
Casting the Lake.
I love it because it is at once elliptical and mysterious, as it is exactly descriptive. "Casting" having so many allusive but specific meanings.... casting shadows, casting a fishing line into the lake, casting spells, and also, casting characters: ie, populating this lake stage with a cast of personalities.
I am excited about this show because it is an opportunity for me to create a body of work with intention and foresight. Often my shows are scattered and diffused, a collection of powerful works but discordant elements, i.e thrown together from from whatever I had available to hang on the walls. But this show was commissioned, and I am working to create it as a cohesive unity. My process has been much more focused and organized. For instance, I am storyboarding them all out beforehand and doing bunches of preparatory sketches. (I know- "duh", right?) I have sat in the exhibition space and pre-visualized it as an entity on the walls. And trying to reign in my compulsory desire to paint in a multiplicity of styles as if I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Which in all honesty I might. Anyway, here are some images from works in progress.... and a beautiful poem by Sylvia Plath which describes exactly what I am trying to say, only with words and not paint.
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me.
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
my wonderful ad-hoc temporary winter studio quarters
(in a corner of the living room close to the fireplace)
these canvases are both 30 x 30 inches wide
yes, that is an Orca swimming in my lake
yes, I dream about orcas in my lake.
yes, there will be orcas in some of these paintings
and yes, I know the opportunity for cheesiness abounds
not sure if this one will belong in the show...
the style is wild and discordant with the other pieces. But it might fit in.
Obviously, still a work in progresss
From a photo of my mom playing in the sand with her two sisters..
To leave a coldlocked, committedly gray world, which is Virginia in the winter, and to land via airplane onto a land of sun and color, was an electric shock to my beauty-starved heart. This town, for the second time, seduced and entranced me, so that there was a feeling of coming home when I found myself once again trodding its cobbled streets.
Why not paint each and every surface a deep shade of color? Why not wrap buildings around cool private courtyards humming with bees and the shreaks of parrots? In this most lovely of towns, strange amalgamation of Mexico, America, Europe, I was enthralled by its juxtapositions. We would take Sava to the park in the morning- the most bedraggled playground (slides half-broken, dirt surface, decaying wooden structures lacking even the most rudimentary forms of bannisters, but wild happy and free kids clambering everywhere and rarely ever getting hurt, and which Sava loved with her all heart, so that she kept on having to stop to say "I, having, so much FUN!") and then we would leave the playground and walk up the street past a store selling perfectly extravagant Moroccan and Persian imports and then past the open courtyard of a gleaming new modern hotel with a huge statue of a head floating in an immersion fountain, past a man weaving his burro through the streets selling firewood, then another tiny storefront spilling hardware goods everywhere amidst a candy display and gleaming, cloroxed lineleoum floors and portraits of Guadalupe brimming the walls: we would reach the Jardin, which is in the center of town, and find throngs of people milling about sucking on bags of fruit juices or corncobs slathered with lime and pepper, and a mariachi band milling about under a tree waiting for someone to serenade. Coming out of a dimly lit, cool gallery interior where the artist paints like a modern Pisarro, I enter the bright sunlight of the street to hear a piercing, melodic whistle coming up the street. It is the knife-sharpening man, making his rounds and giving advance notice to his customers to bring their dull tools to the door.
It is this strange personal paradise for me: all these cultures mixed up in a bewildering confusion, some of the most delightful aspects of Europe and Mexico all mixed up together, but glued together by a shared convival commitment to living life in full color and sound.
For instance: the night we arrived was New Years Eve, and while the rest of the family trooped home early to recover from the cross-continental flight, my dad and I took off to explore the night's festivities. When we got to the Jardin, we found ourselves at the beginning of a light and sound show being projected onto the cathedral (which is in itself a glorious, pink sandstone neo-gothic Something of a church) and it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Here I was, in the middle of the dry dusty high desert plain of central Mexico, and there was this utterly strange light show depicting in abstract visual imagery the history of Mexican independence, musical accompaniment ranging from Beethoven to Rachmanioff to Irish pipes (the Irish were an intregal assistant to Mexican forces in their fight for independence) to Banda. Jaw-dropping, holy wonder, that I wasn't at the Venice Biennale but in this tiny Mexican town. Which was going off for New Years. Afterwards all the ambulances and police vehicles lined up to get blessed by the priest for the upcoming year. And then set off their sirens in bewildering (for we had no idea at the time what was going on) and synchronous cacophany.
It was an auspicious beginning to a two and a half week trip sensory adventure and art immersion (so many galleries and uncountable artists and craftspeople) and new friends and roof terrace parties of liberally flowing tequila with the lights of the city and the palm trees silhoutted dark against the blue night. Waking up every morning and picking up strawberry scones at the local cafe (the best scones any of us had ever had) to either eat there or chomp with coffee on our own terrace, and then to pound the streets until it was time for Sava's nap and our siesta time (time for me to steal some moments to paint on the roof) before getting up to do it all over again.
And now I am back and it is freezing and gray again, but I am grateful for my soft comfortable bed and gym membership and a fireplace to warm against the stark world outside, and I have a stack of paintings to paint and I am still carrying the embers of the trip inside me. But I want more. I want back there.
Sava, Maddison (our new roommate) and I had so much fun yesterday making bird seed pinecones!
We rolled the pinecones in peanut butter and bird seeds and hung them from the trees in the backyard. Sava had fun yelling "come out, come out wherever you are!" to the birdies..... Of course I took a video..
It is so cold out there!
Sava made sure to hang a couple down low for the poor flightless ones.....
My painting process is an intuitive dialogue with the composition as it develops on the canvas, with most pieces undergoing multiple permutations before acquiring a final form. Objects emerge, are scratched out and painted over, or are left as fragments and glimpses. The painting becomes a palimpsest with veiled skins obscured below the surface and is successful when it manifests as a tangible object, fleshy and fetishistic.
This current work is an exploration of the four modalities of the human experience: Body, Mind, Heart and Soul. To me, each of these rather diverse pieces reflects a different energy or state of being. One is a staccato of electric emotion, one evokes the weighty heft of a chunk of cliff-face, and still another pulses with an otherworldly dimension, like a message from the spirit world.
The Antiquarian's Strata (2010) 55.25 x 65.5 inches
Slow Lip of Fire (2010) 36 x 36 inches
Drifting Scribble of Shadows (2007) 48 x 61 inches
The Happiness That Lives in Your Chest (2010) 36 x 36 inches
Welcome! I am a painter, art teacher, designer and writer currently living in Boulder, Colorado. I hope to use this site as a compendium of all my creative endeavors, as well as musings on the life of a mama struggling to discover the art in all of it.