Thursday, March 15, 2007

Calendar Series: 51st Month / Beloved Ocean with Fearless Room in True Colors (1989)

Last night I dreamed that a small plane fell from the sky and crashed, nose down, into the bed of daisies my father had planted on the north side of the house where my family lived. A calm and unhurt letter carrier from the U.S. Post Office, holding his mail bag, stepped out of the plane and handed us our mail as we stood at the sliding glass door which opened onto our covered porch. We then helped him drag the undamaged airplane onto our porch and invited him into our house. I went outside on the porch to look at the plane. I realized that it was a handmade plane, built from plywood and painted a flat grey. I thought to myself, "Hey, I could build a plane like that."

Considering that I have felt discouraged recently about being out of work, the dream was oddly comforting.

Looking back at my art work has been unsettling lately, especially because I can see in these paintings a shift which led to my conclusion in 1994 that all my paintings were about "looking back," and that I didn't want to do that anymore, after which point I did less and less painting. I wasn't having positive new experiences, just feeling the weight of old experiences and increasingly distressing new experiences. The elation and creative energy that had begun building in 1980 with my return to college, and to drawing and writing, peaked in 1990 with the onset of the Gulf War in August of that year, along with some upsetting circumstances in my personal life and the lives of those I loved, and I began to experience symptoms of delayed post-traumatic stress disorder. I had thought that painting would help me and others transcend our difficulties, but I began to feel overwhelmed by the losses that life brings.

About today's painting:

I still love the ocean. It's been too long since I've been to the ocean. After seeing the film footage of the Christmas tsunami of 2004 and Katrina in 2005, though, I will never look at the ocean in the same way I once did. In this painting, I was recalling a sense of fearlessness that I no longer have. Still, I remember what Georgia O'Keeffe said:

"“I've been absolutely terrified every moment of my life -- and I've never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Now that's something to keep in mind.


Loren said...

Thank goodness this is not the way I see the ocean.

When I think of the ocean I think of Cannon Beach, art and walking between the huge rocks that shelter the coast.

In other words, I've managed to totally forget the winter I spent in Aberdeen and the constant, depressing downpour that greeted me there.

I must admit, though, that I don't spend too much time looking back. I'm just too busy trying to focus on the here and now, now that I'm freed from worrying about my future. At my age, i don't have one.

Loren said...

Maybe I'm mis-seeing the painting?

When I look at it i see what appears to be a person running and debris on the shore.

I somehow assumed they were the result of that massive wave that dominates the picture.

Is that not what was intended?

am said...

Thanks for looking closely at this painting, Loren. I am not sure what it is about anymore, except that I know I was trying to reconcile contradictory memories of having to run for my life from people I loved. In the case of a tsunami, much as I love the ocean, I would have to run from it.

I've come a long way since I painted these images. I wasn't thinking about tsunamis at that time. I thinking about how much I loved the ocean, how much I loved swimming in the ocean when there were huge waves. The ocean is the place where I felt deep happiness, despite being in the midst of the most troubled periods in my life.

I appreciate your thoughts about being freed from worrying about the future and the past when living fully in the present.