On January 21st 2017, three generations of our family traveled to Washington D.C. to join the Women’s March on Washington. That was, as it turns out, only the beginning. I came home and made some sketches, as I often do after a trip. I was completely taken by the creativity, political instinct, and boldness of the countless hand-made protest signs, and wanted to capture them in some way for posterity. I posted a small sketch from the march in D.C. on my Instagram, and quickly received requests for a copy. It seems that the watercolors of marchers cheered people up at the same time as they continued to carry the protest messages.
As I continued watching and listening to people’s response to the unprecedented political situation in our country, that moved me to document the passion, humor and determination of our fellow citizens more actively, and I began to paint. There is no shortage of material these days – each week brings another shocking appointment, another clumsy attempt at policy and in turn another protest or another brave act of resistance (like Elizabeth Warren persisting in her reading of the letter by Coretta Scott King, the widow of late Martin Luther King Jr. even after she was silenced and then kicked off the senate floor) and another opportunity to document the waking up of a true, live civic society.
My daughter, Emilia, and I decided to start a page and a project with the name, “March Arts.” We discussed the style and flavor of the images and landed on the softness of watercolor as a way to bring gentleness alongside determination, lightness and humor alongside taking this situation very seriously. And we summed up our inspiration with a phrase: “We celebrate the art of protest!” We have produced some posters, post cards and t-shirts and are donating a generous portion of the proceeds to Planned Parenthood or ACLU. We are passionate, like so many in our country, to do something to make a difference.
A Europe Tour in Sketches
Recently a friend visited my studio while I was attempting to archive my sketchbooks. There were strewn about the studio and we both got lost in colors and images of moments long forgotten, journeys to exotic lands and cities, and snippets of memories. I am sharing one such colorful sketchbook here in its entirety. It documents my travels with my friend, author Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, as she spoke about her first book, The Power of an Open Question. If you wish to have a printed copy you may purchase it here.
Today I visited my daughter at her new job in Denver. On a clear, sunny day featuring one of those cornflower blue Colorado skies, a small group of figures of indeterminate age, looking vaguely like the cast of Rent, congregated across the street from the State Capitol. A metal gate entrance next to a Vietnamese Pho joint, sporting a painting of a set of Buddha’s eyes (similar to those of the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu), led into the offices of the Harm Reduction Action Center. As I stepped in from the cheerful,
sunny street, I startled at the number of people milling about the large room. When my daughter said she would be working at a needle access program center as part of the final months of her graduate studies in public health, I must admit I was ignorant of what that meant. I had pictured a handful of drug addicts dripping into the place from time to time, and yes, all kinds of prejudice jumped to the forefront of my mind. Not a stranger to overdose death among friends, and the dangers of slipping so far into the comfort of opiates that you don’t much care whose needle you use, I understood the importance of this sort of place. What I did not expect is the hundred some people being tended to by less than a handful of the center’s staff, the overdose rescue training station in the stock room and most shockingly, the memorial wall containing photos of very, very young, mostly white, mostly male participants who died of an overdose. My daughter explained that contrary to general belief that people die because they use too much of a drug, most overdoses happen when people are trying to stop using and their body’s tolerance to the drug diminishes. If they slip, and use again, they often misjudge the dose and the body, no longer used to the dose, shuts down. She explained that they are expanding the memorial wall to include an equally large area adjacent to the current one so they could accommodate the newly departed. Clearly, in the war on drugs, the drugs are winning. As I studied the faces of young men, and here and there a woman on that wall I thought: “this was somebody’s child, somebody’s brother or sister, a friend, there is a black hole in someone’s life”. In photos, there were fresh faced men in business suits, young freckled guys in beanies, a suburban mom …….it was heart breaking.
Meanwhile, our tour of the center continued and my daughter Meme (a nickname that stuck since childhood partly due to her pixie stature and partly because of her chipper, bubbly positivity) was rattling off, in auctioneer mode, the statistics and newest reports to congress and state legislature (conveniently located across the street) along with dire need for funds for the clinic’s staff and supplies. At barely five feet in heels and standing on tippy toes, Meme seemed a Colossus in my eyes. Not because she is my daughter, but because of the amazing power of infinite compassion that is somehow housed within that tiny body. Any one of us would undoubtedly have some, if even a small bit of prejudice against these wrecked human beings – many of them looked burnt, absent, lost and intensely hurting. Meme said one of them told her: “There is not one of us who really wants to be like this.” While I believe that, I often thought that people addicted to drugs did it to themselves, so on some level, they made their bed….I’ve been educated now to the fact that many people get addicted to opiates after surgeries or breaks, or some other reason for which strong prescription drugs are given to them. When their prescriptions expire they are left to themselves, often without proper period or advice about titrating down, getting off the medication slowly. Others, due to some trauma or neglect are just in too much pain to walk through life without the assistance of something that softens the edges. But for a tiny twist of fate, this could be me or you.
With my perennial, deeply neurotic fear of ending up on a subway grate in this country of no real social safety net, it is inevitably hard to witness people in dire straits. I instinctively recoil, fully aware this is not really how I want to be. Now, thanks to the 24 year old Meme, I was in an instant brought face to face with a room full of human beings who usually (I am embarrassed to say) I try to avoid. Standing in the middle of the crowded room I was briefly enveloped in a warm hug from the center’s director, my purse and phone were taken from me for safe keeping, and the tour started. The fresh needle and other supplies station, close to the door, a warm, carpeted room with a TV and coffee station, some snacks, the education station…. I was in a daze, trying to be present but fully aware of my own inner upheaval at the sights. I desperately wanted to both run and help all these people. There was a person sleeping in the corner by the front door, looking so small and helpless I wanted to hold him or her (it was hard to tell) in my arms and whisper “It will be alright. You are safe. Everything will be alright.” The entire tour lasted 10 minutes and suddenly I was back on the street saying good bye to my daughter. It felt like I had been there for an eternity. She introduced me to a co-worker and we chatted briefly about the importance of centers like this one and the principles of harm reduction.
‘Harm Reduction’ refers to policies, programs and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption. Harm reduction not only benefits people who use drugs, but also their families and the community. Harm reduction began to be discussed after the spread of HIV among drug users was first recognized. However, similar approaches have long been used in many other contexts for a wide range of drugs. Harm reduction complements approaches that seek to prevent or reduce the overall level of drug consumption. It is based on the recognition that many people throughout the world continue to use psychoactive drugs despite even the strongest efforts to prevent the initiation or continued use of drugs. Harm reduction accepts that many people who use drugs are unable or unwilling to stop using drugs at any given time. Access to good treatment is important yet not always available.
As Meme and her co-worker spoke, I realized that these young people save lives. With all their might they work every day to educate and prevent the spread of a whole range of diseases and infections. Allowing people to suffer or die from preventable causes is not an option for these modern day bodhisattvas. While the specific harm reduction interventions may differ for different drugs, the compassion and kindness that they extend to each human who walks through their doors is the same.
The tornado of mixed feelings was shaking my chest as I walked away from the center on East Colfax, across from the Capitol building in Denver. This was my baby in there, facing every day what I could barely withstand for a quarter of an hour. I was both stunned and proud of her, worried and open hearted. Tears streamed down my face, I drove the 5 hours south to our home in Taos, profoundly grateful for the fate that led a being like Meme into my life. The center director had thanked me for letting Meme work with them, expressing their appreciation for her spirit and hard work. “Letting her!” I thought. “Hah! That’s rich!” As if I can influence her to do or not do anything. And luckily, I wouldn’t want to. As I sit here wondering how someone can go into a place like that every day, and be kind, caring, careful and helpful to the people so completely on the fringes of society, so profoundly suffering, so seemingly hopeless…. I can only think of one thing – a deeply compassionate heart. We are students of buddhism, who train in raising compassion daily. To see someone’s compassion in action so completely is both daunting and inspiring. Thank you.
If you are inspired to get involved in any way please, do. Help is needed.
New Year started with a string of bright sunny and days – the kind of crystalline skies and crisp mountain air woven through with fragrant strands of piñon fires. Days are already longer and the North Pole began to shift toward the sun. The lengthening days with their increasing optimism are a welcome shift from the cold deep darkness of the year’s end. It is poignant to witness the birth of each new day, the pink wisps of the first light shooting through the skies above the mountains to the East….then at the end of each day, as the sun dips into the fields behind our house, into the fiery expanse of the western sky, say a quiet adios. I feel lucky to live in places where sky is big and luminous and quite inescapable. Otherwise, I might not notice, in the busy days, the beauty and magic of the changes.
We have made our transition to Taos now. School has started and there are several exhibitions of paintings to prepare. The stillness of the high mountains has been replaced with the gentle buzz of a small town. It snows almost every night and there are small pods of chirping skiers and snowboarders all around town – their ruddy faces and bright eyes revealing the thrill of the day on the slopes. The small airport (for private airplanes only) is humming with tiny planes dipping in and out of the mesa. This will be the Hollywood crowd coming to ski. This is the very prime time of the year for Taos Ski Valley, its glorious peaks covered with a few meters of fresh powder and only a smattering of cheerful drawling Texans left over from the holidays. Marshall, the man who operates the noodle cart on a historic downtown street, has moved up to the mountain with his black dog. This dog is one of the few well behaved dogs on the streets of Taos. It’s not that the dogs here are aggressive or in any way unpleasant. They are simply used to roaming about and making their own way through the day, without a leash or the owner attached. They dip into their homes or farms for the night to sleep and be fed but they are otherwise free agents. They remind me of the dogs I used to see in Istanbul.
For many decades the stray dog population of Istambul presented an unpleasant problem for its inhabitants and visitors. Unlike the Taos dogs, the dogs of Istanbul were a sorry, broken looking lot, slinking around and looking guilty, much like my elementary school mate Igor, who was inevitably in some sort of trouble. In my late teens, my friends and I used to visit Istanbul often – for a period of time it became fashionable to go to Turkey and Syria and beyond. As young children we were a bit weary of the Turks – they blasted through our country like so many rocket ships, driving at high speeds to reach their employment places in Germany. Stories circulated the they often put bricks to their gas pedals so they could drive through the night and continue on the highway at high speed even if they fell asleep. Combine that with our history lesson about the Ottoman Empire and Turkey and anything Turkish, besides rahatlokum (Turkish delight) and thick coffee, became both fearful and intriguing, exciting and scary all at the same time. In my few brief sojourns in Istanbul, I found the people funny and kind and the atmosphere rich, sweet, like medjool dates. The manager of our small hotel in the Galata neighborhood, on Sahkulu Sokak was, at first, very formal with us. His curiosity sometimes got the better of him and he would speak to us in perfect British English about his childhood in a small village on the edge of the forests surrounding the city. Orhan (that was his name – yes, like Orhan Pamuk) treated us as his personal guests in the late night hours, sharing his personal history and heartbreak. During the day he was the perfectly formal hotel manager addressing us as “young ladies” and “gentlemen”. He distributed fascinating and helpful information about the city, and provided us with unusual itineraries. Mostly I remember his doleful eyes and maroon fez. He was not much older than we were then and I wonder where he is now. Our little group dispersed to all corners of the planet, some settling in England or Italy and Sweden and others in far flung places like Sidney, Malawi, and even Taos, New Mexico! Did Orhan stay in Istanbul? Does he still manage the little hotel? Did he reunite with the love of his life, a woman he was not allowed to marry in the late 70s but might be able to now? I’d like to imagine him happy.
I marvel at all the people we meet in our journeys, and I love the ones I ran across that populate my memory – all of them, even the unpleasant ones. The ones that pushed all my buttons have propelled me forward to be a more full, complete and wholesome human being. It would be a lie to say that I was ever grateful to them in the moment. Looking back, I feel gratitude and love. As a sixteen year old I was scared of everything – couldn’t even traverse a coffee house to meet my friends at a far table for mortal fear that people might look at me. I always thought that anyone who was my friend, was that only because they haven’t yet figured out how truly bad I was. I lived twisted into an emotional pretzel.
Orhan, who at first scared the daylights out of me with his stern, formal look and foreign looking clothes, noticed this uncomfortable feature. In the few brief days we spent at the hotel the name of which I cannot remember, he turned out to be a wise and encouraging confidant, a find of sorts – stranger who extended kindness to a young person searching for a less uncomfortable way to be in the world. He said, in his beautiful Oxford English (a result of his higher education for hoteliers):
“You could just try being ordinary, just who you are – no one will fault you for it and in any case, people always sense when we are not being authentic, it ends up being too much work. Simply being ordinary is very freeing, you could try it for a while.”
I had written this down in an old sketchbook that recently surfaced it in my studio. It was poignant to see it all these years later – I realized how profoundly Orhan lives in my paintings, as much as my painting teacher. His long ago words of encouragement breathe in my work in a uniquely alive way. I did take his advice, as it turns out. It took a few decades and I may not have even remembered his words, had it not been for my pack rat habit when it comes to sketchbooks. He was correct – it is freeing, exhilarating really, to be ordinary.
to be continued…
My friend Peggy takes people on cultural adventures that also include cooking – learning how to pick, use and enjoy foods and spices from Italy, Morocco, India and Spain. Her trips include visits to the local herb growers, cheese makers, bakeries, markets, the piazza, the medina, the huerto, the bazaar the casbah…
At Creative Maneuver we’ve been talking for years about creating a logo for her company, Peggy Markel’s Culinary Adventures, that visually communicates all she offers and the intention and spirit of her work. Until we figure it out, here is a lyrical stab at the project.
Christmas Eve – New Year’s Day
Throughly consumed in the chaos and merrymaking and family visit. I was going to revisit the ups and downs of our holiday get together until I spoke with a few friends yesterday – survivors of family holiday visits. A few choice terms they used to describe their holiday experiences are:
- Powder keg
- Hot sputtering grease pan
- Fast boiling head soup (huh?)
You get the picture….Why is that when we are in close proximity to those we love and see all too infrequently, our demons inevitably trot out for their saber rattling ghoulish dance? I’ll spare you the dramatics and dynamics of our gathering. Fundamentally, everyone is OK – the three children, one husband, three dogs, one ex husband (mine) and one new boyfriend (not mine).
Last night on the eve of the new year, my son and I, the two holiday warriors remaining at our house in Crestone, put together a ginger bread house left over from Christmas, cooked up a storm and Skyped with people from various time zones around the globe. We laughed our socks off at the newest Rob Lowe comedy (I so admire Rob for his ability to reinvent himself and his cute sense of humor – he’s easy to look at too) the Grinder. We feasted like champions and I was asleep by 7:58, almost four hours after midnight in my home town of Zagreb, Croatia and 8 time zones ahead. As my Dad liked to say, “New Year’s Eve is for amateurs and it’s always midnight somewhere on the planet”. He used to fall asleep at 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve – an incomprehensible act I now happily practice.
This morning, hours before the frosty dawn, looking out at the vast darkness and icy moonlight on the valley floor, I thought back to the New Year’s celebrations of my youth. My parents, like clockwork, would depart for Vienna the day before. My stepfather was given, as part of his diplomatic work, the coveted tickets to the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert. He and my Mom, dressed in their tux and gown respectively, ornamented with their best jewelry and watches, would gleefully make their pilgrimage to the Musikverein and enjoy a program consisting of the lively and at the same time nostalgic music from the vast repertoire of the family of Johann Strauss and its contemporaries.
Meanwhile, back in Zagreb we would swagger, hop, skip, and later crawl from party to party – the more parties you attended, the cooler you were. The jostling, bumping scenes of party goers slipped in and our of our consciousnesses like so many sets being moved on and off the stage. The one sharp memory I have of those nights is how sad and desperate people seemed. In all that merriment, people were mostly occupied with burying their despair in cake and champagne. I remember feeling it was pointless and empty but felt obligated to attend.
Now, looking out at the breaking light, in the quiet solitude of the mountains, feeling so very fine after a good night’s sleep, I appreciate the simple fact of being alive – some sort of inner effervescence bubbling up for no apparent reason. It just goes to show that freedom can strike at any point and contentment is found in unlikeliest of places.
….to be continued
Yesterday, as part of holiday reconnections, I spoke with a friend from home – a quantum physicist now living in Pittsburgh. He believes that all matter in the universe is connected on a subatomic level through a constant dance of quantum energy exchange. I wanted to ask if the dance was a tango or a foxtrot or some form of hip hop, but I knew he would have looked at me through his rimless glasses with disdain and just continued with supporting arguments as to why all the evidence points to the proof that consciousness is a substance outside of the confines of the human body and how its supremely organized energy can change physical matter. So, I stuck to appearing attentive through the blips and drones of a mediocre Skype connection – a subatomically staticky energy exchange. Each sentence generated an image – a world of images… we had known each other since our mothers strolled us in our newborn prams side by side through the botanical gardens in Zagreb. People often ask me if I think in paintings and yes, indeed I do! I interpret and understand the world in a way that makes it digestible to my mind – it’s how I make sense of things.
“Directing thoughts at a target seemed capable of altering machines, cells and even multicelled organisms like humans….” my friend was going on, reading from a book now (don’t know which one). He suddenly stopped and asked if I thought that understanding consciousness had the power to undo the knots created by the too early and abrupt departure of my Mother. This oddly, brought to mind not the possibilities of relief from self judgement and torturous guilt in the future, or even present, but the smoky images of my Mother. To me, she appeared as from another time and place altogether. Of course, she was exactly that – born in the border province of Vojvodina on the dividing line between Croatia and Serbia, in a small town of Ruma. The women of her family escaped to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia when she was 9. My Mother’s (and her Mother’s and Grandmother’s) dark hair and coloring and telling nasal features landed them on the lists of people slated for the next morning’s train to one of the concentration camps in Poland. An elementary school classmate, an ethnic German, rushed to their farm, a glorious estate in the lush and fertile lands around Ruma, at 2 a.m. to warn them. The three women ran from the only home they ever knew, questionable papers hastily assembled in the early dawn and a few precious treasures tucked away in the worn leather suitcases. They will never see their home or husbands, brothers, fathers and grandfathers again.
This Christmas holiday though, my Mother was present, very present, even tough she had died for the third and last time just over 5 years ago. Was this the foxtrot of “out of time and space”? We made her ubiquitous vanilla crescent cookies – a delight of my children for many Christmases past (and easters, and birthdays and Sundays) – filling the house with the fragrant aroma of vanilla bean, ground finely into the walnut dough and baked for a brief 9 minutes at 375 fahrenheit. I heard her words come out of my mouth, and her thoughts filled my head – ever familiarly critical of each action and thought that lived independently in my seemingly independent mind.
Am I fated to forever experience my Mother’s world as part of my own? Is this voodoo? Or epigenetics? Or just the way things are? Never mind that. I put the heaping platter of vanilla crescents on the table. My family gleefully consumed every last one. Images of Mom in her white dress and a plate of crescents floated in my memory pool – her daisy earrings adorning her long ears. She had never pierced her ear lobes and was usually taking her clip earrings off midway through any occasion – but for this one, the earrings were still framing her still youthful face. She would say that it made no sense that she is wearing white at Christmas and the daisy earrings were only to be worn after March 8th (international Women’s Day). As she had little or no say in directing and producing my memories – at least not the visual ones, my favorite things about her often merged into images that made my heart sore and happy at the same time. And inevitably supported by a soundtrack of Sinatra singing I’ve Got You Under my Skin”
I wonder if anyone could hear this…?
Use your mentality, wake up to reality,
But each time that I do just the thought of you
Makes me stop before I begin
Cause I’ve got you under my skin.
…to be continued
December 21st – inching toward Christmas.
The day started badly and promised to only get worse – sharp gusts of wind buffeted the car windows as I drove North toward San Louis Valley. The scattered farms and cottages of New Mexico were replaced by the organized fields and clean herds of perfectly placed cows in Colorado. Snow froze on the windshield the moment they met – no windshield wiper was a match for the horizontally blowing snow and ice in sub zero temperatures. Travel is always slow in these parts around Christmas. It allows time to reflect on the past, contemplate the future and frequently be brought back to the present by the demands of the road.
Emilia is bringing her friend Evan to Christmas. She would have brought his dog and his brother too but Evan’s reason prevailed and for this first longer visit with family – the two of them and one giant dog would suffice. My young daughter has had mixed luck in the matters of the heart. After several years of recovery from a college boyfriend’s callous departure, she met a mild Texan with slow speech and a big heart. She also adopted a large – I mean LARGE – Bernese Mountain Dog named Bruno who brought her big love and almost equally big challenges. The two year old mild giant regularly ate half the contents of a laundry basket and disposed of them whole not much later on the living room rug. Emilia despaired often with frustration of juggling her full city life, demanding care of a rescue dog and the final months of graduate school. Most bitterly though, she wailed about the challenges of growing up. In her mid twenties she was still innocently young. Where was I at 24? Somewhere between Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA deciding to leave my corporate ladder-climbing husband and move to the distant mountains of Colorado. After five years of marriage the thought of spending too much more time organizing themed parties with champagne and chocolate fountains while desperately trying to adjust to the English spoken in a southern drawl, was not an appealing one. Instead, I opted for some version of cool in a foreign city, complete with drugs, booze and a high paying job I wasn’t really qualified for. It was the 80s – big hair and all, and I had to have been the loneliest person on the planet.
I will get to wear my pink suede high heel shoes at the Christmas Eve dinner. That one simple thought brings joy and settles the storm that stirs my heart each time I turn onto the county road T, hurtling towards the forbidding 4000 + meter mountains sporting names like Challenger and who knows what other scary titles. Mountains used to soothe me – I felt life was slower here and I seemed in proportion with the planet, not so much the center of the universe as one inevitably indulges in the city. But for the past few years, the sight of these mountains carried with it unpleasant memories that burned like an ulcer in the pit of my gut. Somehow, being here felt like trying to gain my balance standing in a small boat on the roiling seas.
Focusing on the pink suede shoes, a relatively insignificant part of the universe, I felt the vastness of being and the calm of confidence and understanding, the soothing warmth of familiarity. Perhaps silly and mundane, but as always I could count on small every day things to carry with them significant quantities of joy and clarity. Always there, available in their simplicity, waiting for us to notice.
In the next few days I will undoubtedly gain at least four pounds, spend a few sleepless nights worrying about the children, fretting over the near departure for a ten day trip of my steady, reasonable husband, world hunger, the insanity of terrorism and human trafficking, the climate change, the basic selfishness of human race…..but just now, glancing at the pink heels in the passenger seat next to me, the view out the frozen window toward the south, the San Antonio mountain glowing in the blushing dusk, all is well.
The car is almost at the top of the impossibly windy driveway. The lights of our mountain home glow warmly on this chilly solstice night, coyotes howl and cackle in the valley and small rabbits criss cross the forest weaving a delicate tapestry of their tiny footprints. The winter storm almost over, the light on the horizon promises a clear, bright, sunny day.
….. to be continued
Last month my family and I traveled to New York City where our son studies with pianist Gleb Ivanov. We had braced ourselves for a month in the city with its brisk winds, roiling crowds and that very unique symphony of sirens, horns, garbage trucks, distant saxophone, someone’s scream, someone’s laughter, a ticking radiator – myriad images floating in on the cacophonous waves…
This time, the city greeted us with mild autumn weather and softness of golden sunlight in the moist air. Unexpectedly, surprisingly, we spent a calm, glorious month on Washington Square Park, watching it shed its summer attire and turn golden, rusty, deep umber – the smell of pungent ginkgo berries in the air – and finally after a particularly blustery night, stark naked. Contrary to our pessimistic expectations, the city was kind to us and we spent a productive, cheerful period of work, family, art, dance, music and interesting food.
I continued the series of paintings from the city’s windows – here are a few preliminary sketches of the autumn series and a poem to the city – couldn’t resist Walt Whitman’s perfect NY poem.
by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
What hurrying human tides, or day or night!
What passions, winnings, losses, ardors, swim thy waters!
What whirls of evil, bliss or sorrow stem thee!
What curious, questioning glances – glints of love!
Leer, envy, scorn, contempt, hope, aspiration!
Thou portal – thou arena – thou of the myriad long drawn lines and groups!
(Could but thy flagstones, curbs, facades, tell their inimitable tales;
Thy windows rich, and huge hotels, – thy sidewalks wide;)
Thou of the endless sliding, shuffling feet!
Thou, like the parti-colored world itself-like infinite, teeming, mocking life!
Thou visor’d, vast, unspeakable show and lesson!
“Summer in the Valley, pastel on paper 55″ X 36”
“I just got out to get a drink and a snack.
This train station turned out to be so entertaining and complex,
I ended up staying longer
than I thought”.
Last week I had the great pleasure of finishing a long ago started painting of one of my favorite corners in the world – the cafe in the village of Vrsar on the Istrian Coast. Although, our friend Tomislav who owns it is often run ragged by the end of the season, we delight in the lively and joyful atmosphere of the place. Here is to many more summers of heavenly enjoyment at L’Angelique!
Last weekend we visited some of the most majestic mountains in the world, the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado. We camped by a river under a full moon, did not sleep much but drank in the fullness of natural beauty and spent time without screens and phone calls. It reminded me of this painting I painted a few years back and left to look at at a later date to decide if it expressed what I meant at the time.
There are mountains in Colorado that inevitably remind me of poems – one by Rumi, another by Dylan, or Kaštelan (a Croatian poet). In Crestone, where mist and fog are rare occurrences, the mountains become mystical when it happens – as if the soft pale wisps murmur the beautiful words:
I did not cry the tears
they cried themselves.
I did not speak the words
they spoke themselves.
I did not dream the dream
it dreamt itself.
I was warmed by the sun
and washed by the rain.
– Jure Kaštelan (18 Dec. 1919 – 24 Feb. 1990)
Farmers’ market is a favorite place in my home town Zagreb, Croatia, where every day the cannon from a tower in the Old Town sounds the arrival of midday. Usually the large open air market, Dolac (pronounced dolatz) is just about to wind down, filled with last minute lunch shoppers and people exchanging news and gossip. The noonday cannon sends pigeons flying, and an occasional tourist leaping in shock. Zagrebians, however, go about their business as if the sound shattering the peaceful morning were a gentle song. My grandfather loved the cannon — he said it gave a certain rhythm to the city and the passage of time within it. I like to think of it as a wake up call. I hope this painting gives you a little taste of the rich scene of the market.
This image is available in limited and open edition prints, as well as a few surprise items.
There is a certain light in the summer dawns of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains that is almost impossible to capture via camera, paint brush, pencil, even the human eye. You simply stand washed in it and feel it tingle on the ends of your hairs.
I chose the title of this piece because this experience of mountains at dawn felt like a ballet, a grand pas de deux in particular, with its five parts – an entrée (introduction) – the luminous sky announcing the arrival of the day; an adagio – here the yellow banks of the river reflect the sky colour and the turquoise mountain river; two variations (in ballet, usually a solo for each dancer), now the pink-purple mountains and the blue foothills; and a coda (conclusion) the green meadows and dark evergreens on the banks of the river.
In ballet, the grand pas de deux is effectively a suite of dances that share a common theme, often symbolic of a love story or the partnership inherent in love, with the dancers portraying expressions of affectionate feelings and thoughts between romantic partners. If you look carefully, the elements of this piece all have a “common theme” in there folds and curves and gentle flow – interrupted only by the punctuation of the small and large trees. Even within the color planes of those, there is an echo of the gentle flow, of curves and shapes. Pas de deux is often considered to be the piéce de résistance and bravura highlight of a ballet and is usually performed by a leading pair of principal dancers.
I’ve been working on this painting for two years, attempting to express the inexpressible. It is my husband’s favorite piece. A friend recently visited from Canada and loved it. Often people who visit the studio comment on it or gaze at it for long periods of time. I’ve long considered it unfinished, needing more work but now, it suddenly seems complete. As it is. It is an unusual shift in style for me – toward simplicity, perhaps. May it bring you joy!
Last spring and early summer I found myself unexpectedly in New York City for 5 weeks. Anton, our 12 year old son, was there to study piano with Gleb Ivanov. In the moments of hot early summer in the city, I found wonder and relief in the the most unlikely landscape of Tribeca, with its views of an ocean of glass and steel. These are the first three images in a series from Vivian Bower’s window, who so graciously and generously offered her studio for me to work in.
A look at the show at B Deemer Gallery.
In exactly 2 weeks I will be leaving Crestone for while to attend some openings in USA and Europe and to spend time in one of my favourite places on Earth – my family’s 16th century stone block house in the small village of Vrsar on the Adriatic Coast of Istria. This town has been my inspiration since childhood and I look forward to painting and teaching 2 workshops there for the next three months. This painting depicting some of the tiny islands of the 18 island archipelago sprinkled in the waters surrounding the village was created during one of the summers spent in Vrsar. It will be shown in the upcoming B.Deemer Gallery exhibition in Lousiville, KY. See the entire show.