Last night I found myself at Fort Mason wandering around the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show Preview Gala thanks to Gallery Lefebvre for whom our daughter is working. The place was teeming with beautiful people and things and art and food to consume. Just outside evening was quietly unfolding on San Francisco Bay where freighters headed in and out through the Golden Gate in silent splendor, filling me up to overflowing, my own private art extravaganza.
Earlier this week I heard Dan Buettner on NPR talking about his book, "Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way." (hint: Work less, make more friends, live in a beautiful place near where you work, enjoy the arts, and spend time out of doors.)
It just so happens, I've been doing just that. Being with friends in this beautiful place we live and getting outside in the warm October air. Sure enough. Feels pretty darn good. The stuff that Art is made of.
Amazingly, after weeks under the lights and weekends in the refrigerator, this pear was sweet and juicy, and everything a pear should be. I ate it all. Grateful for its goodness and beauty and inspiration.
The ultimate exercise in paring down.
Pears seem positively mundane compared to the art of Charlotte Salomon at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Intense. Emotional. Obsessively she created 1300 paintings about her life and times bearing witness to the Holocaust which ultimately took her life at 26. Sad and poignant and horrifying. Her creative spirit defiantly fills the room. A powerful reminder that lodges deep in the heart.
It's Fleet Week in San Francisco, a celebration of Naval Aviation. I left the museum to find aircraft carriers in the Bay and sailors on every corner. Old timey planes flying by in formation. It felt like a time warp. As I write it is a golden October afternoon, everyone is out enjoying the sunshine and the week's end. People watch in awe as the Blue Angels fly overhead. Their power and precision both beautiful and disturbing. A reminder that lodges in the heart.
For the moment I'm sticking with pears. Beautiful in their simplicity.
These pears won't last forever. My studio smells sweet. I want to eat one. But. When they are gone, that will be the end of this series. And although I could go to the market and find some commercially grown who knows where, it wouldn't be the same as finding a few freshly picked from Schoppert's crop left on the kitchen counter.
It turned cold and grey this morning. No more sitting outside pretending it's still summer. So I took myself to the de Young Museum to look at some of my favorite paintings in one of my favorite places, and to look at people looking at paintings which is one of my favorite things to do. I saw the Picasso show first as I had been urged to do by friends. It was vast and varied and certainly worth the trip. But as usual, the prize was hanging around my old favorites and watching people coming and going and sometimes stopping and looking and seeing and being seen. David Park's "Couple" is particularly enlivened by the presence of a person. Art augments Life augments Art.
You know it's Fall when the Schoppert's pears show up on our kitchen counter. Each one perfectly formed, the skin a rich tapestry of red/ochre/orange/green. One bite, and an entire summer of sweetness bursts back into being. Beautiful, delicious, and bountiful. The fruit of their labor. This one's for them.
It took all morning to upload files for a new business card. Nothing like conquering a tech feat to make one feel all kinds of powerful.
I'm liking these old timey colors I happened upon painting the Boats on the Bay series. A new wave for me so to speak? We'll see where it takes me. For now, it's the weekend. Warm and well earned after the morning's challenge.
I seem to have started a series of little paintings from the week of Big Boats racing on San Francisco Bay. Little because it's that time of year. (Monterey Museum of Art Miniatures, November 17, Bolinas Museum Mini Show November 19, Studio Gallery SF Tiny Show November 3.) Boats on the Bay because it's the backdrop of my life. The Bay, Alcatraz, the City, the Bridge, monuments all. Boats and big ships enlivening the seascape in the same way cows make Sonoma hillsides come alive.
Big boats, big bridge, big bay, Winning combination. I wonder if the sailors know how beautiful they look on the water, like dancers choreographed by the wind. And if they would care less about winning or losing if they knew how much they contribute to the beauty of the landscape just by being there.
Summer is slipping away. I am hanging on to long days, warm nights, breezy afternoons, and all that goes with it. Friends. Family. Books. And staring at the sea. If you want permission to stare, read Ann Patchett's, "What Now." And if you need permission to learn in unconvential ways listen to Philip Schultz talk about "My Dyslexia." Bottom line. Transition. It never ends.
Labor Day is all about leaving. Being left. And what is left behind. I am looking forward to a weekend of warmth and reflection. Of all the Love we gathered up from June to September filling us up to overflowing for all the months to come.
There's always a little melancholy associated with leaving the island. The window boxes we planted in June are in full bloom and everything that was broken has been repaired. Little annoyances that loomed large at the beginning of the summer seem insignificant in the end. The air is fresher, the beach more pristine, and the mountains even more majestic than ever. It's time to pack up the paints and the dog and head for home. One last day to soak it all in. And then we're off.
Among other things, my sister and I share the same taste in music. In June she sent me her newest find, Gillian Welch's new CD, "The Harrow & The Harvest." Gray, sultry and soulful it has been my studio sound track all summer. Listening over and over to Welch's humid voice I heard something new each time. The words, the music, and the even the titles, all perfect little works of art. This is the music that inspired me and will forever sum up my summer. "Dark Turn of Mind" is the title of the second track which I played over many times while making this painting. I love the song and am grateful to Welch for her work. And to my sister who has known me longer and better than anyone else on earth.http://www.npr.org/2011/07/18/137823880/the-fresh-air-interview-gillian-welch-david-rawlings?sc=emaf
The wind has shifted East and a light drizzle has been falling all day. The sailor says, "nothing good ever comes out of the East." But that depends what your definition of "good" is. I could wander around in the grayness of it all for a long time happily, finally having found a way to soften the color without everything turning to mush. Am going to continue on in this vein. Until the sun comes out.
August is here. The sailors set off for another week of sailing on a warm afternoon with the gentlest breeze sending them West. Now the island is covered with fog and I am in the studio listening to Bach piano music and savoring the solitude.
Last week was hot. Too hot to do much of anything other than dip feet in the cold sea and hope for rain.
What a difference a cool breeze makes. Yesterday laundry was hanging again and it felt like what our family calls "a typical Maine day," the hallmark of which is bright, blue, and breezy. It's a joke, of course, because it so rarely what we get. But in the midst of winter when we dream of Maine, it is always a "typical Maine day."
Not much is how we imagine it to be. In the studio I have been trying again to loosen up, try new things, not worry about making mistakes. Not much is getting finished, but it feels like progress. We'll see.
So here is how things work on the island. We invite Jan, who is a master gardener, to join us for dinner. She brings two bags of home grown lettuce for a delicious salad and a red, pink, and purple flower bouquet in a blue vase, whose handle is broken off. The vase was headed for the rocks on the beach to some day come back to us as sea glass. But for now, it is the perfect vessel for Jan's flowers which along with the left over lettuce are reminders of the great evening we shared earlier in the week. When the flowers are finished blooming I will get to break the vase on the rocks and if I'm lucky, will be the one to harvest the sea glass some day down the road when it is ready.
It was a sultry Sunday evening when the island gathered at the church to hear Randy Miller and James Prendergast play fiddle and guitar. The warm air swirled around carrying soulful sounds of the past while everyone tapped a foot or finger in time to the music. The church is dark inside, with its wood wains coating and well worn pews. But the intense yellow light that pours in through the tall stained glass windows reflects the goodness that gathers there and spreads through the community. This was one of those times when we felt the past in the present and were just glad to be here.
The weekend was warm and sunny and everyone was out soaking it in. We sat around a lot. Sailboat races put on a good show both days, and we watched with relish from our deck. No wind one minute, blowing 20 the next. I certainly do like watching weather come and go from the comfort of home. Right now it is pouring down rain. The sun is shining through a wall of grey on its way to setting. I am inside watching the show. And there is nowhere I would rather be.
It was sunny and just enough breeze to set sail right from the mooring yesterday when the sailors headed West for the week. I have been painting ever since. Except when I rode my bike to the end of the island and stopped to talk to friends along the way and picked up the mail and bought ice cream at the store. Rosie is here. She gets walked and talked. It's hot and all the doors are open. A little coolness is wafting this way. Just about perfect.
There is an osprey that often sits at the top of an old dead tree outside my studio. I suspect he is one of a pair that have a nest on the spindle around the point and I wonder if he comes here to take time off from all the hubbub at home. It has been hard to tear myself away from all the goings on around my house too. Things to fix, walks to take, people to see, boats coming and going on the water, and summer sun to soak in. But once I get here and start painting, I feel so good, I think, "what took you so long?" Sometimes you just have to get away to get back to who you are.
There's a certain sadness when the July 4th weekend ends and friends leave the island. Back to real life that hasn't actually started yet. There are still things to fix and work routines haven't taken hold. Summer is about starting and stopping. And not knowing the plan. Seeing Sam's laundry blowing the breeze set a good course for getting a little something done. Finally.
I waited a good long time for this man to come along to stand in awe of the two ever so still lives on this wall just as you enter the SF MOMA Permanent Collection. The Marsden Hartley "Still Life (The Lily)" on the left as well as the Giorgio Morandi "Still Life" that you can't see is on its right. They stopped me in my tracks when I first entered the space. Quiet, simple, small. And color that is deep and rich and earthy. A parade of people came and went, few stopping even for a moment here. But when this man walked in and found his spot, I knew he was the one. Tall and straight. Wearing the colors of the paintings and firmly planted right in front. Big man. Small paintings. Simple shapes all in sync. Worth waiting for.
The sculpture is Manuel Neri's, "Mary and Julia." The painting is just a little corner of Joan Brown's, "Noel in the Kitchen," one of my all time favorites. The passer-by is soaking it all in. As was I after seeing "The Steins Collect Mastisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant Guard" at S.F. MOMA on a rainy day at the end of last week. The show was wonderful. Full of light and discovery. Nothing pompous or dark. I left recommitted to do with gusto whatever it is that I do, which is in essence what the artists and collectors of the show were all about. I couldn't leave without perusing the permanent collection where I could move freely, photograph, and take in the flow of figures filing past cherished artworks. A never ending revelation and source of inspiration.