Monday, March 14, 2011

Flowers in the rain, Lathe and Plaster, and Wars I Have Seen

So, it rains a lot more... but the camellias like it. French pansies withstood everything the Normandy winter threw at them, and these flowers are just as robust, and they, too, are very beautiful, and tall enough to be out of the way of the deer:

There is a lot of color in California in late winter... there is a tree here that looks like mimosa, with yellow cascading flowers, and we just saw the orange poppies by the road the other day, and the mustard-flowers are all over Napa Valley.  The colors just come at you, right through the rain.

I have been working on a painting for months. It is 3 x 3 feet, on wood, and it was inspired by seeing a British artist, at home in his studio, discussing some very serious thing, but over his shoulder I saw the wooden frames and the bare walls of the place where he works, together with a couple of paintings hung up for the sake of the camera. It was the walls that got me... so I drew them, even though I am not usually a painter of straight lines, and I drew him new paintings (because his were not abstract enough for me)  and I have been working to tone up and trim down the geometry of the space... and I think I have it. The studio walls reminded me of our house in Upstate New York... when we bought it, my husband stripped the living and dining rooms down, pulling out all the lathe and plaster until all we could see was the original framing of the house (it turned out to have been built in 1858). I was pregnant... until all the lathe and plaster made it out of the house in boxes and into a dumpster, we had one path from the one working downstairs room (the kitchen) to the one working upstairs room (the bedroom). I still have a picture of Charley, covered in dust ... we thought the bare walls and the new start was all very romantic. So, I was working between the video of this artist I did not know and the memory of the house we lived in for so many years with our children... and the "walls" had to somehow combine the two. Here is the finished work:

If we were still in New York, I would be going to this fabulous combination of sound and sights, and orchestra lit by bedside-table style lamps from the 40's, with the female musicians speaking sections of Gertrude Stein's book of war experiences (almost the final thing she wrote) Wars I Have Seen, together with baroque music and the Sampler Suite (cantors singing songs from the 30's and 40's) and staccato machine-gun fire ... so many things to hear and to see, live on stage, and created with music and direction by Heiner Goebbels.  The piece was originally commissioned by the Southbank Centre in London, but is going to be in New York at Alice Tully Hall, on March 18th... I am sorry I will be missing it! Here is the ad, with a smiling Stein, a survivor of WW II:

Wars I Have Seen is good reading, but if you like Stein's experimental writing, try Mrs. Reynolds! It, too, deals with waiting through the war, and somehow it encourages, calms, makes better....

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