Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Coast, vaccine and Easter

                                       Dune and Sky watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches, 66x51 cm


 It was just a proposal, nothing definite and certainly not a commission. Would I like to paint a coastal image for a commemorative poster? That`s my third attempt above and it`s from a 20 year old sketch. Below are the other two;


                                                       watercolor on Yupo 28x20 inches


                                                North Coast watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches


 I`m not sure they are poster-grade images but I do know that I am finished with trying. If the impulse to paint an image doesn`t originate with me first, it`s hard to get at, to find an emotional core to guide me. This painting below I actually think would make a good poster and it was done last year;


                                           Coastal Nocturne watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches



 My second shot of the vaccine was last week and I was elated the whole day. Freedom from fear! Yet it didn`t last, a celebration involves others. Until the country moves past this pandemic, the joy will still be  measured, hopeful and anticipatory. 
People I love, on the right and left politically, are refusing to be vaccinated. This is utterly shocking. Are they reading what Covid-19 can do to a person?? After what the world has endured the past year, it`s clear that this decision is political.  Also tragically misguided. Without mass vaccinations, the virus continues to mutate and elude its elimination. Who wants this to continue? Not a future for me. These holdouts will have to arrive at a different attitude in their own time. Persuasion isn`t possible yet. I hardly know how to handle my disappointment and anger. 


                                                           Peaches by Donna Thibodeau


The Brush and Palette group of Michigan painters asked me to speak to them in a Zoom presentation. I agreed though I wanted them to ask me questions. I have no agenda and am such a reluctant teacher because the role itself feels inappropriate. So I sent them links to interviews and my website and when the meeting commenced, they were prepared. Almost every educational situation I`ve led has focused on technical issues. Those are not unimportant but they are far less relevant to what an artist is 'saying'. I don`t know how to guide anybody through that question and yet it is the most important part of being a painter. Why do you want to do it? What compels you? Annie Lamott`s advice to writers is to write the books they want to read. What paintings do I want to see? It`s a simple but profound question. I do believe we all have a birthright to creativity. Yet even the most casual hobbyist is going to paint something. What will it be?
 The group asked me to judge a show of their work and the first prize winner was Donna Thibodeau`s Peaches [above]. I chose it for its clarity. From idea through execution, she succeeded in a forthright simple composition using clear, gorgeous color.


                                                          watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches


                                                Reliquary 2 watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches


                                            Untitled yellow watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches


 My abstract efforts are still all over the map but I am making progress. They aren`t taking so long, just a couple of days. I haven`t found a language of my own yet but I`m closer. Concentrating my efforts to watermedia on the plastic paper Yupo has also helped along the evolution.

My buddy Jo Reimer sent out a notice about a new line of super opaque acrylics made by Golden. I`ve wanted a white as dense as oil paint. A holy grail of sorts. As I move away from oil painting the one thing I haven`t been able to replicate in acrylic is a spontaneous gestural mark that dries as it is painted, as it is wanted. A gesture is impossible to repeat if it dries looking transparent or equivocal. This drove me to oils in the first place back in 1984. I need my brushstrokes to be stable. In oil painting this is not a problem.
So anyway, I went to the Golden website and saw that they will do custom orders. I asked them for the densest white possible and it just arrived in the mail!


                                                  cartoon by Harry Bliss and Steve Martin



Easter Sunday again. Though it doesn`t seem to be the big deal of my childhood, I think it is a shared, welcomed holiday. Our country is more tolerant now in large part due to the decline of the church in our lives. This is a more secular country than ever. For better and worse. I left traditional Christianity as a teenager because the concept of a loving God punishing people in hell throughout eternity was a contradiction too huge to ignore. Upon inspection, other parts of the story didn`t hold up either. It looked pretty obvious that man created god in his own image. Yet the great philosophical-spiritual questions remain. It takes a lifetime to create a new understanding of the divine.

Then there is Pastor Adam Ericksen;

As a bird flies, the Clackamas United Church of Christ is may be five miles away from me. I saved this photo from a Reddit post. In the comments I read Adam walks his talk. That the church is actively helping the poor and desperate here in Oregon. The spirit of Christianity is as radical as you can get; love your enemy. Who can do that? Who will even consider it?
He`s on to something. A better world. 


                                           The Empire State building from New Jersey 1930`s


 Isn`t this photo phenomenal? Just imagine!
Somewhat similarly, I was running in a park in Queens once and saw only trees with the two towers of the World Trade Center above them. Then, I found a $50 bill on the grass!


                                                      by the wonderful John Felsing







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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hello again

                                                Reliquary watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches


                                                           watermedia on Yupo 26x20


                                                Hindu-Kush watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches



 Three recent paintings though a few more are in process, not quite ready for their debut yet. 

In his Twitterless world the former president can`t dominate the public sphere anymore. Isn`t it great to wake up in the morning and not wonder what he`s done? Since the inauguration it`s been a quiet time for me. As I wait my turn for the vaccine, one day isn`t too different from the day before. If I weren`t painting I would have lost my mind by now. With John fully vaccinated, he`s the public face of our household now. Any errand to be done, he`s the man. I write the most detailed shopping lists you`ve ever seen, I coach him before he leaves on where everything is and while he`s out, I`m available for texts. He`s getting good at it! Meanwhile I lie low trying not to bump into one of the 'variants'. All reports say they will soon be common and that they are so much more contagious. Yet the rates of infection and deaths are falling rapidly everywhere. This is good news of course but there is a disconnect I am not hearing about. Why with these more contagious strains are there fewer cases?
 Local Oregonians had some real drama beginning a couple of weeks ago. The polar vortex that humbled Texas also took a devastating swipe at us. Ice storms on top of snowfall caused many of our numerous trees to fall taking power lines with them. Over 350,000 homes were without power for part of a week, with some still not back in service. Mine was not the only home without an electricity-free heat source. After two cold nights we had had enough but there was not a hotel room anywhere. Then I checked across the Columbia where my family is and they had not lost power. I called the Camas Hotel and yes, they had rooms available! Hallelujah! It is such a cool little place right in the middle of charming downtown Camas. Reasonable price too, I highly recommend it. When the power came back we returned to freaked out cats but surprisingly little spoiled food. Friends of mine were not as fortunate as quickly.
However the situation in Texas was truly a scandal. When deregulation is so prized it`s only a matter of time until tragedy strikes. The [Republican] leaders of that massive state failed their citizens badly. I can only imagine how humiliating it would have been to be unable to protect your children from the penetrating cold. Families with kids have had the worst year possible and I`m worried it will haunt us.
The lights are on again in Austin and Dallas and Houston, but I hope they remember this betrayal of public trust in the next election.


                                             Riverrun Park   watermedia on yupo 26x20 inches


 I began this after an exhilarating walk last November but it soon faltered. That is so disappointing when strong inspiration and enthusiasm aren`t enough. It wasn`t hopeless so I set it aside. In late January I was able to rescue it.



                                                                       Forrest Moses


 An acquaintance, mentor, hero of mine recently died. Forrest Moses was unique in his ability to construct an abstract expressionist landscape. Sometime after moving to New Mexico I discovered his work and it truly changed everything. It would be many many years before I was as happy with my own work. I contacted him and he asked me over showing me his studio and even his methods. He was very generous and presented me with a new ideal of what landscape painting could be. For years he was the lodestar. We weren`t friends, he was older and from a more genteel world but we eventually came to draw together in a figure study group and I got to know him more. I knew I was coming into my own maturity when I could just appreciate his work without comparison. He was a great painter.


                                                                     Forrest Moses


                                                                         Forrest Moses



 I was a witness to a fun Zoom interview with Lois Dodd in conversation with the wonderful painter Eric Aho. She is 93 and has been a dogged proponent of perceptual painting since forever. She is still dragging her gear out into the field to paint the landscape in person. I probably admire her more than her work, but I`ve learned from it.


                                                                          Lois Dodd


                                                                           Lois Dodd



 



 If anyone is still baking, I have the best recipe for whole wheat I`ve ever encountered. John found it and has made it repeatedly. It is a beautiful all purpose bread that slices easily, freezes without drying out, is great for sandwiches and French Toast and especially for tearing into while still a little steamy. Every time, we are just amazed at how good it is.


                                                    I couldn`t find who took this sweet photo


  OK, here is an opinion piece by Charlie Warzel of the New York Times. They allow five 'free' articles a month and with a sane president now, maybe you haven`t used them up. He`s writing about Michael Goldhaber and his assertion that the internet is rewiring our brains. This essay explained commerce and politics in this era better than anything I`ve read. Now I know why social media annoys me so much; the clamor! As if everything is really important. He talks about how we now live in an 'attention economy' and he claims it`s well worth our effort to pay attention to what we give our attention to. If you have some time, read it. I felt sort of enlightened afterward.



                                                                        by Paul Basye





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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Unafraid Under Our Own Vine and Fig Tree



                                                    Icy Slide watercolor on Yupo 26x20 inches


When day comes we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice. And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose. To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped. That even as we tired, we tried that will forever be tied together victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to her own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare. It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it. Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. This effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves so while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? Now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be a country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce, and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than one we were left with. Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west. We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the Lake Rim cities of the midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked south. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.



"The Hill We Climb" by Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate

No surprise I`m biased, but that was the best inaugural I`ve seen. Not the least because of Amanda`s gorgeous, hopeful poem. She recited it with an upbeat gravity, mature way beyond her 22 years. You can see her performance here.

The man-child president is gone and I`m sure many were overwhelmed by a feeling of a great danger being lifted. The American carnage he warned of in his own inaugural speech came true by his own indifference, incompetence and anger. His own Department of Homeland Security said it was the safest election in a hundred years. His own attorney general said there was no evidence of widespread fraud. The election wasn`t stolen, the psychopath just couldn`t accept his own defeat. So he sent his mob to attack the capitol, abetted by traitors to their oaths of office in Congress. For shame. 400,000 dead of the corona virus, of which he takes no responsibility at all. The sorrow in so many cut down before their time, is vast. 

At least he`s gone now. His opportunity to hurt has been diminished.

I don`t know what to say to those 73 million voters. His evil was so starkly obvious. How were you OK with that? My fear is that the racism that infects everything in our country is the root of it. White supremacy is the expectation of most of us. That term encompasses the KKK for sure but it also includes mundane assumptions about the comfort and privilege of white Americans. It is the default position we are used to no matter how cruelly it plays out. It is so ingrained it will be the work of a lifetime merely to see where it hides.

Joe Biden promised African Americans he would always have their backs. I deeply hope he keeps that pledge. The electoral unity and activism of that beleaguered community literally saved our democracy. Their participation delivered a victory for the new president and then two months later, against huge odds, gave Georgia two new senators and the president a working majority in Congress. As the new president once said when Obamacare was signed into law, "this is a big fucking deal!". The attack in DC diverted the countrys attention from this major feat, but if you value our democractic origin, let`s always be mindful of it. Although there is no scientific foundation for 'race', its role in our society is all too clear. White supremacy and domestic terrorism are the most dangerous threats we face. So let us face them deliberately.

[Sorry for the mix of fonts and presentation, I can`t seem to copy and paste on blogger without screwing it up. If anyone knows how to do this properly, please tell me!]


                                                               watermedia on Yupo 26x20 inches


 Another new work. These abstract paintings are taking a long time to finish. Much of it is just living with it until its merit is revealed or a new course of action is indicated. But once they really are done, my affection for them is real. No doubt because of the struggle.










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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Home alone in the Darkness, celebrate!

                           Cook`s Butte Study watermedia on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm


 This solstice, Australia is not burning, an impeachment is no longer necessary and the Covid 19 vaccine is here! I`m sure grateful, my nurse husband will get the vaccine tomorrow. There is some new evidence that just one shot may be enough thereby doubling the supply. The whole endeavor to produce this vaccine is nothing short of a miracle. Medicine never moves this fast. It`s a hopeful sign that when the world mobilizes, great things can happen. Nearly 40 years have passed since HIV decimated my generation and its vaccine remains elusive.

Soon a responsible decent man will lead our country. Halleluja!

At long last, Congress just passed a new pandemic relief bill today! Mass poverty averted for now.



But the virus rages on. More now have died than during World War 2. The I-pads above are in a hospital ready for the final goodbyes of those dying of Covid. As we all know, because it is so contagious, the families and friends of the dying are not allowed near. The sacred passing from life to death is experienced alone. There is and will be a serious psychological reckoning.


                                    Winter Light watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm


                                    Burial at Sea watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm


                                    Replication watercolor on Yupo 14x11 inches, 35.5x28 cm


 My most successful efforts of late have been small. With two larger paintings, the struggle continues. These paintings have no destination which has allowed for some patience in resolving them. That feels wonderful. The personal gifts from the pandemic have been significant. As befitting a relationship with a deadly disease, priorities are swiftly reordered into their proper sequence. Concerns that festered are tossed out as the vanities they always were.
 Because John works in a hospital, we understood in a visceral way we could both die from the virus. So we got our act together and created a Living Trust. The future care of my work is addressed and all our affairs are in order. Being so adult nearly killed us but it`s done.




 From a child still young enough to believe in Santa Claus, he questions his own legitimacy. Yes, even some children this young, know they are gay. This is why I talk about my marriage. This is why I use the word husband. This is why I out myself constantly with every person I meet. If there is a context for saying it I will. I owe it to this boy to do what I can to make homosexuality normal and unremarkable. Insist on the reality that it is a fact of nature. And hold religion responsible.




 See that mountain back there? That is Cucamonga Peak, a talisman for the kids of Fontana Calif, where I grew up. It hovered above everything until it got to smoggy to see it. Trust me on this, living in a heavily polluted place harms the spirit as much as the body. I had to leave. Then, California took responsibility for its air, passed laws to clean it up and is now a leader in developing new technologies and strategies to counter global warming. In 1988 I was reading the New Yorker and came across a natural history of the San Gabriel Mountains [Cucamonga Peak is at the east end of the range] by John McPhee. I felt like my mountain worship was vindicated.


Since I`m painting with watercolor so much, I`ve been studying the work of others. Here are some new favorites;


                                                                   Anna Maria Potamiti


                                                                          Ella Clocksin


                                                                        Kamilla Talbot




 Found this on a Portland OR subreddit. Discovered in a back alley poetry shrine;


                                                                 Laura Grace Weldon





 

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Monday, November 30, 2020

80,000,000! + new work

                            Rain in Arashiyama watermedia on Yupo 40x26 inches, 101.5x66 cm


                                               watermedia on paper 19x14 inches, 48x36 cm


                          Deeper Conversation watermedia on Bristol 13.5x11 inches, 34x28 cm

                                            watermedia on Yupo 40x26 inches, 101.5x66 cm



 After the 2016 election, a friend very upset at the outcome, asked me to sign a petition claiming there had been fraud. I told her I hadn`t read of any credible accounts of trouble and said no. Trump had won,  as sickening as that was. Democracy is full of pain. I`ve suffered plenty since the 1972 re-election of Richard Nixon. His opponent was a war hero and one of the kindest men in politics, George McGovern.  That the current president got 73,000,000 votes still has me reeling a month later. Thank GOD a majority understood this election was an emergency. I used to wonder how the Nazis were elected in Germany. Now I know. That the Republican Party which produced this cruel and ridiculous politician wasn`t wiped out along with him, is a an infinite source of dismay. If Democrats can`t win in a pandemic, with a severe economic recession and a lunatic 'leading' the country, who knows when they will? At least we cleaned out the top, thank you thank you for turning out in record numbers. Youngsters and People of Color especially. You literally saved our democracy. Gratitude as well to the local and state officials who oversaw the tabulations and with a courageous integrity, stood by their totals. Many have had their lives threatened by the president`s mob. We know now, definitively, they are many many followers. I believe politics are where our spiritual beliefs meet real life. 

Our fellow Americans are not enemies.

I read this essay on Covid-19 without knowing its author. It`s beautiful.





 This is from Reddit and it explains exactly what we as country need to do. Everyone should feel safe to speak. No one need agree.


 





 Over a year ago I bought multiple Daniel Smith watercolor sticks because I got a sample once and loved it. Now I had many! When I went to use them it was like dragging stones across glass. They only worked if they were wet so this required frequent soaking. Not conducive to quick decisions. When I complained about them to Ruth, she said "I prefer Caran d`Ache". Ugh. Over and over I forget to get advice [from a woman ideally] and pay the price. So, for my birthday, I bought the set above and they are terrific. I like them for getting color into places where I would lift a previous layer with a loaded damp brush. Drawing isn`t my thing really, I think better with a brush. But they may be a game changer outdoors.



Mathew Dowling included me in his exploration of creativity as a source of health. Mental Health. If you`ve read me over time you might have an opinion if it`s working. The book is a collection of many different visual artists and their strategies. Creative Sanity was a labor of love with insights for perseverance and joy.






 I`ve been looking at Cai Guo-Qiang. This contemporary artist is like no other, his medium is explosives. He makes poetic fireworks on an epic scale. He draws with gunpowder. He is a conceptual artist fully anchored in humanity. His body of work is enormous, one could explore it for days. If you have Netflix you`re in luck. They have the documentary "Sky Ladder; The Art of Cai Guo-Liang". Get comfortable and go directly to the 13 minute mark and watch his "Ninth Wave" presentation in the harbor of Shanghai. It is a gut punch of transcendent beauty.
Below is a photo from 'Elegy' from the Ninth Wave performance. The whole film is fascinating and made me so grateful minds like his exist. Even in communist China.
.



Lots more in his oeuvre. This amazed everyone;


                                                        The Art of War by Cai Guo-Qiang 

 Artists of this caliber sure reinforce my self image as a painter rather than Artist. Have brush will travel. Cai lives in a realm I can hardly conceive of.


                                 Lichen Light for Winter acrylic on paper 22x15 inches, 56x38 cm


 I started this after the 2016 election. I had seen this glowing branch over Fanno Creek on a walk that November day. Like the election, it was a disaster and it went on a pile of rejections. Coincidentally, while waiting for a big pool of watercolor to evaporate-dry on a large piece of Yupo, I looked through the stack and fished it out. What could I do to it? I could emphasize the cold and soggy.



 Please be careful. We are so close to the remedy. The first shipment of vaccine arrived in Chicago last night. The hospitals are full and the staffs are grossly overworked. Collapse is entirely possible.
Let`s continue to be quiet, patient, as we wait for our turn to be inoculated. We can live our lives isolated a little longer. Even with the comfort of Christmas to tempt us, hold firm. This will be the only one where we must hide from this virus. In honor of the 265,000 who no longer have that choice.










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