A Moon Song

An October 2017

October is upon us and all the stores are stocked with candy and costumes for the holiday at the end of the month. Whether we live in the countryside or in an urban community the full moon is our opportunity to be reminded of a time when people didn’t have electricity. For those communities still working their way through the devastation of the many hurricanes, they will be more appreciative of the night sky as there will be no other light available to them.

When people still lived without power and had only candle and starlight to see them through the night a full moon was an event; it affected the tides and trade as well. We today in the modern world don’t think about living without power until everything goes dark. The full moon is that globe in the sky that our ancestors watched perhaps around a fire or in the quiet of night from a balcony. We have electricity and for all the modern glow of an urban setting I still like having that time to gaze up at our partner through space in the quiet of night.

In my life I have lived in busy cosmopolitan cities such as Orlando Florida, Charleston South Carolina, and Newport News Virginia, but the moon shine there wasn’t as loud as it was on a mountain top in Huntingdon County Pennsylvania or in Quinton Township New Jersey. In upstate New York we lived north of Saratoga Springs and the ground was covered with dazzling snow much of the winter and reflecting the moon’s glow brilliantly. The yard and woods sparkling like a field of diamonds, only it is very, very cold and did I mention that in temperament I am a southerner and not suited to glacier living. As such my moon gazing was limited to our nocturnal excursions in town sampling warming elixirs at the pubs in Saratoga Springs along Broadway or by window enjoying a delicious meal at the historic Olde Bryan Inn.

Living in the tri-state area has many advantages in that we may enjoy a show at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, or a day trip down to historic Cape May, and even the beautiful museums and famous homes such as Nemours Mansion and Gardens in Delaware. When it comes to welcoming in October’s full moon I will be partaking of the best seat, my own backyard. Candy and costumes aside a glass of rich garnet colored Chianti in hand and our local barred owls hooting a lovely duet, is something I will always value. No matter how bright and shiny our neighboring cosmopolitan communities are, they are missing that primitive call harkening back through the ages when the night sky is more magical and more marvelous than the mini-computer in our pocket.An October full moon - Copy

Life at Night

A Sea Ghost Moon Sept. 6, 2017

On September 1st I flipped the page of my Vincent van Gogh calendar up and was rewarded with The Starry Night and immediately came images of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow animated by Disney to my mind. Both are a narration of something that may happen at night, and we are excited and a little afraid of what that outcome might be.

When I was a girl by September I would have waved good bye to my relatives in Pennsylvania to return to Virginia to begin the school year. While my cousins were harvesting apples from their orchard in Pennsylvania to press into cider my friends and I in Virginia were hiking the battlegrounds and woods surrounding old York Town. Sure it would get cold eventually, but meanwhile we could gear up for our own traditions like ghost stories told under the full moon.

One of my friends lived in a house that had a screened-in porch that we would camp out in slumber parties until it was simply too cold. I have family and friends in both the north and the south and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but when it comes to ghost stories southern girls do it best. On the peninsula we had an amazing variety of history to draw on; the original natives, the colonists; Massachusetts wasn’t the only place rumored to have witches. Cruel slavery imported a people along with their traditions and mythology as well.

Our particular favorites usually involved the full moon and houses long forgotten. We knew exactly where to find an abandoned drive long since overgrown by trees, some more than one hundred years old by the size of their girth and impassable by car, but easy enough for our bicycles. There through the woods on a lonely stretch of land stood a house near water. On the upper floor a tree busted through the roof. A few dishes were left in the antique cupboards. A pipe still packed with tobacco and a box of stick matches there beside it on the window sill and reflecting it all, an old mirror with the silver flecking off. Just such a find might guide our stories to the adventures of pirates; in fact many of the navigable waterways around Virginia were reputed hideaways for the dreaded buccaneers.

Our story telling did not restrict itself to just the past as Newport News was and is a very dynamic place culturally and historically but it is also a hub of technology and has several military installations nearby as well. These elements were all fodder to our nocturnal stories. I smile when I think of us in our sleeping bags huddled together with one of us illuminated by our lone flash light recounting the story of The Witch’s Tomb or Aliens like us and eating rice crispy treats and sipping orange soda through paper straws.

Seasons come and seasons go and this will be September’s only full moon. If the skies are clear, let us take the moment to put away our smart phones and take delight in the bounty of a beautiful moon, but most important to savor the company of our loved ones. Rice crispy treats and orange soda are of course optional.

A secret life at night

The Reading Season

A Good bye to summer Sept 1 2017 AA 1

 

Here it is, the last weekend of summer, unofficially and I am pleased to announce in the past fifteen months I have completed my manuscript. I have carefully combed through it removing anything that doesn’t carry the story forward. I have sketched the characters and drawn floor plans of the important settings and now comes the really hard part, finding the right home for it.

It is my belief that creating a novel or an oil painting is a lot like hatching an egg. While mammals carry their young inside the womb; birds, reptiles, amphibians and even octopi are the guardians of their young in their particular precarious environment. While I am sure that no thieving crow will swoop down from the sky and carry my baby off, I am still cautious before I reveal it.

Growing up in the Tidewater area of Virginia I have a much different idea of what the last weekend of summer feels like as opposed to my contemporaries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For us on the peninsula of Virginia summer did not magically stop at the Labor Day weekend, no it went on for weeks and in some years, months. One of my many fond memories of the Christmas season in Newport News is shopping on Christmas Eve and having the weather warm enough to wear cut off Levis and sandals. No it doesn’t have to be freezing to enjoy a candy cane; they’re good all the time.

While many people are preparing their children for back to school, and the holidays to follow when I think of those rainy days of autumn that is the best time to enjoy a new book. Right now as the rain falls on my roof muffling all the sounds outside I can easily focus on the page before me as I write. A slow drizzly rain I find is the best background for reading and writing as long as it isn’t the kind that can squash a community. When the power fails and batteries need to be conserved all that is left is playing cards, reading or perhaps journaling by candlelight. For people with small children sometimes that is the time to have them tell you their own fairy or ghost stories as my husband and I have with our daughter while weathering a hurricane without electricity.

It is no secret that in the publishing industry like the film industry they look to Christmas and the summer as a time to promote their hopeful top sellers, but I think maybe the New Yorkers’ missed a potential market; hurricane season. If not in imminent danger and I really mean not in danger of having your home and community swallowed by the aftermath of a gigantic storm and when there is no electricity to charge the smart phones and tablets, why not enjoy a good read by candlelight? There is simply nothing like reading to take us out of ourselves, out of our own world to see something we have never seen before and sometimes that something new is in the pages of a great book.

A Good bye to Summer 2017 - Sept 1. 2017

“You can’t teach a crab to walk straight,” Aesop

Mothers and daughters WomenIf we are to believe we cannot excel beyond that which we are made of, it would be a very limiting prediction. We would have never troubled to visit the moon or in earlier centuries to see beyond our own shores. We must acknowledge that example, may be the definitive teacher for better or worse. If your parents are litterbugs you may well be one too. That being said, we all have an investment in what we leave for our younger generations. Who doesn’t like the best? Who says, “I really love mediocrity!” And there it is, that risk of our invested time being undervalued and appreciated.

What we learn at our own mother’s knee may be something we take with us all through our lives. My mother is a landscape artist and while other children were getting the basics in the alphabet and the names of colors I was also learning the fundamentals of sketching. At the time I did not think it unusual that my mother painted with oil paints and that there were things like turpentine and linseed oil around the house. No, I thought it odd that my friend’s mothers did not paint.

She is an excellent baker and made prize winning cakes for our birthday parties and in some ways, I felt a little sorry for those children that had store bought cakes. I could not seem to grasp that their mothers could not bake, I mean my mother baked fresh bread every week; every week. We had a large family, so there was a birthday cake being baked nearly every month and in some months, twice.

My maternal grandmother would expect nothing less from her own daughter; in as much what our mothers teach us in our youngest years may benefit many others as well. With the arrival of Mother’s Day I may celebrate by saying thank you: for the art lessons, the baking lessons and that I always had a beautiful, imaginative Halloween costume courtesy of the Singer sewing machine and not those synthetic costumes that came from the five and dime.

One thing I must take away from my mother and grandmothers is always to be an original and do not let anyone else define my standards and expectations. Some people believe their occupations distinguish their lives and for others, life adds value to their vocations.

Who is your Art Tribe?

Dragon PearlI wonder if Homer was apprehensive about offending the society he was part of with his heroic adventure. I am sure that Frank Zappa would not have been the amazing individual he was if he let social standards rule his output. I think both were driven by their own vision and would not let society dictate their value. Did Gustav Klimt struggle with his vision of art among his contemporaries? Amedeo Modigliani surely suffered and died young, his paintings a lasting tribute to his journey as an artist. For some art is something that hangs on the wall, be it a doctor’s office or a museum, but I have always seen it as a window into another human being’s private journey.

While William Blake wrote and created his art the attitude of his immediate contemporaries was not one of accolades but rather of ridicule. If there is a great hereafter than Mr. Blake may have the last laugh for while he lived he struggled through poverty, but today nearly two centuries after his death he is awarded a private gallery at the very prestigious Tate Britain in London.

Vincent van Gough, if he has achieved the perfection of being that was not afforded him in life may have found it in the great beyond now that his paintings are valued at upwards of twenty-two million dollars. Marketability is the bane of artistic creativity; for art is supposed to be something above the gross conception of wealth and to elevate human beings upwards to the divine. Alas, the gatekeepers ever strive to put it in a safe box; when that is the exact antithesis of creativity. I feel that every blank canvas and every blank page is an opportunity to travel to where we haven’t before, a chance to see a world other than what is conveyed with our waking eyes, a chance to dream. Mr.van Gough saw that even when those around him were blind to it.

The first step in any campaign to control human beings is to remove their gods and their art so that they will forget their origins; their tribe. Those brave revolutionaries who cling to their beliefs even in the oppression of persecution are to be celebrated, not shunned. I believe to make real art, lasting pieces that test our reality one must dive into our subconscious and delve deep, otherwise what is the point? Are we to paint yet another still life of a bowl of fruit? Is that what we want to say as a species about our existence here on this planet when there is so much more to leave to future generations to ponder?

Federico Fellini’s Satyricon is an epic film based on the writing of Petronius during the rule of Nero. The parting imagery of the Coptic style portraits in the final stages of the film is something to remember for one day we will all be a memory; if we are that fortunate. Do we want to be remembered by a bowl of fruit?

I believe if we want to hang in a museum with the serious artists than we must delve past the membrane of reality, into the foreign and strange to find that black pearl that others were a feared to bring to light; the one that has goblins and dragons to protect it.

I believe art is something that can only be revealed by peeling back the sticky skin that separates our consciousness from our subconscious. An artist must plunge deep like a pearl diver to come up breathless with an exquisite gem those less stout of heart would be unable to dive for.

If we dare to be an artist than we better dust off our diving bell, armor and anything else needed to travel to the very edge of reality. We must go beyond to the blue-black regions that hide uncountable monsters and fiends that will lash onto our ankles and bring us even further down. Those monsters are always hungry and waiting…The black pearl is their lure, their welcome mat for those that dabble in the Arts just enough to call themselves artists to their immediate society. A true artist never thinks of themselves as an artist, they leave that label outside the studio door. Nothing will scare off the artistic muse quicker than arrogance.

Truly, artists are brave explorers seeking the undiscovered and returning more lined and wizened at what their subconscious reveals. Artists must be fearless for there are indeed monsters in those deep and dark places where night rests eternal and dawn not even a distant memory.

If we want to be artists beware: the blood we spill will be our own to distract the goblins from their treasure of black pearls. We must also realize that those who haven’t risked their sanity for the treasure will be blind to the wonder of our find. They will look on with veiled eyes and nod knowingly as if our particular strain of crazy might be catching. It might have gone epidemic in Parisian salons a hundred years ago but we won’t be having any of that malaise here. Jack Donaghy may have said it best on the 30 Rock series for those with limited imagination, “We know what art is! Paintings of horses!”

To be an artist is to brave the unknown, the unfamiliar, to follow an unmarked trail without breadcrumbs and the knowledge that when we return we will have left some bit of our ideology to return with a prize invisible to people painting safe pictures and writing safe stories. I do not believe Albrecht Durer, Pablo Picasso, Jules Verne, Alfred Hitchcock, and Federico Fellini created their art in safety for the masses but rather as an invitation for others like minded to join their tribe.

Are you an explorer, an astronaut, are you willing to go where there may be danger and are you willing to do so in front of a blank canvas, an empty sheet of paper; just you and your imagination? If so, than you may be part of the lost tribe of artists. Welcome!

 

Dragon Pearl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Pearl

Magic Vision: the Mystery of Fine Art

Christmas has arrived with her big beautiful full moon and you may be thinking of the celebration on New Year’s Eve but then what? 2016 arrives on January 1st and what are you going to do with yourself now that the decorations are put away and nothing but cold and snow to occupy us until the daffodils herald spring.

Those fortunate individuals with plenty of funds in their travel kitties’ wing to warmer regions; however there is a greener alternative to international travel. Earlier this year my partner and I parked our car and took the train into the heart of Manhattan. Our destination was the posh neighborhood that borders Central Park near the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the jewel box of a museum the Neue Galerie.

If you have had the pleasure of viewing Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer in the international film, Woman in Gold you don’t have to book an international flight and dust off your passport to see the painting in question. We have in our own cosmopolitan city of New York a treasure of international art all accessible from a cab ride from the train station within the city.

Great art is like a window that we may look past our contemporary society to view the world through the eyes of the artist. To understand another’s impression of the world is why we enjoy well made films and why with all our technology, human beings still spend time with well crafted literature.

Gustav Klimt created iconic images on the surface of mere woven canvas. It seems unimaginable the pains some individuals took to plunder this brilliant art. Something as fragile as paint and canvas came through a hellish world war, and to leave its country of origin to be placed in the hands of its rightful immigrant owners seems miraculous, and even magical.

The magical vision of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece might be inspirational enough to see 2016 as an opportunity to rediscover those passions we have let lie dormant too long. Think of the New Year as not about making resolutions to surrender our old habits, but rather about embracing what we find magical and beautiful. If the painting does not reinforce the awareness that political regimes come and go and yet the mystery of fine art still remains as enticing as the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt than you may need to give your cellular phone the day off too.

 

A Wild Haunting

I can recall the first time I saw the film Vertigo, such a gripping story with an element of Pygmalion in the way Jimmy Stewart’s character Scottie remakes Kim Novak’s character to be the phantom he still is in love with. As compelling as the story was, it was the view into the haunting beauty of Muir Woods that took hold of me and still I yearn to see it again and again. I found out later that in fact that bit was filmed at another California State Forest, but still beautiful all the same.

Before I was born my parents lived in the western United States. They returned to their roots in the east shortly before my birth. Consequently, my vision of the Redwood forest was shaped by their home movies and of course Alfred Hitchcock’s portrayal of it in his amazing film Vertigo.

My only real life connection to such an awesome forest was right here in the mid-Atlantic in a state forest in the heart of Pennsylvania. Many were the summer days we spent hiking in the woods of Trough Creek near Balance Rock and Rainbow Falls. Edgar Allen Poe is reputed to have spent time in the area and in fact a cliff wall is named Raven Rock because of his poem and his local connections.

As an adult I have the memories of my childhood summers in those lush woods under blue skies, but being an adult I also have had the opportunity to visit Stinson Beach and hike the trails of Muir Woods. Both are spectacular monuments to our continent’s wild beauty. We take time at this season to give thanks for the bounty we have been given; regardless of our spirituality. On that theme and with November being designated as Native American month, perhaps it might be a chance to visit those places still wild and free that have not been paved over or strewn with decorations, because nature, real nature doesn’t need any tinsel or glitter.A collage of Muir woods CaA collage of Trough Creek Pa