“There is devil within each of us but it depends on us whether they are to be nourished or detained within. Burn your devil side into ashes on the holy fire of Samhain. Have a great Samhain celebration today.”
“Let us remove negative thoughts from the depth of our souls on this day of Samhain. Celebrate the evening with people you love and God shall give you a great year ahead.”
Such are the frequently perky suggestions for Samhain greetings I encountered online (link: https://www.virtualedge.org/happy-samhain-greetings/). Being an American, the Celtic tradition of Samhain feels like an affectation, one I feel self conscious in expressing. Yet a day (evening actually )honoring thinned veils of consciousness, liminal possibilities , new beginnings and fairy folk is pretty difficult to resist.
Translated from Spanish, my late mother-in-law Elisa would frequently chastise those inclined to fretting to “not paint the devil on the wall”. Being a well practiced fretter AND a painter of devils, it seemed a particularly pointed and relevant admonition.
I am behind a veil of my own at the moment, not so much straight up depression , but one concerning purpose, direction and uncertainty. I’m 59, an ungainly number , lacking the elegant roundness of 60, and in this awkward time of life I keenly sense not knowing what lies ahead. We purchased a home in Chicago, a lovely between-the-wars apartment on Lake Shore Drive, very handsome and its care and renovation has been my primary focus. But that domestic fussing is coming to an end and in putting down the big brushes of home redecoration I am having difficulty picking up the smaller brushes of personal expression.
My Chicago studio, the workroom is what I am calling it, is quite small, the former maid’s quarter, and that smallness has had an impact psychologically. I once painted vast ceiling murals, in hindsight astonishing physical accomplishments. The nuts and bolts of climbing 30 plus feet in the air, on rickety scaffolding, single handedly painting , with such confidence, recalls pride and admiration for a younger braver person…it also saddens me knowing that chapter is closed. I could not I fear, at this stage, climb to such heights and frankly I wouldn’t want to. Decorative painting was grueling , frequently underpaid, unappreciated work, nearly all of my work has been painted over, much of it painted pre-I phone, undocumented. Memories, many of them bittersweet.
I now, contrary to Elisa’s scolding, paint devils, on canvas and panel, stitched up, carved into lino, sketched into notebooks. Devils and hobgoblins galore as some recent workroom snaps attest.
Currently at work on illustrating the Maya creation myth Popol Vuh , I am happily occupied but my wonder at this point is what’s next? Paintings, of course but drawings , pencil work on paper really holds my attention, stitching as well, bringing the greatest satisfaction…and yet oddly, foolishly perhaps , I feel that to be inadequate , insufficient.
Ponderings, naval gazing, trying to put self consciousness aside, at nearly sixty I struggle like a sixteen year old with self doubt.
Good news , some sales, my skull The Eternal Cycle, now on an international exhibition tour, has sold, and when the traveling show ends, will have a permanent home, that is quite gratifying.
Also gratifying is the fact that my oil painting Genesis has also found a collector.
Another bit of happy news was a satisfying conversation with an artist Richard Bledsoe at Remodern Review, who I admire a great deal and is unafraid to ask the tough and challenging questions others more timid, less confident, fear to ask.
These are early morning musings and I must at this point get on with day as Dawn reaches out her less than rose tinted fingers across the Los Angeles skyline (visible from my dining table). Nonetheless , a little more personal clarity gained upon reflection ; sending out good wishes, open horizons and lifted veils of doubt.
Belated happy Halloween, a solemn All Souls Day and a spirit filled Samhain.