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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Grey paintings for a grey day

oil on canvas, 40 x 30"
oil on canvas, 40 x 30"

It is a grey day today, and maybe that is why I woke up this morning thinking about these paintings. I painted them in the early 2000’s, I think. Sometimes I wonder if I should only make art that is in black and white, and various shades of grey. Drawing was my first love. My father traveled to Europe a lot when I was younger, and he would bring me back beautful art books. I would draw from them for hours. A book of drawings by Michelangelo was my favorite. These paintings have reminded me of that love for shades of grey. Now, I love the old photographs I see at my day job. The grey tones, which have yellowed with age, speak to me about aging and death. I guess that is pretty morbid.

Trials and troubles of Dog-faced Buddha

Names of cross dressing women from history
Page from my sketchbook
And another
And another--it has been a long, hard two weeks

oil on canvas

It has been awhile since my last post. I am working on myself, and it is difficult. Finding that change is necessary, I have enlisted the help of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In addition to spending my free time meditating, I have made a Buddhist Prayer Flag, which I have hung in my office at my day job. It is all about not giving in to the same actions that have brought the same results for years. Dog-faced Buddha is working overtime, flapping her bony wings to get from here to there.

The Buddha of loving kindness

Yellow detritus
oil on canvas, 30 x 24"

I wanted to add as little paint as possible to this image. I think I achieved the balance I was after; just the right amount of canvas left white and the right amount of paint applied to keep the imagery fresh. In seeing it again, I am most pleased with the hand on the right. It conveys the stains on one’s hands, even when one tries to be good. It seems to be throbbing in pain, which is a good thing for this painting.

After reading about Tanrokubon

Hole in the head
From my sketchbook

I have been reading about Tanrokubon. The Japanese name derives from the three colors most often used in their execution. They are books that were composed of woodcuts which were then hand colored inexpertly, and very often by family members of the pressman, to keep costs down. There is a real roughness about them that intrigues me. They fit into my desire to allow emotional content to rise easily to the surface of a work. Here is my simple and inexpertly colored drawing of the Dog-faced Buddha with her hand in the hole on top of a fetus’s head, with the Buddha of lovingkindness pouring down her goodness from the heavens.

Art Opening

Opening of Fish Show II at Cristyl Cusworth's Swan Creek Gallery in Lambertville
Better view of my painting, oil on canvas
Light over Mt Hope cemetary
View walking back to my house

I went to the opening of Fish Show II at Christyl Cusworth’s Swan Creek Gallery last night. I met some nice people, saw some terrific art by local artists, and had a great time. I had painted some dead fish a while back, and served them up on a platter. On my way back home, the light over the nearby cemetery was amazing. And, even better, look who greeted me at the door:

Sammie girl, oil on canvas

Back where the trouble started

oil on canvas, 30 x 40", In process

I am revisiting my childhood: never a good idea, I know; but I am trying to bring loving kindness to an unkind and angry past. That is the best way to fill the void. The painting is difficult because of the ugly emotional content and the continuous rising of more emotions when thinking back. The symbolism seems to stretch on forever, and the layering of imagery within this work has continued for months. Of course, revisiting the past creates a mirroring of the present, and I think of all of the anger I feel now towards all sorts of people who have nothing whatever to do with me personally. I have allowed them to fall into the trajectory of my life, and like the wounds of my childhood, I have intrajected them into my psyche. What a bother. This painting will most likely never be finished.

Some sketches of swine

Perhaps it is fear which motivates us to see others as animals or grotesque creatures. I had been reading books about witches when I made these drawings. I can see why we persist in creating scary monsters. We are still faced with war, terrible violence and disease, albeit less of it now. Still, the world is a fearful place. I know I feel fear when faced with the “other”. Although, in my case, as a woman and a lesbian, the other is the “man”, the one with power, or perceived power,  who can ruin the environment, or on a smaller scale, squash one’s dignity and dreams, if we let him/her. So, it is actually great fun, and a small pay-back, for me to create these, and I take pleasure in viewing them.

What if Malcolm X was a Buddhist

oil on canvas, 20 x 16", 2010

and we didn’t need salvation?  I went this route with Malcolm X because I thought about his violent end, and all of the violence in the world. Buddhism is an antidote to violence. I remember reading how over time the spread of Buddhism in certain parts of Asia helped to stop the spread of hostilities amongst different groups. The creature at the bottom of the painting was found in Edward Topsall’s Historie of foure-footed beastes. The description I found of the beast moved me. I think it poignantly describes what often happens to those who work to save humanity:

When hee perceiveth that hee is pursued by the Huntsman, hee gets his young ones upon his backe, and with his taile, which is very long and broad, he covereth them, and so flying, provideth both for his owne, and their safetie; neither can he be taken by any other way but by pits, which those Savage men use to digge in the places neere which he is to runne, into which at unawares hee tumbles headlong.

The more graphic style of this work has a lot to do with my day job at Princeton. I see a lot of woodcuts and I have come to admire the shorthand approach to illustration that I have seen. It corresponds nicely with my desire to simplify the painting process, making it more direct, and I hope, more clearly an emotional experience for the artist and viewer alike.