Thursday, October 23, 2008

Seize the Daylily

This is a painting I am working on called "Seize the Daylily".

I have been fortunate in my life so far to have had very little experience with death and the loss of people I am close to but this year I lost two family members. They were both in their eighties so their deaths were not out of the blue, but this didn't lesson the enormity of the loss. I was also struck by my inability to comprehend what had happened. Death is too huge to put into the context of my daily life. I can't get my mind around the fact that one day our lives are full of details -eating, sleeping, loving, laughing, worrying, weeding the garden, doing the dishes - and the next day we can be dead. It sounds puerile to point out that mortality is a profound concept but it is a concept that I have been thinking about lately. And so I decided to paint a memento mori.
Memento mori was a subject popular in the European art world a few hundred years ago in which the figure of a skull or a skeleton reminded us that our time on earth was briefer and less important than our time in heaven. When they took the form of a still life these paintings were called "vanitas".

I chose to paint a huge tree looming over creatures who are too small to understand the enormity of the object behind them. As I painted though I realized that the rabbit-like creatures were wise to ignore their own mortality. What else could they do but live their tiny brief lives to the fullest, reveling in the wonderful details of life rather than moping around focussed on death. I realized I was painting a "carpe diem", not a memento mori. Carpe diem is usually translated from Latin as "Seize the Day" which is all we can do when faced with the incomprehensible enormity mortality.

I want to make the tree more misty and mysterious. And I am still debating whether there should be the one rabbit creature having a serious thought or if I should cheer her up. There is also something wrong with her paws that I will fix.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm Back

I've been around but have been busy with a few things other than my garden and paintings lately. The mural needed some changes which became apparent once it was installed. So much silver and black on a large scale was looking a bit cold so I have been adding more branches of cheerful green leaves and happy pears. I go in after the cafe closes and stand up on the ladder in the big dark space, listening to music, reaching higher and higher with an extra long paint brush that I made, hoping that if I fall off the ladder some of the baking staff in the back rooms will find me.

During the day I have also been painting up on a ladder, and having lots of fun. My front porch is finally finished and now has red railings, gold columns, a robin's egg blue ceiling, and other rich shades of olive, brown and navy blue. OK I got carried away, but I figure my neighbors know that I am an eccentric painter already. There is no hiding it. I love color. (I kept the colors dark in general so as not to make my house look too much like a circus) I mix my own paints, buying them in quart sized cans and muddling them together with additions of acrylics until they are just right. Yes I am very particular about color.

And finally, I have been in the studio getting ready for a show of my oil paintings. The show will be at the new Macrina and I am excited to see my small pieces in such a big dramatic space. This is an important show for me since I have never before shown my oils of plants and animals, though I have been painting in this style for years now. I have been saving them for the right time to expose them to the public. I use the word "expose" since it feels a little like I am exposing my most personal thoughts and feelings. Most of the paintings are about how emotionally vulnerable we are in this beautiful and treacherous world. There are paintings of my son and paintings of small creatures. There are also paintings of weasels, who dance in defiance of uncertainty.

You are invited to join me at the opening of this show. If you see me there, and I have the same wary expression on my face as the bunny of honesty, it is because, like the honesty bunny, I am not hiding anything.