Monday, April 30, 2007

Liviu Librescu

See via negativa

Helpi'mlost (2002)

Helpi'mlost did not turn out as I had hoped, but I saved it because sometimes feeling "lost" is exactly what happens as I am painting. With this painting, I admitted I was lost and let that be okay. It might be a prayer. Not the end of the world. It seems to be related to a recurring dream that I am walking alone toward home as the sun is setting, but then I realize that home is not a place I am going to reach before dark. This painting shows what "not home" looks like. The colors are unsettling to me. Maybe this is someone else's home, but I don't feel comfortable there. In the recurring dream, I keep walking anyway in the fading light with my vision of home.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

San Mateo County Coast Painted from Memory (2002)

The shape of the shoreline, vast ocean and sky is something else. There is an unnamable emotion that goes with it that, for me, is made of tears and laughter.

Last night I was painting until about midnight, working on something that was seeming to be a failed effort and which I had been working on for several days. Suddenly, I knew what to do, and the painting came to life.

The previous night I had been warping the inkle loom, only to discover after it was warped that I had made a mistake. The sinking feeling was awful, and I was too tired to remedy the mistake. Instead of trying to fix the mistake, I went to my painting table. Much later, I went to sleep feeling discouraged, with a feeling of failure in both weaving and painting.

Then, last night, I undid part of the warp and rewarped the loom. After weaving a few inches, I could see that there still was something wrong with the warping, but not wrong enough -- maybe even interesting, maybe a good lesson in letting go of expectations.

In the last few days, while I have been painting, I have been listening to an unabridged version of CHRONICLES VOLUME ONE, by Bob Dylan read by Nick Landrum, published in 2005, a version I picked up at the public library. I read the book when it was published in 2004 and have listened to the abridged version from 2004 read by Sean Penn.

Many, if not all, of my earlier paintings and drawings were done while listening to music, frequently Bob Dylan's music. Some time ago, I made a conscious decision to paint without listening to music. Recently, I've been listening to "spoken word" CDs and tapes. Painting while listening to someone speak is working for me now. Painting while listening to Bob Dylan's book evokes in me very different feelings and thoughts than his music does, and I'm glad for the continuing inspiration. He makes me laugh. He makes me ask questions. He helps me trust the creative process.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Three Trees (2002)

I like this painting. Not sure what it is about.

Recently I have not had much extra energy. I've had a hard time responding to email. Maybe it is for good reasons. I have been doing art work daily for 51 days, which now includes weaving on an inkle loom. Maybe it's because I just took an exhilarating trip to Cariboo Country in British Columbia, requiring a 6-hour drive to get there. Maybe it's because so much of my energy goes toward trying to figure out how to get back into the work force without losing my creative momentum. Maybe it's because I think I'm younger than I am. Who knows?

Reading other blogs, being exposed to so much lively creative energy, and looking back at my previous art work has resulted in renewed creativity for me and less time for writing on my blog and making comments on other blogs, although I continue to visit a handful of blogs daily and am committed to posting my 40-year retrospective and then my ongoing art work.

This morning in a 7 a.m. pranayama (yoga breathing) class I've been taking, a class which meets every other week this spring, the teacher said that if all we can do in our daily pranayama practice is to lie down on the yoga mat for a few minutes and observe our breathing, that is okay. She compared pranayama to standing quietly offering an apple to a horse, rather than chasing a horse around a field in order to give the horse an apple. Maybe I'm tired in a general way because I've been chasing the horse, instead of letting the horse come to me as it would do naturally.

I'm seriously considering doing medical transcription again because it is something I can do at home and can define my own schedule. For all my searching, I have yet to find another line of work that I am suited for that doesn't require several years of expensive training, I am acutely aware that I am close to retirement age and financially vulnerable. It is disappointing to have failed so far to find another way of making a living. Starting Monday, I am taking a two-week evening refresher course in medical transcription. If that goes well, I will take the course that follows, ending in mid-June. I will try to think of myself as holding an apple and waiting for a horse and resist chasing a horse.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Red Tree (2002)

These paintings from 2002 were never titled, so I am giving them titles now. When I was painting them, I was thinking about my friend who had been told that he had terminal lung cancer.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sunrise (2002)

An old artist friend of mine was told that he had terminal lung cancer. As we talked long distance over the phone over a period of months, he inspired me to start painting again. Against all odds, he survived lung cancer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Late Winter in the North, Wolf and Raven, Wolf, Raven, Caribou (2002)

Today, curious as to the exact dates that I had done these illustrations, I looked on the backs of them and was surprised to find that they were done in spring of 2002.

In 2001, I hadn't painted at all.

It seemed a good idea to post all the illustrations today in the order they were painted, now that I know for sure what that order is. Tomorrow, I'll be posting the first of that series of images that I created in 2002, of which these illustrations were a small part. After doing these five illustrations, I was unable to come up with any more and eventually bowed out of the illustrating project, although I completed 15 more paintings in 2002.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Raven (2002)

Last Friday, April 20, I drove six hours north to 100 Mile House, which is in a region of British Columbia called Cariboo Country. I had not been up that way since 1974 and was awed by the dramatic and varied landscape I passed through in those six hours. The trip began with farmland, followed by a climb up the Fraser River Canyon, from which one can see nearby mountain peaks with snow. Beyond that is high desert and Cariboo Country.

On Saturday, I drove another hour to Williams Lake for a gathering of kindred spirits, returning to 100 Mile House later in the day. It was good to visit with a friend who used to live in Bellingham, to meet her boyfriend and her new friends. Several of us took a long walk after dinner in grasslands near the lake at 108 Mile Ranch. That is far enough north that there is not much spring greening yet. There were Canada Geese walking in the short brown grass and buffleheads and scaups in the lake. The sky was that clear blue that comes with high altitude and distance from populated areas, and it seemed huge because there were no nearby mountains to block it. There were some clouds and rain in one part of the sky in the far distance to the north.

I imagine that this landscape I visited is somewhat like the landscape where the story I was trying to illustrate took place.

It was good to have a break from blogging, my first break since I started this blog on December 8, 2006.

I have been asked if I am doing any new work. April 16 was day #40 of a 40-day commitment to painting something every day. I have about 20 new pieces in gouache and watercolor, done on Arches watercolor blocks, but nothing so far seems to me to be as strong as my older work. Still, I am enjoying the process of painting again and am committing to ongoing daily painting. Last Monday, I took a class in inkle weaving and will be weaving on a daily basis, too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Caribou (2002)

This illustration I did of what is supposed to be an old caribou is not at all right anatomically, but it makes an interesting picture, and I was pleased with it. Still am. I believe I started this book illustration project in the spring of 2002. My progress was very very slow, but it was good to be painting at all and thinking about what I was going to paint next. I developed a tremendous respect for book illustrators.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wolf and Raven (2002)

In spring of 2002, I mentioned in conversation with a small group of new friends that I was an artist but had been doing very little painting since 1993. One of my new friends approached me later saying that she was a writer who had written a story about a wolf, a raven and a caribou for a children's book and was looking for an illustrator. Although I had never done illustration, I agreed to give it a try. I thought it might be somewhat like making drawings from my dreams.

My process began with reading her story over and over again. I liked her story very much. When I began to have some pictures in my mind, I went to the library to find books with photos of wolves, ravens and caribou because, in 2002, I didn't yet have a computer on which to search for those images. When I finally sat down to paint a skinny hungry wolf and a well-fed raven, the above painting was the result. My first thought was, "Yikes! I'm no illustrator." I'm glad I kept this, though, because I like it now.

Feeling discouraged, I showed it to my friend who said that it was a good start, and that she hoped I would continue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fertile Land Revisited (1999)

The earlier painting, done in 1989, was "Talking Fertile Land with Ocean."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Mother Tree (1999)

In late 1999, I had a dream which I developed into one of the two paintings I did that year. In the dream, there was a room with a ladder leading to an entryway in the ceiling. There were people in the room, but I was not sure what they were doing. Maybe they were painting. Maybe they were reaching toward trees. I didn't know for sure. When I tried to draw what I had seen in the dream, this image was created of a young woman and a middle-aged woman. For a long time, I didn't have a title for it, but then I settled on "The Mother Tree."

I had resigned from my secure and well-paying hospital job as a medical transcriptionist in the spring of 1998 and cashed out my retirement fund with the intention of changing careers and spending more time doing art work. What happened instead was that I went into a situational depression, feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities as the only family member living close to my father, finding myself less and less able to accomplish anything. Coming out of that depression to some degree, I was rehired as a medical transcriptionist in January of 1999 and took the option of working at home, thinking that that would be less stressful. However, my father began to have more and more health problems and needed more help from me. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to help him during those months.

On December 8, 1999, I learned from his mother, that the boyfriend I had met when I was 17 years old, who had gone to Vietnam in 1970 and with whom I had lived during the first five months of his return from the war, had throat cancer and was living with her and his father. We had a good talk on the phone at that time. He was quite honest about himself, letting me know that he still had drug and alcohol problems as well as extensive legal problems that would make it a bad idea to become involved with him again. He appeared to be confident that he would survive the cancer. It seemed good that our long silence had been broken, but it was unsettling to talk with him again because I still felt love for him and missed him even though I knew that getting involved with him would be a disaster for both of us.

On the day after Christmas in 1999, my father had a heart attack. My youngest sister and I were told in the emergency room that he was going to die. The nurses drew the curtains around his bed. My sister and I stood on either side of the bed holding his hands as he lay unconscious. He was breathing with difficulty but not appearing to be in pain. My sister began reciting in his ear what sounded like prayers she had learned from her study of Meher Baba's teachings, although my father was a Christian who would have clearly preferred Christian prayers. After about 15 minutes, my father opened his eyes and looked up at my sister with much love and then smiled and said, "Hello." Then he slowly turned to me, looked into my eyes and snarled, "WHO ARE YOU?" The medical staff and emergency medical technicians were astounded that my father didn't die. I was relieved that those weren't his last words to me.

He lived for three more years in relative good health, living independently and moving to Seattle to live near my youngest sister, brother-in-law and nephew in the last year of his life, after I developed shingles as a result of severe emotional distress from the many strains to our father-daughter relationship.

Thank God for a local caregiver support group, which helped me see how many other people with elderly and chronically ill loved ones had shared my painful experiences. Thank God that my sister and brother-in-law offered to take over the caregiver role in that last year.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Untitled Ocean #5 (1998)

This is the only painting I did in 1998 and is one of my favorites. Even though I live far from the open ocean, this painting is like a window for me. I look at it often in contrast to frequently overcast beauty of my immediate surroundings. There are still patches of snow visible in the foothills. I love the flowering tree.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

No karass is without a wampeter, just as no wheel is without a hub.
(Kurt Vonnegut)

I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Early Calendar (1955)

When I was a little girl, my favorite movie was "Lady and the Tramp," which I saw with my family at a movie theater in the summer of 1955. My favorite part of the movie was when Lady and "the Tramp" went to an Italian restaurant and shared a plate of spaghetti, which led to a kiss. At 6 years old, I wanted to grow up to be as good and beautiful as Lady and to marry someone as brave and handsome as "the Tramp," but I doubted that anyone would ever want to marry me when I grew up.

I remember making the above "calendar" (see previous postings for my Calendar Series), choosing the letters that made up my name, drawing shapes, cutting out pictures from a magazine, pasting the pictures on the paper, and carefully placing big stars to fill out the page. My mother had narcolepsy and cataplexy, along with migraine headaches, which is why I cut out the pictures of the two women who appeared to be sleeping during the day, one of whom appeared to have a headache.

My mother was sleeping during the day while I worked on this project. I was proud of my creation and showed it to her when she woke up. My mother was enraged and scolded me for using up all the stars from the star box. At the time, I felt awful for using up all the stars. Now I wonder why she was so angry. Maybe it was a side effect of the narcolepsy medication, Dexedrine, that she started taking in 1954 after my youngest sister was born and continued to take on a daily basis throughout the rest of her life. Maybe she had a migraine headache. Maybe it was because I woke up her up to show her what I had made. Maybe she didn't know why she was so angry. I'll never know.

I remember that the last time I saw her, 10 months before she died, she told me that she was tired of being angry. It was only after my mother died that I was able to fully feel anger, and only then did I begin to understand my mother.

I am so glad that my mother saved this.

Untitled Ocean #4 (1997)

This is my only painting from 1997.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Untitled Ocean #2 (1995)

Here is a web page which has images of a coastal region I love and still miss after living in northwest Washington for 33 years. I left California 34 years ago, spending the winter of the oil embargo living in Wayland, west of Boston, not too far from Walden Pond. Washington is dear to me, but the unpopulated coastal areas of of northern California are dearer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Untitled Ocean #1 (1995)

This is the first of two paintings I did in 1995.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Skeleton Woman (1994)

This is the only painting I did in 1994 and was completed, I believe, in October, during a period of emotional exhaustion. After I painted it, I remembered "Skeleton Woman," an original literary story in WOMAN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. The book, IN WATERMELON SUGAR, by Richard Brautigan, was in my thoughts, too, because Skeleton Woman has watermelon seeds and watermelon sprouts on her blouse. With this painting, it was clear to me that I could not go on creating paintings that were inspired by grief and loss. What had begun as a way to heal had become a source of unending grief. I didn't want to paint any more pictures like this one. I wanted to stop grieving. I wanted my life back.

In early December of 1994, my mother died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack, after which my 80-year-old father left California and moved to a retirement community in the town where I live.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Untitled /Leah and Rachel /Mary and Mary Magdalene (1993)

Until yesterday, this painting has always been untitled. Sometime after 1997 when a friend committed suicide, I traded it for several sessions of Gestalt therapy. Yesterday when I looked at it again, I thought it might be called "Leah and Rachel," after the wives of Jacob from Genesis. Today, it occurred to me that it might be "Mary and Mary Magdalene." As time goes by, I may see something else in this painting.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Beloved Person in Bird Costume Painted from Memory / Be Loved (1993)

On December 8, 1979, nine years to the morning that my boyfriend had returned from Vietnam, I began to record in my written journal some fleeting images (several of which were of sculptures) from a series of dreams that became increasingly complex and mysterious. Of course, it is very difficult to translate dream images onto paper because dream images are elusive. The recording of the dream images led to my decision to return to college to finish my degree in English Literature with a minor in Studio Art and preceded ten years of intense creativity and growth.

In October of 1990, feeling my inspiration slipping away, I went through my written journals and copied those dream images onto four pieces of 13" x 17" watercolor paper. Many of those images appear in my paintings in the 1990s, including the "beloved person in bird costume."

It was on December 8, 2006, thirty-six years to the day that my boyfriend had returned from Vietnam, that I decided to create this blog, which has led to a renewed commitment to myself as an artist and writer.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Untitled (1991 to 1993)

At one time, I considered framing today's painting together in one frame with three previous paintings from the Calendar Series. The three images together expressed chaos. My thoughts were on the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War. I just noticed the number "41" near the top of the right border, which must mean that this painting was started in 1991 when I was 41 years old and completed in 1993.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

We Were Talking About the Wedding of the Two Freedoms (1993)

Hope is the wedding of two freedoms, human and divine, in the acceptance of a love that is at once a promise and the beginning of fulfillment. -----Thomas Merton

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Where the Gualala River Meets the Pacific Ocean at the Southwest Corner of Mendocino County, California

We Were Talking About Surviving The Anger Wars (1992)

Although this is one of three paintings completed in 1992, it was begun long before that, sometime before 1984. In 1992, I had found it in my stack of "failed attempts," and decided to crop it and see if I could make it work. The starting point for this image was a photo of Bob Dylan from, I believe, the Rolling Thunder Tour in 1976, just before the end of his first marriage.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Calendar Series: 71st Month / Fertile Land, Holy Light and Love Painted from Memory (1992)

This is the last painting from the Calendar Series. It wasn't photographed and was given as a gift. Its whereabouts are not known. It was last seen in Modesto, California.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Calendar Series: 70th Month / Beloved Person in Bird Costume Crossing the Night River (1992)

Looking at a photo of this image, someone commented that they liked it very much. I noticed that it was being viewed upside down. When I showed how it was intended to be viewed, the person said that it looked better upside down. I like the way it looks upside down and am grateful that that was pointed out, but it says what I want it to say when it is right side up.

Around this time, after being used in an article in the Bellingham Herald about a fundraising auction at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, this painting sold for $800. As I understand, there was a bidding "war" and that that was the highest amount paid for art work in that auction.

(upside down)