Samhain is fast approaching as is All Saints Day, both observances that I find personally meaningful . For they provide a moment to pause and recognize that liminal in-between state of the Quick and of the Dead. Whether you are seeking the portal to Fairyland, or beseeching the intercession of the saints, it is a backward glance, one familiar and comforting as winter hunkers down. Given my general melancholic state , it is my favorite time of year. In order to best honor Samhain I annually create a drawing to celebrate this Punkienight, the haunt of woodspirits, fairyfolk and frightening rutabagas demanding one “Give me a candle, give me a light If you don’t, you’ll get a fright”.
What’s not to love?
So today’s daily drawing honors this special time of year, where the dead, the fairy, the saint, are all in our midst. Enjoy their company. In my neighborhood, one with a vibrant Mexican American community, the Dia de los Muertos altars are being set up, bright with orange marigolds, culinary treats, candles, confectionary skulls and the wafting aroma of ancient copal, and clearly , most importantly, the gathering of loved ones, particularly poignant in this moment of isolation. Tomorrow I will burn copal (hopefully my smoke alarm will behave itself), I will read the mass of the Saints, I will reflect upon those passed and treasure those in my midst. honoring both the spirits of life and the souls of the parted.
Happy Halloween, good Samhain, a festive Dia de los Muertos and may the legion of Saints guide you to light and peace.
This period of extended isolation, while challenging for many has proven a boon personally . For some reason I am included in quite a few exhibitions this year of 2020, virtual and actual . Earlier this week I received notice that two of my religious/Christian themed works were accepted by Trinity Episcopal Cathedral’s annual Trinity Art Show in Sacramento California , I will be trekking up to Sacramento for physical drop off early in October-fingers crossed further restrictions and or devastating fire are avoided.
In the virtual realm I’ve been as blessed, several exhibitions in LA and beyond , of especial note Transition at Launch LA just closed. Jurored by Holly Jerger an artist (an person) I admire , she selected a distinct collection of work, far removed from the usual predictable drab LA fare. Given her association with the Craft Museum it was perhaps unsurprising that many works selected were distinctive in their hands-on techniques.
I was also honored that my Herakles Tapestry was included in the vibrant collection of works at the expansive Brea Gallery in Brea California. This year’s Made in California (MICA) seemed socio-politically timely with much emphasis on POC/gender/queer art themes. To be honest I felt my work and my presence a bit anachronistic. Nonetheless pleased to have been included, I believe that show closes today.
But of most particular delight was having the following painting included in an upcoming virtual exhibition hosted by the University of Arizona, Museum of Art, Picturing 2020: A Community Reflects. The University of Arizona’s Museum of Art has an impressive permanent collection, one I had not initially expected. In response to the isolation of Covid upon artists in particular the museum selected new art to be in conversation with art from their permanent collection. In a moment of being “heard”, the museum’s selection for my work Saguaro in a Desert Landscape was none other than Max Ernst’s Arizona Nightingale. Ernst is quite an inspiration , to be compared in any way is an honor, for the comparison to be from an art museum I admire and had frequently visited, quite an honor indeed.
I floated as lightly as Ernst’s nightingale the rest of the day!
Please pardon the paltry image of Ernst’s painting, it is what I have been able to find, a link to the painting and its provenance (which is impressive) follows:
In place of traditional museum label written by a curator, the museum is using my own words to describe my painting ; as usual bumbling, but sincere:
“An existential darkness is revealed in spite of the joyous coloring and surface patterning, which stylistically references my affection for medieval miniaturist illumination, by so doing I inadvertently expose my inner self…the hazard and boon of spontaneous expression.”
The exhibition will run September 26th through March 28th, via this link:
We are snowbirds to Tucson , spending our winter holidays in the beautiful high desert, visiting our growing adopted pig family at Ironwood Pig Sanctuary and of course visiting the University Art Museum (their permanent collection of 15th and 16th c. paintings incredible , most particularly Maestro Bartolomé’s series of panel paintings). This year with Covid closings not sure what our Tucson winter will be like, thankfully the saguaro , and perhaps the mythical nightingale , will be there to welcome us back.
My esposo so rarely asks anything of me, he supports my work in every sense , so when he made a request for me to paint a portrait of the “Eater of Filth”, the Aztec goddess Tlazoltéotl, I could hardly say no. I introduced David to this fierce goddess when in Mexico City , reading aloud the words of the great Mexicophile , Alma Reed’s and her description of Tlazoltéotl :
” Primarily an earth goddess, Tlazoltéotl, “Eater of Filth”, alone among the female deities had a moral significance, since in eating refuse, she was believed to consume the sins of mankind, leaving them pure.” ( The Ancient Past of Mexico, 1966).
I knew this would resonate with my beloved, for aside from Roman priests and the sacrament of confession, few professions aside from his own(psychoanalysis) are able to break through the wall of darkness and allow the pure light of renewal into one’s soul.
He asked for a portrait of this patroness of sinners, of purification and of curing, of misdeeds and of childbirth and of renewal.
And unofficially, of psychic renewal.
This is it.
For my darling, Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.
Tlazoltéotl, a difficult birth.
oil on panel
18 by 24 inches
My depiction of this great goddess was in a great part inspired by the well known depiction such as the one that follows. We in fact have a silly clay whistle of her, purchased at the base of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, sitting on our dining room sideboard.
In this image she is giving birth to one of the maize gods; again, a symbol of rebirth.
According to the Miller/Traube Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico, she is often depicted with a broom to represent her ability to cleanse; I thought a dainty dust rag more fitting for my goddess. I’m not going to psychoanalyze my own painting, why the amputated semi- aborted men? I do not know. I do know I chose butterflies, an almost universal symbol of the soul, some to be set free and to flourish and some to be crushed to their death, at her whim.
This seemed fitting for this goddess who we all most confront at some time ; the Aztecs, according to Reed, would make offerings and auto sacrifice to her upon their death bed. But as my own psychoanalyst interpreted recently, this great goddess of redemption, this “Eater of Sin”, needs our sins to survive as much as we need her for redemption.
In my desire to more fully engage as an artist I have joined an artists alliance that is affiliated with a local museum here in Southern California. Apparently, once a quarter, its members gather with one piece of their work and a group critique ensues.
Strikes terror in my heart frankly.
Nonetheless I have decided to attend. I have a fair number of paintings to choose from but most tend to be rather large. Fortunately I have been working on three smaller paintings, one of which is 95% complete, it is calledPeregrino de la Rosa- Pilgrim of the Rose.
Peregrino de la Rosa
oil on canvas
24 by 30 inches
The painting started out, as I posted on the following link, as a small sketch cobbled together after being inspired by my dear friend Rosa’ s nocturnal wanderings-spiritual development and a trinity of owls being major themes, the link provides more detail. But as I painted and explored I better understood the personal significance , hence my pilgrim is no longer a woman but instead one of my idealized
Poussin inspired heroes.
I have come to see this image as a moment of decision at a crossroads, one in which I find myself. Our pilgrim has encountered a shaman like figure and is offered two paths, the more obvious one and the more furtive one, which will he take? I find myself still struggling with this persistent question : steeling my nerves and going forward with formal training or staying on the familiar and frankly often frustrating path of self discovery. This group critique is an opportunity for me to poke my head out of the hermitage and perhaps explore options.
Detail of my peregrino
On an aesthetic level I’m happy with the tone and coloring of this painting. The underpainting was done in a very warm monochrome, essentially Indian Yellow. I’m pleased the painting retained the warmth.
As I mentioned the painting is very close to completion, some noodling about with finicky details and further shadows and light but essentially finished. The critique is early this evening and I want the painting to be at least tacky dry for transport so I will hold off fussing until tomorrow.
I was out of the studio yesterday for a wonderful reasons, two friends who we have loved for years, Victor and his incredible wife Claire, were in San Diego for a conference. We know are friends from our time spent in Pittsburgh, David and Victor were in the same doctoral program. As lovely as Pittsburgh is, and it truly is, they do not have cacti. San Diego has them in abundance, and this weekend they were showing off. I snapped a few images, I’m not a botanist or a photographer so I must be forgiven for the quality and lack of identification. All I can do is create a memento of a lovely time with dear friends.
I love the wee little bees
Sometimes I wonder where my ideas come from, but some are rather
I’m going to miss my friends, such a bright memory that I will treasure.
The following is a wonderful image taken by Claire, I just love it.