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Archive for the month “March, 2015”

Something about a painting

Recently we bought a painting. We were in San Diego and furnishing the new condo. In my mind was something large, a Morris Louis Abstract Expressionism or an Andy Warhol with those massive pink flowers. But something to fill the wall and set off the space.

It had all begun with Howard’s red chair. We had nothing in the room but a red chair, a colour I would not usually choose as I go for those boring neutrals, beiges, warm ochres, whatever my elder daughter finds bland and uninteresting.

But a reclining leather red chair spoke to him and so we bought it on the spot. With a nondescript non-colour couch, I also figured a rug with slashes of red, gold, green, brown might work a little magic in the room. And then I considered that a painting might bring it all together.

As we meandered on the grass of the Festival Arts at UCSD I caught a glimpse of a painting. It was certainly large, 4 x 5 feet at least and it blasted red. I would never tell anyone to purchase paintings to match décor, but hell, we needed something red to work with that chair and brighten up the rest of the room. Something drew me towards that canvas that sunny green day.

There was evidence of a variety of brushstrokes: what looked like a red bag in flight, a group of doughnuts or maybe they were bagels, the top of a soaring perfume bottle also in flight and two strange doors caught in this frenetic piece. With a background in art history, I figured that if I was responding to this painting, it must have multiple levels of communication and actually communicate something of import. Not a starving artist deal at all. Plus, I learned that the title was “ Metropolis” and that certainly sparked my attention- and imagination.

We spoke to the artist from San Francisco about the price, but kept on moving, just wandering through the show. Her price was way more than I had expected to spend. But I was drawn back to the work, and offered the artist half- which I knew she would refuse and felt I was, in deed, insulting her. Her price was in truth, not unreasonable. We left the show but gave Anna our name.

Later that day as I was perusing her website, I noticed several charming prints that might do so I lay down for a nap and contemplated how the three simple attractive designs might look on our wall. I heard the phone ring and Anna revealed that the piece had not sold so perhaps we might like to see it on our wall. Again, we discussed price: we, moving up slightly and she ( I could imagine her lips downturned) down. All right, we thought, we’ll agree to JUST see it in our space. Of course, like a hand and a glove, it fit and we were hooked.

Later asking for her influences, I was not surprised to discover that both Matisse’s cut-outs and Paul Klee’s childlike drawing figured prominently in her work: both artists whom I adore for their simplicity, flatness and childlike innocence . Twice in my life I have gone to Vence outside of Nice in France to view Matisse’s Chapel where his famous cutouts were housed.

(Funny story- years ago when I wanted to introduce my young children to my favourite artists, we visited every church, museum and gallery in Europe and so, we headed towards Vence where we deposited coins in a machine for parking outside the chapel and discovered, that really, it was not a parking meter, but a dispenser of condoms. Oh those French!).

I could not put a reason on why Anna Choi’s painting called to me, but it did. It was the same experience in Alice Springs, Australia, when an even larger work by an Aboriginal artist’s almost abstract painting also whispered to me and made me weep. It combined the push-pull of Hans Hoffman with the aboriginal signs of the mandala, the artist’s son’s barefoot feet, hedgehogs and woven bags that popped and whirled on multiple levels of meaning, colour, form, reality, illusion: sacred and secular melding.

As interesting as the painting were the responses of people to it. Although I could care less, reactions reveal something of the viewers. Our new neighbor loved it as I thought it might as she seems to be intuitive and open. Our real estate agent who sold us the condo also approved and offered in exchange her own house’s artwork that is whimsical and “quirky”, as she calls it. My daughter-in-law pondered, not totally enamoured, what style it was painted in. Actually, a good question but I cannot pinpoint the style. Certainly not pure abstract expressionism or Impressionism. Maybe a bit like Jim Dine and Claus Oldenberg with elements of Matisse , Gorky, Klee, Debenkorn… I’m an art history person but I can’t give it a label. Truly, I hate labels anyway.

* * *

As I edit this piece written many months ago, I feel weepy. My youngest daughter has just had a little girl and so I think about motherhood: was I a good enough mother myself; what did I do as a mother…our trips to Europe with our children, the laughter, the French fries, the coughs, the gites where we stayed, times spent together.

I feel ancient.

I hope that some of the things I have loved such as the travel and especially the worlds and stories enclosed in the paintings will survive me and like the newest painting in San Diego one day recall memories.

Back from the Galapagos 

There is a feeling of unreality being dropped back into civilization after a week in Eden. How fortunate we were to spend 5 days on a boat that silently broached the shores of  five islands off the coast of Ecuador, but how dazzling jarring to return to the noise of a night of the Raptors and the Miami Heat at the ACC  complete with the buouhaha, turmoil and fireworks of yakking burbelling swirling crowds. 

Imagine a place where animals and wildlife do not flee, where they are merely curious and yellow birds hop at your feet, where maybe a tortoise will pull his head back into his shell, maybe not, where your toes sink deeply into the marshmallow sand, and the turquoise waters merely lap at the shore. Some in our group swam with sharks at no peril. Years ago I recall the sheltering seas around the Greek islands shared that pristine colour, but no more. 

Maybe it is the fervent colours of blazing yellows, fierce reds, pungent greens that draw you in. Certainly it is the solitude of these islands, many that cannot sustain human life. The iguanas that pose in the sun with their mad contrasting colours or the sea lions snoring indifferently to the groups that gawk, or the blue or red footed boobies ( birds, my friends) that huddle with their young that appear as batches of wildly stacked cotton balls, uncaring of danger. Even the stingrays will not attack, only if you chance to step on them in the sand. It is all too amazing and wonder filled.

When a group of baby turtles hatches too early on the island of Floreana we are told not to divert the looming frigate birds that will catch them in their mouths, preventing their instinctual amble to the sea. We are only observers to the ebb and flow of life without the intrusion of the human factor. Once we had heard of lions tearing apart a giraffe in Africa and how fascinated the tourists were, frozen, interested, transfixed .It is much like that here as the simple wave of an arm might have allowed the escape of one or two babies.but we are commanded not to interfere, yet I have to look away when I see a tiny reptile caught in the beak of a frigate bird.

It is here that Charles Darwin came for a mere five weeks in his early 20’s , establishing his theories that it was not the swiftest or smartest, but those most able to adapt who would survive. And obviously some continue to persist in the Galapagos. One wonders how many more marvels have been lost.

When I read that these islands have been offered as collateral to the Chinese for financial support to Ecuador, I experience chills down my spine. What could happen to the dwindling species that inhabit these lands. On Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Centre brings turtle eggs from each island in hopes of restoring the one time balance before the intrusion of pirates, Buccaneers,humans who diverted and exploited the strange and wonderful inhabitants of these islands. Even bringing Lonesome George, the last of his turtle species here did not prevent the demise of turtle populations from 11 to 10 . Diego from the San Diego zoo has met with better success and progeny. They lumber along those hard- shelled guys, the saddleback ones with their long extended necks, drawing our fascination.

It is nothing short of miraculous to be here, enduring the bouncing rides in the dinghies, the heat, the rocky shores that sometimes accompany the short treks to these spectacular islands.We Robinson Crusoes privileged to be here, all clothed in our silly safari gear, hats and sunblock, fitted out with cameras and binoculars. 

But back at a Raptors game, the tumult shocks your sanity, messes with your head as you speculate on the contrast of worlds: one to visit and gawk at; the other that sucks you into the teaming noise with its tinsel, crass and choreographed moves, leaving you with few memories just the noise of humans chasing a ball.

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