Sunday, March 13, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night....

Well, it isn't really dark yet, but it is raining, the squirrels are not cavorting* on the roof,  the tops of the redwoods are leaning gently back and forth, and the sky is bright gray. The view is really pretty, with the light reflecting back inside:

The weather has changed several times today, from windy to just a bit cool, to sunny, and finally to this uniformly-colored (but still oddly well-lit) sky. Our Buddha (who bears some resemblance to Gertrude Stein) has been watching over all these changes with the usual calm demeanor:

I am using the quiet time in the rain to look at a copy of a monotype that has been sitting in our living room for some time now, an experiment with acrylic paints run through the press. (The paints worked better after a few tries, once I understood the right amount of glaze to add to slow the drying time...  acrylic dries much faster than oils, and it needs help to allow it to remain damp enough to print properly).  The print itself is quite realistic, for me, and shows a glass vase, the stems of the flowers underneath the water, and delicate pink roses against green leaves above the rim of the vase.  I had copied the forms from a lush and nearly perfect painting by Edouard Manet, "Moss Roses in a Vase."  I grew curious about this late still-life -- there aren't many still-life works by this artist.  Manet is more famous for his large-scale figure studies and commentaries on the nude and riffs on the narrative painting: "Olympia," or "Luncheon on the Grass," or "The Bar at the Folies-Bergere" -- this last painting was finished in the same year as the flowers, 1882, one year before he died, in 1883, at the age of 51.  I think the very pale, tame roses were a deliberate choice; a still-life of fruits or cut flowers will deteriorate as it is painted,  and if the artist needs a perfect model, the objects will be replaced, or, if the artist is painting the changes, when to stop? How quickly can someone paint before the "changes" change again? These roses are still live, still softly glowing, yet the petals are just on the edge of being tipped with brown. He knew.

Where it is possible to photograph roses, perfectly-painted flowers -- in any stage -- are no longer easy subjects for painters. Walking through galleries, we do see ironic paintings of flowers, or perhaps flowers in the background of something more important, or, if we are lucky, we might wander into David Hockney's iPad paintings of flowers in vases, exhibited in Paris. What to do with these roses?

I am still working on that....

*in the meantime, one added note: perhaps "cavorting" seems excessive to describe squirrel movements... but that's how it sounds, to us, living under a peaked roof.  Language is worth playing with, despite the comment I heard from a character in the first season of Bones. The FBI agent Booth says, in response to an observation by his female companion, Bones, the forensic anthropologist (who often says things that are "too" truthful or too likely to send listeners to a dictionary): he looks at her and says "You have to quit using the words 'segue' and 'eschew,' alright? They sound French." (They're not, but it was a very funny moment).

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