Friday, February 25, 2011

memories of mexico

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.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Ahhhh... the last days of winter.

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.

Sylvia Plath


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..