At Twilight

When I turned four, an older sister told me I’d be all grown up at five. On the day I reached that ripe old age, I realized she’d been dead wrong and was outraged.

At twenty I remember thinking, When I am 25 I’ll know myself and be self-assured in public. When neither happened, I’d at least become wise enough to stop setting arbitrary dates for maturation and self-awareness.

Along the way I’ve envied the self-assurance of trees, flowers, birds and animals. An iris is an iris. It shoots up for a few glorious days, and fades away obediently. The top of a redwood disappears into the sky, displaying its innate strength and elegance unseen. A bougainvillea knows to cascade in unselfconscious splendor, an orange tree bears oranges, a mockingbird is a born mimic, and a mourning dove, surely misnamed, has no idea that her beautiful life affirming coo is mournful.

Such living things are simply being themselves. They don’t worry about who or where they are, where they came from, or where they’re going. Just so the tortoise who plods along day to day, supremely satisfied with his slow pace and the captivity of his own shell. He doesn’t wonder if he’s doing it right, he doesn’t strain against his confinement or try to speed up. Once, confounded by the inertia of a family pet, I wrote a book about a turtle who wanted to fly. Sheer fantasy down to the helpful rabbit and irritating squirrel. I never wrote another book in which talking animals had human aspirations, however. It seemed an invasion of an animal’s dignity to present it in ways counter to its own perfect reality. That’s not to say that I’m not enchanted by stories with bats that read books or spiders that befriend pigs. And it’s clear that children love to think of their world in this fanciful way and can often better identify with these amazing wild creatures, that can seem, for a little while, just like themselves.

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AT TWILIGHT   pastel, 40 1/4” x 30″

As I grow older I continue to struggle to know myself – my strengths, my weaknesses, and my abilities. Though I definitely have a clearer picture of what I have accomplished in the past, there is still some doubt as to what I can accomplish in the future or if there will be enough time for all I’d like to complete. Of course none of us at any time in our lives knows the answer to these two conundrums. But they become more imperative as challenges increase. Even those lifeless rock formations to which I am eternally drawn, display a sense of rightness and place and history that astounds me.  When I have the sense to stop questioning so much and to emulate the trees and flowers and animals, and, yes, the rocks, for a little while everything becomes so much easier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lemonade and Tangerines

After the death of both of my parents, one of my two older sisters divided up the furniture and items of value from the estate.When I chose not to move bulky beds I didn’t need across the country, she sent a box of my grandmother’s china, rumored to have been won in a poker game and made in China at a time when anything exported from that country was considered inferior. I did not remember having ever seen the set before, but it evoked a period in my life when my grandparents lived with us and life seemed simpler and safer. It also hinted at a grander lifestyle than my grandmother had ever attained.

Hattie's China I
Hattie’s China I   pastel  44 1/4” x 30″

Weighted as the pieces were with inferred meaning, I set out to capture a sense of what that might have been. The resulting Hattie’s China series in pastel on paper is also an experiment in approaching a still life from above in a way that plays with reflections and shadows and suggests that someone has just left the scene. Later I used this same approach when painting a series in which disparate chairs were depicted as having been recently abandoned by their occupants.

In the case of the Hattie’s China series I think of the entire process as partly an attempt to turn lemons into lemonade. Artists do that all the time by choosing to transform an ordinary landscape into something magical or, in portraiture, by elevating an individual through the artist’s singular vision..

One of my daughters now owns the china.  But I will always own the process by which I extracted meaning from those few pieces that had belonged to someone I loved.

Hattie's China III
Hattie’s China III  pastel  40 1/4” x 30″

While I’m presently attempting to transform a small space into a workable studio it’s comforting to remember that I have turned lemons into lemonade before with some success.

Collins slides copy
Hattie’s China II  pastel  44 1/4 x 30″