March 24, 2020

WHEN PAINTINGS COME TO LIFE

detail The Swimmer
I made this painting 15 years ago,
based on a photograph of the Icelandic band

múm

 from Index magazine, April 2002.

When my daughter was a baby, I stayed home with her and didn't get much painting done. The only work I have from that time are a few paintings from a series titled The Swimmer. This one is my favorite, and is hanging at my mother's house.

I have spent a lot of time looking at this girl's face! There were a lot of unsuccessful versions of the painting as I recall, and I still stare at it now every time I visit my mother.

I don't remember listening to the music before now, but a lot of it is ethereal, and atmospheric, and beautiful, just like the images in the magazine. I love the way they described their album, Finally We Are No One:
The record comes from an imaginary place, maybe there's a valley, a swimming pool, some hills, a tunnel. It's not clear what goes on there. It's open for interpretation. We wrote the music in this really isolated lighthouse. We had to take a little rubber boat to get out there.

They were scheduled to play at Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House, tomorrow. Besides really liking the music, I got so excited about the idea of seeing this girl's face in real life. I was just about to buy tickets when it got postponed, like everything else, but I have promised myself that the next time they play I am definitely going to see them!



The Swimmer, 2005, oil on canvas, 44 x 50 inches

Listen to

múm


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu21Q34OSvQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui6ERk-AySw

Index Magazine








March 2, 2020

In like a Lion.....I am my father's daughter

I need a project. Something to rally around. To focus my random thoughts and obsessions on. Do you know that feeling?


my daughter in front of his grave stone
Here is the beginning of a story I want to write about my father. At the moment it is merely a scattering of thoughts and notes. It could also just turn out to be another self-reflective blog post, but we'll see!


I think of my father as a pillar holding up the world.

My father was sick for six years.
March 24, 2011, he died in the morning sometime between 6:30 and 7:00am. I know because I was staying at the house and I got up twice to go to the bathroom. At the time, the unearthly sound of his breathing could be heard throughout the house. When I got up the second time, I noticed it was quiet, and I ran to my mother, sleeping on the couch, to say, I don't hear him anymore.

When people called on the telephone we used words like gone and passed. You didn't say he's dead, he died this morning. You said, he's gone, he's not with us anymore, it's over. When they took his body away, I have a clear memory of my mother crying, saying that the bed was still warm.

Every March I think about these things. Sometimes I forget it's March and can't figure out why I'm more depressed than usual.

My father was an amazing storyteller. Before he died, family members tried to record him telling his stories, but only a few got saved. He was fascinated by human behavior, and had experienced the world through many means. He was a NYC police detective for twenty five years. Born in Brooklyn, to parents whose parents were born in Sicily, and grew up in Little Italy. My grandmother worked at a candy factory in Brooklyn. We used to see the factory buildings from the Gowanus Expressway, and every time we crossed it my father would say, that's where grandma used to work. They lived in a two bedroom apartment where three brothers slept in the same bed.

In Like A Lion, 2011, oil on canvas, 50x72"
My father grew up playing stick ball in the street, at a time when everybody on the block knew everybody, and looked out for each other. Everyone was an immigrant then. He was not prejudiced in any way, and was equally friendly and unimpressed by people of all walks of life. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, rich or poor, bad guy, good guy, criminal, movie star, celebrity. He had street smarts that outtalked the highest paid lawyers in New York, and was still the most humble person I've ever met. He was a writer, a thinker, and a seeker of truth. I helped him with a book he started writing once. I typed out his handwritten pages. People he knew were all getting movies made about their stories, and he had been part of some of the biggest criminal cases in the world.

When he got drafted into the army during Vietnam, his war was not a bloody one, it was a cerebral one. He was an MP, and his job was to stand guard and protect the perimeter of the camp. Alone in a hand built wooden hut staring into the jungle for hours through the night, waiting for enemy soldiers to appear. He told the story of that palpable fear, of hallucinating and trying to stay awake, of napalming the trees and brush. He told the story of meeting God in that jungle. He wanted me to paint a picture of it, but I never thought there were enough materials in the world that could depict that kind of profound experience.

his necklace that I inherited
Since he died I have made some terrible decisions in my life, and have been involved in a succession of terrible relationships, all starting that fall in 2011. Looking back, although these different relationships were with seemingly very different people, I can see now that they weren't that different at all. In fact the similarities are jarring. I've thought this whole time that each of them pulled the rug out from under me in one way or another, but the truth is, there was never a rug there to begin with.

I think I've been searching for the safety and security of that pillar holding up my world. Maybe now that I realize this, maybe now I can finally grieve this loss properly and be my own pillar. I am my father's daughter, and I am proud of that. He was a man among men. He walked in love because he really believed it, without ever seeking or needing a reward for it.

March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. For me it has stayed a roaring lion all this time. I'm ready for the lamb. In all the losses I grieve for, suddenly I find myself grieving for him as if he just died.

I think my father would be disappointed at my rotten decision making, but I know he would still love me, because his love was unconditional. There were no conditions, or limits. He would walk to the ends of the earth for you, and he'd let you know it. He'd whistle, and sing you a song about it all along the way too. He had a song for everyone, and he was always singing it. One of the many songs he sang to me was Peggy Sue, which he of course changed to Sammy Sue. If you want to know how I know the words to every 1950-1960's oldies tune, my father is the reason! There's a picture of me at my last exhibition opening where I think I look a lot like him. More than anything, it's the expression on my face. It's a proud look, and it's the same way he looked at me so often throughout my life.