Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Woman Trying to Remember What She is Trying to Forget (1986)

This morning I have been struggling to write about this painting which came from a personal experience of domestic violence in May of 1971 when I was 21 years old.

The lingering effects of the recent upper respiratory illness are still with me. Although I got up at 6 a.m., I found myself so drowsy and headachy at around 8 a.m. that I let myself fall back to sleep. The sun is beginning to show through the morning fog, which was an ice fog before the sun came up. It was the sun coming through the fog that woke me up again.

In this painting I was trying to talk about how it feels to live with the memory of having deeply loved someone who tried to destroy your love and who failed to destroy your love but left you with the knowledge that as much as you had loved that person, you would have to live without them. The terrifying memories don't go away. Neither do the memories of what I thought was loving and being loved. One set of memories keeps me vigilant. The other set of memories, of loving and being loved, is crucial to my physical, emotional and spiritual survival. The woman walking alone by the sea was beginning to remember the feeling of loving and being loved, but then she would find her herself wanting to return to the one who had hurt her.

When this painting came to me, fifteen years had passed since that spring of 1971. During those years, I had married, tried to put the past behind me, struggled with depression, gone deeper into the eating disorder which had first manifested when I was 10 years old, begun to express myself more and more as an artist and writer, graduated from college and begun making a good living as a medical transcriptionist, which led to a decision to leave an increasingly troubled marriage and to live alone for the first time in my life at age 35.

Thirty-six years will have passed this coming May. For the entire year of 2004, I attended a facilitated domestic violence support group which met weekly and which slowly brought the healing that had so long escaped me. The other women's stories helped me see how far I had come since 1971 and that I still had a journey of healing ahead of me. Currently, I am continuing the process of healing with the help of Jungian therapy on a monthly basis. Writing this blog and reading other blogs that give me reason to celebrate life in all its complexity have become part of daily healing.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mona Lisa and the Clown and the Cool Rain of the Law (1985)

Today I'm feeling much better but still have low energy. This extended looking back takes a surprising amount of energy. This is one of my favorite pieces because I have no explanation for its power to give me hope.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Untitled (1985)

What was this one called? I don't remember. It was something about the power of music and landscape to lift one's spirits. I placed it as a surprise in the bottom of a large package I sent to a Japanese exchange student. She wrote and thanked me for the package but didn't mention the painting. When I wrote back and asked about the painting, she wrote sadly that she hadn't noticed the painting and had thrown out the box and packing materials.

I'm not feeling well again today, but this painting still lifts my spirits.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Woman with Window (1985)

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial
Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while
But Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles

-- "Visions of Johanna," from Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan, 1966

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Woman Turning Toward the Light (1985)

Yesterday during my yoga class, my throat began to feel sore. Last night, the soreness increased. This morning my voice is going away. All I can do today is post "Woman Turning Toward The Light."

Friday, January 26, 2007

We Were Talking About The Anger Wars (1985)

In 1985, I heard a man describe himself as a "veteran of the anger wars," referring ruefully to his difficulties in dealing with his anger. Today I typed those words into Google and came up with no matches. Then I typed in "the anger wars" and came up with three matches, two in 2003 (in a political context) and one in 2005 (in a personal context).

For a good part of my life, I didn't understand anger and was unable to understand why some people couldn't control their anger. That has changed. As I began to recover from the eating disorder, I was astonished at how angry I felt much of the time. I have become a veteran of the anger wars.

Although I wasn't trying for likenesses, focusing instead on the physical gestures, this drawing was derived from a photograph of Country Joe McDonald and Janis Joplin, taken during the years when the United States was still involved in Vietnam.

In the last days of the last century, I had a dream where Janis Joplin said to us all who are still alive, "Please kiss the 21st century for me." I have taken that to heart.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Two Witnesses (1984) Three Daffodils (2007)

From January of 1970 to December 8, 1970, a man I love was a helicopter mechanic for the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He was a direct witness to war, and I am an indirect witness. I don't know much of what he saw there, but when he came home I saw a look in his eyes I will not forget. It has been twenty-three years since I made this image using gouache, watercolor and Rembrandt pastels on Arches watercolor paper and thirty-seven years since he returned from war. These days I think about the men and women who are in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the friends and families who love them. These days I am grateful for the healing presence of ponds, lakes, rivers, creeks, bays, straits, mountains, foothills, day and night skies, birds, and trees.

I just noticed three daffodils coming up in the large planters on my porch. Last year I noticed them on January 23.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Homage to Edvard Munch (1984)

"Homage to Edvard Munch," is in contrast to "People Listening" from yesterday's post. In this image, a woman and man are leaning away from each other in somewhat awkward postures. When I first showed this image to friends and acquaintances, at least one person remarked that it was reminiscent of Edvard Munch's images, a remark which prompted me to title the drawing as I did. Although my intention was to draw a peaceful image of a woman and a man sleeping, "peaceful" didn't seem to be what was conveyed to most people.

During the early 1980s, there were a number of occasions when I viewed exhibits of work by Edvard Munch. While I was moved by his dramatic use of color, his subject matter of grief, anxiety and alienation distressed me. All those years ago, it was heartening for me to learn that, after years of mental instability, Edvard Munch in his later paintings showed a decrease in pessimism, portraying the natural world in vibrant and healing color.

Looking around the internet this morning to refresh my memory in regard to Edvard Munch's images, I found a site which has a representative selection of Munch's work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Person with Helpers (1982-1984)

This clay sculpture was formed sometime between 1982 and 1984 in Santa Cruz, California, at the home of a friend who is a potter and who will remain anonymous. My friend handed me a lump of clay and encouraged me to work with it. I had just spent some time walking and talking with the man from "Middle of the Journey" (see post from yesterday) and was thinking of him as I molded the clay. "Person with Helpers" was the result. My friend sent the piece to me a few months later.

Although I tried to make adjustments to the photo image to show the true color of the fired clay, my adjustments were unsuccessful.

As I look at the image today, I can see it in Jungian terms as an animus image from an earlier time in my life. I no longer have this small sculpture, but I can still see the warm brownish-orange color of the fired clay in my mind. As part of a difficult letting-go process in 1999, I placed the sculpture in an inconspicuous location in a city park. Although I had been able to let go of the piece, I felt compelled to return to visit it numerous times until it disappeared. Sometime between 1966 and 1967, I had sculpted a much smaller image of the same man from memory. In 1999, I left that older piece, along with other mementos, at The Moving Wall when it came to a nearby small town.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Middle of the Journey (1984)

In 1984, I was 34 years old, conscious that I was nearing the middle of my life assuming I lived to old age, and painfully aware that I didn't like the direction my personal life had taken. The image may be seen as what C. G Jung called an animus. In the process of taking myself seriously as an artist, I had begun moving out of a dark sense of myself to a place of acceptance of both my shadow and light. I was also thinking about a man my age whom I had known since I was 17 and trying to picture him moving with me into a dynamically balanced life.

What appears to be black in this watercolor and gouache painting is what is known as Payne's Gray, a versatile color in the watercolor palette.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Working with Intuition and Three Angels (1984/1992)

When I began this painting in 1984, I had no idea that it would take until 1992 before it was complete. When I stopped working on this painting in 1984, I considered it a failed effort. For the most part my drawings and paintings are done in the space of one or two days, but on occasion I will tack a painting on the wall for a year or more until I figure out what it needs in order to be complete. This painting didn't go on the wall but went in my stack of what I considered affecting but failed efforts.

In the summer of 1992, I went through my stack of failed efforts, found this painting, and decided to crop it and add some new elements that were part of the imagery and style I had begun using in 1987. "Three Witnesses" became "Working with Intuition and Three Angels." As a side note, when the finished piece was shown in Blue Horse Gallery in Bellingham, Washington, the card beside the painting was mislabeled "Working with Intuition and Three Angles," an intriguing reading of the title.

The difference in color between the two reproductions can be explained by the fact that the photos were taken on separate occasions under different lighting. I was unable to match them using the iPhoto adjustments.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Person with Questions (1984)

The sixth transitional piece, "Person with Questions" is the second of seventeen pieces where watercolor, gouache and Rembrandt pastels were applied to single sheets of rough 140 lb. 100% cotton Arches watercolor paper. Although the series of Rembrandt pastel images had been done in a classroom setting while sitting at a drawing bench or on the floor in my home, around this time my former husband gave me a portable drafting table, which allowed me to work more comfortably. To this day, I am grateful to him for the gift of that table.

During this time, I had begun to work 35 hours a week in the evenings in a hospital as a medical transcriptionist. Beginning in 1983, I had talked with a vocational counselor at the local community college, taken the suggestion that I might make a good medical transcriptionist and begun taking classes to improve my typing skills, after having gone through college always looking at my fingers as I slowly typed up essays for both my English and Art classes. Following that, I was accepted into a Medical Assisting Program, taking only the courses that applied to medical transcription. Because I did so well in the medical transcription classes, I was hired as a medical transcriptionist while still completing the community college classes. Previous to that time, I had worked as a letter carrier, pharmaceutical production worker and industrial sewing machine operator. Medical transcription suited me, and I worked in that field from the beginning of 1984 until the end of 2004 and have had paying jobs sporadically since then.

"Person with Questions" was accepted for the 4th Annual Whatcom County Art Competition in 1984 and displayed at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art in Bellingham, Washington. Although it didn't win an award, it was placed in a prominent location, the first piece visible from one of the two main entry doors to the room where the art work was displayed. As I approached the room and saw my painting, one of my former art teachers, Paul Glenn, was standing near me, not aware of my presence, and upon seeing my painting said to his companion that the painting was a masterpiece. I am fortunate to have had such affirming teachers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gion Festival (1984)

Gion Festival (click to see Heron dance performed during Gion festival in Kyoto).

In 1984, my former husband and I welcomed a young Japanese woman into our home as part of a cultural exchange program, which I believe was called The Cultural Homestay Institute and which brought a group of young Japanese women and men to our small town in the state of Washington in August of that year. A friend of hers from the group visited our home and saw the untitled painting I was working on. He said that it reminded him of a float from the Gion Festival.

I tried to create a link to the Wikipedia entry for the Gion Festival, but got an error message:

Your HTML cannot be accepted: Tag is not closed.

As far as I can tell, the tag was closed. Anyone else had trouble like this?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Untitled Witness (1984)

This untitled piece, done using watercolor and gouache, is the fourth in a series of twenty-three transitional paintings and one clay sculpture, which I created during the time I was seriously considering leaving the marriage relationship I had entered in 1973. Not an easy time in my life. The image is, once again, derived from a photo of Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Untitled (1984)

This image was created when I took one of my paintings that seemed to be a failure and then cut it up and pasted it back together, along with pieces from other unsuccessful paintings, in a way that didn't feel like a failure. It may have once had a title, but I don't remember what that might be. It is one of the few paintings no one bought. I can understand why. It is jarring. I suppose it could be called a collage. The original image was derived from a photograph of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in 1976 during the Rolling Thunder Tour.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Untitled Conversation (1984)

Today is the 21st celebration of Martin Luther King Day. I remembered the song, "Happy Birthday," by Stevie Wonder, which I still have on a vinyl album, but found it on iTunes and bought it again just now.

When I looked out the window to the southeast before dawn this morning, the waning crescent moon was just above the hills, along with what the Farmer's Almanac says are Mars and Jupiter, appearing as morning stars. Even now at almost 8 a.m., I can still see the slim crescent moon as it rises into the day sky. It is odd to wake to snow on the ground, clear pre-dawn skies, and temperatures in the 20s for so many days in this part of Northwest Washington.

This painting, done using a combination of watercolor and gouache (opaque watercolor), belongs to a shelter for women who are trying to put their lives together after experiencing domestic violence. Several of my drawings and paintings were donated to this shelter for fundraising events. This one was not sold, but the people at the shelter liked it, and so I gave it to them.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Cat is Not Amused (1983-1984)

This transitional piece was painted when my mother came to visit in 1983 or 1984 and brought her watercolor books and supplies to pass on to me. We sat down at the kitchen table, and with her guidance I learned how color can be mixed on paper by applying layers of color. "The Cat is Not Amused" was the result of that session. I have not been able to adjust the colors so that they are true in this reproduction. This is as close as I can get.

My mother, born in 1916, had dreamed of being a writer since her childhood, inspired by the character, Jo, from the book, LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott. My mother attended the University of Minnesota for one year after graduating from high school, during which year her mother was dying of gallbladder cancer. After her mother died, my mother moved to California with her father, her older brother, her sister-in-law and their young daughter. In California, my mother went to business school and worked as a secretary until her marriage to my father.

As I understand, my mother was writing poetry and short stories from at least her early 20s until 1964, when she wrote the following sonnet:

The Inspiration came. It had its birth
Somewhere in Time - no special shining hour.
I've searched for words to dignify its worth
And find in speaking it has lost its power.
Yet something goads me on. The Hound of Heaven?
(Or selfish Pride that slyly begs applause?)
If but my thoughts would rest, like bread to leaven,
The still small Voice within might bade me pause
And quietly perform God-given tasks,
Return to Him the gifts bestowed on me,
Forgetting Self . . . . No . . . . Something strong still asks,
Repetitive, "What means Gethsemane?"
The Inspiration fled. Was God its source?
So be it.
Then rich I am for having felt His force.

In 1966, she revised the sonnet, crossing out the last three lines and writing in pencil:

The answers rise and fall like waves. I wait.
Then blindly stumble on towards heaven's gate.

Around 1964, my mother began taking watercolor classes. In 1967, she abruptly stopped going to church. In the time before her death in 1994, she created beautiful artwork by way of silkscreen, stained glass, batik and Norwegian pattern knitting. She read widely throughout her life and enjoyed writing letters but after 1966 completely stopped writing poetry and short stories, turning her creative energies to the visual arts. I am grateful for her affirmation of me as both an artist and a writer.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sarah Before Laughter (1984)

This drawing used to have a longer title, which I have been unable to remember and which included something about C. G. Jung and the lake beside which he lived. The drawing has always felt unfinished to me, even though I had it framed. It is one of the few drawings from this period which I still own. Something is missing. Maybe that is the point.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Emily Dickinson with Paintbrush (1984)

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." (Emily Dickinson)

As was often the case, the woman's face in my drawing is a composite of several faces, including Bob Dylan's face. After doing the drawing, I was reading a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson, perceived a very slight resemblance between the face in my drawing and a photo of Emily Dickinson, and gave the drawing the title, "Emily Dickinson with Paintbrush." Now that I look at the two faces again, I don't see what I saw in 1984. Still, I like the idea of an Emily Dickinson who was a painter in addition to being a poet. She is holding her paintbrush in an unexpected way, just as Emily Dickinson put her thoughts into words in unexpected and challenging ways.

(Photo from Amherst College Library)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Woman Dancing By Herself

When I first posted this drawing today I gave it the title "Woman Dancing Alone," but in thinking about the drawing afterward, I remembered that it is called "Woman Dancing by Herself." She is not dancing alone.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Imaginary Relationship (1984)

“The easiest kind of relationship is with ten thousand people, the hardest is with one.” (Joan Baez)

This drawing may have originated from photographs of singer/songwriters, Patti Smith and Bob Dylan, but I can't say for sure because the result wasn't a likeness of either Patti Smith or Bob Dylan.

Like Patti Smith and countless people from my generation, my creativity was sparked and sustained by listening to Bob Dylan. Joan Baez, who appeared and spoke about Bob Dylan in Martin Scorsese's film, "No Direction Home," said something to the effect that many people are not in any way moved by Bob Dylan's words and music, but those who are moved feel moved in a way that goes very very deep.

All of my drawings in the current series were created using photographs as starting points. "Woman Listening," from a few days ago, was a composite of the singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan; the artist, Georgia O'Keeffe; and the writer, Alice Walker.I frequently used photographs of Bob Dylan as starting points for making images of women.

It is interesting to me that a woman, Cate Blanchett, is playing the part of a young Bob Dylan in the new film, "I'm Not There," and that Joan Baez, dressed and made up to look like Bob Dylan, performed with Bob Dylan in 1976 during the Rolling Thunder tour.

I had a dream once that Bob Dylan and Woody Allen were the same person.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

People With Their Eyes Closed/Baby Girl (1984)

Looking at the first image, I remember those last dark years before I began to recover from an eating disorder. When I did that drawing, I was 34 years old, within months of the end of a marriage that was dead, and acutely aware that as long as I had an eating disorder I would never be able to be a mother. I didn't know where this drawing came from, as I had not had this image in mind when I sat down to draw. The image still disturbs me almost to nausea.

During this time, a friend of mine commissioned me to do a drawing from a photograph of her firstborn daughter. I didn't think that my style lent itself to doing portraits of babies, and I said so. She insisted that whatever I did would be fine. She was pleased with the result. I almost didn't post this drawing because today I find the vulnerability of this happy baby girl, drawn in this manner, to be unsettling. As I wrote in my December 15th post, the human body is vulnerable and sacred. When I did the drawing, I was not at all in touch with my own vulnerability because I was eating massive amounts of food to keep from feeling vulnerable.

One of my earliest memories, at 2 years and 1 month old, is that I was standing next to a stone birdbath which had a statue in the middle of it. I looked down at the clear water and old leaves at the bottom of the birdbath and debated whether I should touch the water. It looked beautiful to me. At that age I was quite aware that there were many things I wasn't supposed to touch, and I knew I didn't want to be punished. But the water was so inviting, and I decided to take the risk. I remember reaching my hand into the cool water and then being startled to hear someone saying my name. When I looked up, my picture was being taken. I distinctly and clearly remember feeling fear that I had been caught doing something I shouldn't do. I felt vulnerable and not at all sacred. I am always amazed when I see people talking in front of 2 year olds as if they were not present.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Friday, January 5, 2007

Yom and Karuna (1984)

In spring of 1975, I was working in a large warehouse as an industrial sewing machine operator, assembling ski pants with eight to ten women of various ages. One day, a large group of Vietnamese women was introduced to us as our new co-workers. They were among the first group of refugees who came from Vietnam after the war ended. I became friends with Yom (the name she took when she came to the United States), who was close in age to me and who had spent some years as a young girl and young woman in what sounded like a Catholic orphanage and who had not been adopted. A family had sponsored Yom to come to the United States after the war ended. They helped her until she was able to live on her own.

Sometime around the time I began doing the pastel drawings I've been posting, Yom went to India as a volunteer working in an orphanage and there she made friends with Karuna. Yom had some hopes of adopting Karuna but wasn't able to adopt her. Yom brought me her favorite photo of Karuna, along with a photo of Yom and said that she would like to commission me to do a drawing with both of them together. I told her that it might take a long time for me to do the drawing, but that I would give it a try. I didn't have the confidence that I could get a good enough likeness. A year later, after much procrastinating, I sat down and did the above drawing, which is a good likeness. Yom loved the drawing.

This is one of two drawings that I did on a commission basis during the early 1980's. On a third occasion, I was commissioned to paint a Muppet mural on the wall of a child's bedroom. All three commissions were successful, but I found that doing commissions was extremely stressful for me and have not done any since then.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Woman Looking Up (1984)

When I did this drawing, I was not feeling confident or strong in any area of my life except as an artist. People frequently expressed astonishment when they saw my drawings, saying things like "you are such a quiet and reserved person, it is surprising that you come up with these bold images."

Around the time I did this drawing I read Zora Neale Hurston's book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which ends in the wake of a storm of Hurricane Katrina's magnitude and devastation:

"It was the meanest moment of eternity. A minute before she was just a scared human being fighting for its life. Now she was her sacrificing self with Teacake's head in her lap. She had wanted him to live so much and he was dead. No hour is ever eternity but it has its right to weep. Janie held his head tightly to her breast and wept and thanked him for giving her the chance for loving service. She had to hug him tight, for soon he would be gone. She had to tell him for the last time. Then the grief of darkness descended."

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Witness with Blue Hair (1984)

When I first tried to upload the images for today, I got this message:

Safari can’t open the page “”.
The error was: “bad server response” (NSURLErrorDomain:-1011)

After trying a few things, I noticed that I was trying to upload a TIFF image instead of a JPEG image. Once I converted the image to JPEG, there was no problem. What a relief to be able to figure that out!

Visual art forms bear witness, as do the written word and the spoken word and song. This witness is singing.

The second image above no longer exists except as a reproduction. The first image is a cropped version (created using iPhoto) of the reproduction. After I had thought this pastel drawing was complete and after I had photographed it sometime in 1984, the red and black bars on the left side of the drawing began to bother me. They seemed to limit and inhibit this witness, so I got out my scissors and removed the left side of the drawing but failed to photograph the cropped version. Sometime later, I was showing photographs to a man who was interested in buying one of my drawings. He asked about the uncropped photograph of "Witness with Blue Hair." When I told him that I had cropped it, he said that if I would reattach the cropped part, he would buy the drawing. I refused, but he bought another drawing instead. A short time later, another man bought the cropped version.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Witness with Courage (1984)

There is fierce wind and rain outside my window this morning. The lights have been flickering.

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.”

Photo by Todd Webb, Georgia O'Keeffe sketching at age 74 in 1961

Monday, January 1, 2007

Young Woman (1983)

Today is the first day of 2007. January 1 is one of a number of days that celebrate a new year. This young woman might be witnessing the first light of a new year.

December 8 will be the New Year's Day for this blog. It is nearly a month since I began blogging. In the first week of February, I will be showing a series of watercolor and gouache paintings that I did beginning in 1987, which was the year my eating disorder recovery began. Those paintings are called "The Calendar Series" and were pivotal in my healing. The drawings and paintings we have looked at so far came from a part of me that thrived despite an eating disorder that had plagued me throughout my life.