When I was ten years old my mother passed away quietly in her sleep. Death came to my mother in her 40th year and it hit our family completely unprepared. I am the youngest of the four children and I didn't actually know what happened until I came home from school that day. I will never forget climbing up onto my dad's lap and weeping. My life changed forever in that moment. The next day when I walked to school it seemed so strange that the whole world was just going forward like it always did. Something had come to a stop in my life like the slow motion film clip of the crash test dummies going through the windshield. My mother had gone away for ever, stopped existing but the rest of the world carried on.
As with all terrible things there was a gift hidden within the event of my mothers death. I learned from an early age that we can survive horrible things. Life becomes difficult and then it gets better. It is as if life has a sort of wave pattern like the sea alive with its waves and of course so is sound. Eventually my wound and leave me with a glorious scar. In two years my father would find a new life partner (still with her 44 years later) and my lost mother was replaced- sort of.
When I think back to this early dance with death I think that it may have been the moment that I became an artist. That day I walked to school and noticed how strange I felt and how separate I was from the rest of the world, maybe I was stepping into my artist destiny. I believe artists endure a certain separateness. This separateness the artists feel is not one that makes them in any way better or worse. They are still obviously part of the human family. It is the separateness that the shaman feels in his village or perhaps the prophetess that speaks to the people on behalf of God. There is this certain out side looking in that I have always felt. Ok, maybe it's is too grandiose to think that artists might be speaking for God (tho I think Joan of Ark certainly was and what artist doesn't identify with Saint Joan?). Another way to think about this is just that artist have a hard time fitting into the regular world and so they end up making their own world. They make it the way they want it to be or feel that it should be. In my world death is not the end but a new beginning. Death is a stepping over into another kind of life. Death is when our time to take or test is over and it is time to hand in what we have completed. Death is the stopping point for when we rise up into our next life.
Two days ago when it was snowing hard with a good wind blowing I went out with drawing paper and easel to a spot in our neighborhood were I have drawn before. I set up and drew the drawing above in about thirty minutes which is about all I could stand to take with the wind blowing snow in my face. As harsh as it was it was also exhilarating to be out there simply responding to the intensity of the weather and the natural beauty of the landscape.
This is the drawing I did three years ago of the same view. Even though it was done in March there is a note to myself that reminds me of how cold it was that day as well. There is a harshness to Winter in the Midwest that is easy to complain about but as challenging as Winter can be here it also forces a sort of rugged development of the soul. Winter may become an opportunity to become tougher and more resilient if you can accept the challenge with the right attitude.
This painting titled String Game (which recently sold to David Ledbetter) shows the same landscape view inthe background. This painting is from a series that explored relationship intertwining. The painting includes the landscape environment where my two daughters grew up. They are tied to this land as they are to each other. Growing up in the same family and sharing a bedroom along with so many common experiences, have imbued their relationship with depth and meaning. It is a beautiful thing to see them together simply enjoying each others company.
As I ruminate on why I continue to take the trouble to go out into nature and draw and paint, I realize that this practice over the years has helped me to love the place where I live with an unusual depth of feeling and commitment. Sitting outside for extended periods of time, looking and making marks, has helped bring me closer to understanding what it means to really live in a place. Drawing and painting my children over the years may have had a similar effect of creating a potent bond. Drawing and painting then becomes an act of love and brings with it all of it's own ramifications.
Eye Face by Shepherd Beerhorst
I really like this scene from the film Basquiat by Julian Schnabel. I enjoy the fluid way he moves from piece to piece working on more then one painting at a time in a way that looks almost effortless. It is as if he is creating a world for him self to live in surrounded by all his big paintings.
Yesterday Shepherd and I watched this scene together. We are working on a few paintings together for the Beerhorst Family Spring Art Show and I though it would help him to see a painter in process. Shepherd is a brilliant draftsman already but painting is new to him. I am enjoying the process of being able to build a painting together between the two of us and our very different styles.
I have not loved a movie this much in I don't know how long. Maybe it is because our life is currently awash in young people who are living through a lot of the same issues as the characters in this movie; looking for work with out any real work experience in the great recession, frustrated hopes for romance, female body image, and desire for real intimacy in a youtube world.
The filmmaker and main character Lena Dunham (ala Woody Allen), actually used her real sister and mother as - her sister and mother in her movie and shot it in their real home in Tribeca NY. There is a lot of realness for me in this movie including Dunham physical presence which is not anything close to typical kind of women we are accustomed to seeing in the movies. I do not have words for how refreshing this is to see a film populated by people that look like us.