Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Authenticity of Bones and Waves

I haven't written here since 2017. I find this a bit staggering to say the least. (I write constantly, just haven't posted here, mind you) Disquieting how the days become weeks and then months and suddenly you have young men rather than boys and there is this mesh of delicate lines woven into the skin on the back of your hands that implies a fragility I don't yet feel.

I've recently returned from visiting my husband who is finishing a project on Nantucket. I went for a time last autumn and came home with pounds of shells collected from still-warm sand, whole and smooth like pregnant eggs spilled from the sea. This time winter hung low, close to the ground; a presence that changed the colors of the sky and the smell of the mist when the sun had fled the day. The sand was cold and the wind had teeth.

The shells I found now were nothing like the fruit of late October. The beach is littered with just shards of shells, fragments of a whole worn like seaglass into such beauty it took my breath away. I collected piles of them, washed and scraped and then laid them out to dry on the kitchen counter, an ocean boneyard. I marveled. I dreamt of them, drifting lazily beneath the surface of the water as the waves crashed overhead and the skeletal shells danced like drunken moths.

They're my favorites now, these calcified remnants; having tumbled through the storms and worn away the surface to reveal the swirl and sweep of the loveliness inside. I find this a disconcerting parallel - how we spend so much energy preening and polishing our exterior only to have the hurricanes of time and the sands of age wear off the brittle edges, peel back the flesh, and expose the majesty that is the unadorned soul. Beauty has become a misled quest for a particular color of paint, when what is truly of value lies there, inside the tendons and cartilage, the marrow of us.

I've now begun dreaming of the sea almost daily. I'm sketching and thinking of creating a small group of paintings inspired by these shells. I think I will call it The Bones of the Sea.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


It appears that November has arrived cloaked in mist beneath granite skies. The rain has washed away the gaiety of last evening's zombie parade through my yard; a handful of scattered candy wrappers in the lawn the only evidence of the gleeful dancing made slightly awkward by sweetly full sacks and overflowing pockets. I watch as silver drops chase each other down the glass of the window now, loving autumn's temperamental moods.

I adore rain. Despite how it makes my bones ache, I have some kind of connection to the elemental weeping of the heavens. I know when it's coming, plan accordingly, and often paint my best work on these damp days. Yesterday, I had one of my sons help lug the large canvas from the entryway of our home up to my studio. (it's four feet tall and five feet long and I'm not nearly coordinated enough to maneuver that up the split stairs alone) This painting, while hanging for several years now, has nagged at the back of my mind for months. I've studied it, scrutinized it, contemplated it, and flatly glared at it - the nagging becoming nearly a howl before I figured it out.

My paintings are me. I know this. Frankly, it's probably the reason why nearly every canvas I sell has 2 or 3 other paintings beneath the one I finally accept as finished. There is much in me still under construction. Days when I am not my best, days when the edges unravel and the threads untie....these days are sometimes caught in the pigments of my brush. Later, I can see them plainly laid out as clearly as if intended - and thus, I love gesso. That milky thick eraser of such a record. Thirty minutes and that canvas sleeps, buried gently and deep, only visible in my memory.

This is the painting. It scratched at me. Most of my work, whether planned or not, ends up with a path in it. I paint my dreams and apparently am traveling quite often. But then again, isn't life a journey? Always in motion, we move ahead, turn around, choose a direction, sometimes stumble...sometimes spend entirely too much time looking back. It finally occurred to me, this path is dark on both ends. Life can be dark, choices difficult, and at the time I painted this - I can now see how trapped I felt. My path wasn't going forward, but sideways - and either way I turned, I wasn't heading toward the light.

And so, on this drizzly slate day, I chose the music, (this is what I painted to) and I began again. Five hours later, paint smeared in my hair and across my cheek...

It's only the first layer, just the beginning. I will dream tonight. I'm not sure yet where exactly I'm going, life is always a wonder and often a surprise. I'm looking forward to the quiet that comes when summer's golden rush has faded and winter puts the world to sleep. I will paint....and see where it leads.

Happy November, my friends.