Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 6

(this is a continuation of a speech I was asked to give on my personal "spiritual journey" in 2010.)

Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beutiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever
Isak Dinesen

Life moved on. The physical pain from the chronic illness continued, in different and lesser forms. The grief was slowly slowly mixed with hope as I continued to read and study the wisdom of Rabbi Kushner. Eventually, fairly quickly in the scheme of things, I was pregnant again. Thrilled, nervous, wary, excited -- it was a roller coaster of emotions. Finally, finally, my Raine was born, a wee bit early, on May 16 (if he had gone full term he would have been born on the day I lost the twins). Perfect in every way, except for the colic that made him cry for 16 hours a day. No time to paint. Lots of time to heal, and think. Eventually I began to find an hour here or thirty minutes there to paint. This time, my mind began to dwell on more domestic issues, and that's when the dessert paintings started. I have heard advice to writers, to write what they know about, and I suppose with painting it's no different. I was practically weaned on sugar! I had been baking fun desserts for friends and family for years, (I really really loved cupcakes way before they were cool), and had been taking and gathering photos for a while. Clearly in a happier place, I have had a lot of fun including the many dessert references on the paintings that are such a common part of our dialogue. Some of the paintings' names are: Sugar Rush, Save Room For Dessert;Cupcake Nation;
Eat Cake; Eat Me (a reference to Alice in Wonderland); Just Desserts; Hello, Cupcake; and Happy Ending, among others. I've done about 50 now, and I still love to paint a cake or pie. Here are a few of them:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 5

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there is a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room, I shall be able to see.
--Helen Keller

(This is a continuation of a "spiritual journey" story I began earlier.)

This was a dark dark time. I felt like I had a black cloud over me and was being punished for something -- divorce, sickness, now death. When my husband and I had met, we shared a fascination with cemeteries (mine I think was inherited, as I remember a birthday of my grandmother and all she wanted to do was go to the cemetery and look for relatives). We both were photographers and loved the statuary, especially, visiting famous ones in Paris, London, and elsewhere, Vermont and lots of country roads we drove down. One of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen is Richmond's own Hollywood Cemetery, where our first two boys are now buried. Ironically, on our wedding day we were a few minutes early to our wedding feast at a favorite restaurant. To pass the time until it opened, we, along with a lot of our wedding party, drove through nearby Hollywood.

Eventually our cemetery fascinati
on passed somewhat, we ended up spending a lot of tearful time in Hollywood through the next few months and years, but I had kept a bunch of the photos I took there. I found them recently and they still evoke a mood of both sadness and peac
e for me. I manipulated them some with paper and paint in the way I am working today. Here are a few:

The singlemost important thing that happened during this time was that I stopped believing God had control of things. This changed the outlook that I had carried for 35 years or so, and in essence, involved giving up my security blanket, which rocked my world. But simultaneously, I was able to give up the guilt and
the feeling that I was being "punished" all this time. The book that changed my thinking, my "Bible", which I have read about seven times no
w, given to countlesspeople, and raved about for years, is When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Rabbi Harold Kushner. This was written way back in the 1960s or 1970s but still speaks so loudly to me. I have read some of his other books and this one is by far the best. I am currently reading Overcoming Life's Disappointments which gives great lessons on how to act and think when the chips are down.

So with this epiphany, I began a brighter outlook and to recover from the many losses. We had gotten so many beautiful flowers at the deaths of our twins, and I had taken photos of some of them. Thus began my flower series, which continues today. By comparing the pieces above with the pieces below, you can see that my outlook truly changed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 4

Don't go through life, grow through life.
Eric Butterworth

This is a continuation of the "spiritual journey" story I began several entries back.
Spiritual Journey: Part 4

As my illness got fairly under control, my clock was ticking. Since I was a little girl, I've known that I'm meant to be here to make things and to have a family. Although it seemed like we tried forever, it really wasn't so long: 8 months after starting, we were pregnant. We were delighted, ecstatic, worried, nervous...even more so when we found out it was twins. I wasn't surprised at all: my grandfather, who was born in 1902, was one of 9 children -- with 3 sets of twins! My mother and I had discussed at various times how it wouldn't be surprising for me to have twins. Carefully, very carefully, we progressed, until one day 5 months along, my water broke. With in the next 24 hours, we had lost them both. As I write this, it has been 8 years and 7 days. They were 2 boys, the last one we got to hold for a few minutes, perfectly formed, except on the inside. Needless to say, we, I was devastated. (On a side note, the night before I delivered, my father had had a disturbing dream in which he was walking down to the water holding the hand of each little boy. They began to run ahead and he told them to wait. They said to him, "you have to let us go", which began my fascination with the afterlife/spirituality/our proximity with another state of consciousness. Several other experiences occurred during my father's sickness, and preceded his death.)

Back to where this relates to this particular writing, soon my recovery
showed up in my artwork. Here are several examples of what I
painted during this time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 3

In the end, what affects your life most deeply are things too simple to talk about.
Nell Blaine

This is a continuation of a story I began a few posts back, how I've noticed my artwork really does tell my story.

Eventually, the surgeries subsided and I slowly began to control this disease. A lot of the time, I felt okay. I was told many times by my parents, especially, how they respected me for my strength during these two major episodes, serious illness and a divorce. I went back to work. I travelled. I exercised. I painted.

I was drawn to recreating images from Old Masters drawings in monochromatic colors. The images I was most attracted to, and worked on, were of strong appearing women. Here is one I finished, a self portrait of sorts.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 2

Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of your lives.
Marilyn Ferguson

This is a continuation of a story I began about how I got to be where I am and how it's all recorded in the pieces I have created, unknowingly at the time.

Soon after my divorce I began to get sick, eventually being diagnosed with Irritable Bowel, specifically Ulcerative Colitis. These autoimmune diseases, so rampant now (or seemingly rampant because they are now named with diagnoses) are due to unknown causes but it is thought stress is a major factor. I am convinced that the stress of my marriage breaking up initially caused the disease. To make a very long story short, I eventually had to have my entire large intestine removed, replaced with a "handmade" interior pouch, functioning basically the same way. Unfortunately I was included in the 5% that are not healed by this process, and then I was re-diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which I live with today, and is similar to Colitis in many ways. For about a 4 year period I was really sick and had quite a few surgeries to replace and repair. When life became a little easier I noticed I was putting "stitches" on a lot of my pieces. Also during this period I my husband (7 years have passed by now) took a lot of photographs of my belly in an attempt to make my body look beautiful. He made a lot of "landscapes". Images are included below.

Monday, March 28, 2011

I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.
Joan Miro

I'm still on the spring flowers set. I realized today that I've just finished 12 in the last month.(!) I have really concentrated on darks and lights as I've been painting, a few times thinking that I just need to do the whole background in dark dark red/blue/brown and then work lighter. But I suppose that's part of what the underpainting is about. I've been on a zinnia kick, in part because I plan to plant so many this summer, and I usually don't have as much success as I'd like, so I'm thinking about them a lot. But I'm determined. Zinnias are amazing flowers--their pretty faces come in sooooo many colors and the complexity of their construction--especially the middle part, is crazy beautiful.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spiritual Journey: Part 1

"The more trouble I have the stronger I seem to grow."
--Paul Gauguin

Last year, as a member of the "management" of my church, I was asked to give my "Spiritual Journey" during coffee hour, between the two church services. Isn't speaking in public one of the most stressful things you can do? (Along with divorce, losing a child, chronic illness, losing a parent, losing a job--check, check, check, check, and check. More on this to come.) I was encouraged to use my artwork with my story, which I knew would make things a little easier as the focus would be off me somewhat, but how could I tell my highly personal life story in front of 30 or 40 people???? Luckily I had six months or so to prepare. I let the idea settle for awhile, and ferment, and I knew something would come together as the date approached.

It was definitely a stressful event, BUT I have to admit that preparing for it was really interesting and cathartic. I had viewed the several grief events in my life separately, but had never put the whole story together with my artwork. I was reminded of this when one of my best friends sat that day in the audience in the front row bawling. I later asked her why she was crying when she knew all my "stuff," and she replied that she hadn't known my whole story, or at least my story from the last 15 years or so. What I was so surprised--shocked actually--was that it's all there in the artwork. I am amazed that I am actually using what I create to tell my life story (and not just making pretty pictures!).

In the end it was a positive exercise and I was thankful that I had taken a look at the big picture of my life. This, coupled with my father's death two months later, has sent me on an introspective and sentimental journey that will no doubt continue to influence what I create.

So here's the rest of the story: (part one)
Fifteen or so years ago I was living in Florida, married and miserable, but still in denial about how miserable. I had recently decided to go back to school to fulfill the education requirements to become an art teacher. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that along with the meteorology and math classes (to teach art???) that were required I needed more art classes (my first bachelors degree was in art and communication). One of the classes I took was an entire semester of drawing self portraits. I was enjoying contour and doing a lot of these drawings and after the critique, my professor asked to see me, he wanted to talk about this portrait of me, nude, arms and legs crossed, sitting in front of a bunch of different chairs, empty. "Is something wrong? Is everything with you okay?" he asked. "Yeah yeah everything is fine," I had replied thinking that it was.
Two months later I had left Florida, and my husband, for good.
Here is the portrait.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I've noticed that during the last two Januaries, the more the snow blows outside, the more flower bulbs I order. All I can do as far as the garden goes this time of year is make plans. A little frustrating when I'm really wanting to dig in the dirt. However, this year I found an alternative to avoid merely biding my time, and started painting flower portraits -- again. Oh how I forgot how their little complex faces make me happy! I finished 4 during the last week, in the middle of 3 more, and just started 7 more! Usually I split my morning hours (3 of them) between painting, doing paper stuff, making cards, etc but for the last two or three weeks I can't do anything else but paint. I've let all discipline go. One day recently I got to paint for 9 hours! More to come, but for now, Happy Spring!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I'm not going to dwell on the fact that I haven't had a post since July. Life sort of got in the way for a while.
Back to one of my resolutions.
I've been doing stuff with animals for ages -- dog oil portraits, photos, bird things, etc. And I'm not done with the bird thing yet, or the nests. Before the holidays I started some new collages with various animals; the one I finished, a lovely pink zebra, sold right away. I may do another. And I've been thinking about giraffes some. I printed some pictures from a field trip to the zoo that I took with my boys last spring. Here is one I finished in late December. I love the texture of the paper, and the depth it creates, and also covers up some painting mistakes/imperfections/trouble spots. These are canaries; I only thought canaries were yellow but I was wrong. They are the most beautiful shade of light pink and also robin's egg blue. Check them out in person if you have a chance. Have also been thinking a lot about peacocks...