Saturday, November 2, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #76 - "OUT OF THE WILDERNESS"

                                  ROAD TO WILDERNESS GATE (Truchas, New Mexico)
Llano Quemado, New Mexico - 2 November 2019 - This painting always reminds me of the day I was lost in a small meadow while hiking to the top of Truchas Peaks with a group of friends.  So out of shape from sitting at the easel every day I was crazy to think I could climb a mountain at 60 years of age.  My shoes were soaked, I had no idea of how I arrived at this place alone - brought up all my issues of abandonment!!! Sat on a big rocky rock for a couple of hours. Thought maybe if I stayed there the rescue helicopters would find me in a day or two starving and dying of thirst! (Always a Drama Queen)  Late afternoon -- just as I had decided to follow the small river back down to Truchas, I heard the sound of voices. Another group of hikers invited me to walk back to town with them.  Such relief!!!  One of the men admonished me and said "Next time find some friends who will walk at your own speed!"  Life lesson learned, forgotten and learned again many times over!

Today is Saturday - slept until ten.  Always a lovely surprise to open my eyes to another day on earth! Have many things on my to do list.....gesso new canvases, organize source material begin my winter work.  Blocking in some underpaintings.  Long shower, wonderful cup of coffee - opened the window shades to another dazzling morning!  Falling back into ordinariness after all the high drama earlier this year.  Life is simple again - very quiet....no confusion.  All my work right in front of me. Adding prints and paintings to my Online Gallery for the holidays.  Planning to do a 40"X30" painting of Hunter's Moon - view from my portal of the last full moon.  Also some small auction paintings - I love the routine of my daily life - keep walking around saying "thank you" under my breath.  Made a big pot of vegetable soup with some Polish dumplings.  

My friend and helper, Doug Yeager, took this photo this week.  Posted it to my website - a note to remind myself that I can still do some large work....visions of more large paintings dancing in my head!  Have wanted to do "Don Gregorio's Winter Field" for many years.  This was the view from the front door of my little adobe house the last time I lived in Truchas.  Summer, winter, spring and fall - this place was my view to the eternal nature of life - a quiet mystery. And a constant surprise...sunrises, sunsets, summer  storms, winter snows - changing every minute, every second.  Beautifully framed, this painting now hangs on my studio wall.  It is not quite the same as being there, but in completing this canvas I was able to emerge from the wilderness one more time! 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #75 - GOING TO GROUND

Hunter's Moon - view from the front portal

Llano Quemado - 19 October 2019

Some people are slower than others to understand what it means to live in the present; I was one of them!  Seemed to bounce from one drama to another this year - very little painting - until now.  This weekend a new 48"x36" snow painting - Don Gregorio's Winter Field will be completed.  My next post on this blog will be a photo of the canvas and the story to go along with it.  How excited am I?  I am over the Moon (no pun intended).

That Big Easel in the Sky beckoned last April.  Two months later I was packing up the house at 223 and had no idea where I would land.  How is that for living by the seat of one's pants?  Logged onto Craig's list one morning at two o'clock and pictures of this new studio were the first to pop up.  If I had written a list of everything I needed - clouds, mountain views, sunsets - and of course a walk-in shower - this place was eerily close to my sugar plum visions!  The landlord had to do a background check which took about two very tense weeks before I was given the green light and could give him my deposit.

Life has changed profoundly.  Little things no longer bother the way they did before and patience seems to be a regular visitor. The word "surrender" was foreign to me - not in my vocabulary - no way .   Morning words in my daily journal now end with "Today is all there is...."  

Chaos and confusion are no longer the order of the day. Beginning with my new small paintings a sense of purpose is being restored in small bits and pieces.  This place is silent and peaceful. And wonder of all wonders I am at the easel daily.  Pictures of new paintings pop into view and I can focus on the work again.  Hallelujah!  And to think I came that close to giving away my big sturdy easel and all my paints!

Last Saturday evening I put on a jacket, picked up my camera and just sat on the old railroad bench to watch the full moon rise over the foothills towards Pecos.  The more the sky darkened the moon shone brighter with every second.  I was thrilled to be here - in this place, on this planet.  What a wonderful surprise!!!!  Yes, I am slowly coming to ground one more time. How does one put "quiet joy" on a canvas?  Think I am going to give it a try!    

Friday, October 11, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #74 - THE LAY OF THE LAND

LLANO QUEMADO, NEW MEXICO - 13 October 2019  

The studios in Tesuque and Victor Court were not open to the sky and they were very claustrophobic.  Had talked with a friend and discussed a field trip north to Cimarron or the San Luis Valley.  Almost gasping for space - clouds, sunsets - mountains....views!  Saw some of George Carlson's new paintings of  the Channeled Scablands in Washington State.  They are at once powerful and meditative - space and geological time.   Love his work.  He is my favorite living artist and has inspired me ever since he was a young painter in Taos.  His pastels of the Tarahumara in Copper Canyon prompted me to travel to Guatemala in 1991.  It is a long story.... Again I am inspired greatly by his current work.

A short field trip at sunset to explore my new neighborhood called Llano Quemado this past Tuesday.  My first impression was somewhat disappointing.  These three photos were the best from that evening.  Am not yet "attached" to this place.  Acres and acres of sagebrush, very old and abandoned adobes hidden behind heavily wired fences and gates. The grand view across the fields and small farms below is Taos Mountain at sunset.  The light is constantly changing....every second of every day.

An epiphany this morning - my prayers for light and open spaces have been answered!  This place is not about history or nostalgia - it is more ethereal, heavenly.  Would love to explain what I am feeling, but understanding eludes me.  The dramatic clouds of the monsoon are gone.  Skies are blue and cloudless this afternoon as they were earlier this week.  News of huge winter storms in Colorado.  Am patient - anticipating all the changes  this winter will bring.  Mountain snows tend to accentuate the geometry of the landscape....winter colors always surprise me in their soft beauty.  

Adapting - another cord of wood from Costilla on Sunday.  Paints and brushes at the ready! Here is my blank canvas...just waiting.  In a way I am a stranger to this time and place.  I have never been 80 and I don't know how to navigate my way through this uncertainty. One day at a time, one step at a time.  There are no accidents.  This new place feels like a gift - something I didn't earn.  Perhaps all that brought me here is just plain Grace...    




 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #73 - FIVE FINGER EXERCISES

6 October 2019 - Llano Quemado, New Mexico 



Coming back to life is a slow process.  Have not been able to paint very much this year.  Likening this time to what a ballerina must feel like after breaking a toe - all the muscle memory must be brought back to life before she can dance again.  Started painting after one month in this new studio.  Small Paintings 2020 are my way of waking up the connection between what my mind sees and what my fingers can do - yes, five finger exercises.  Am starting all over again one more time!

After returning home from Colorado, a wonderful nurse named Felicia tried to convince me that I had survived for a reason.  Okay - last month I celebrated my eightieth birthday.  Dare I dream that I can recover my muscle memory?  Each day is different.  Some are more difficult than others.  Coming down from all of the chaos after the surgery and the move.   This new studio is quite peaceful....starting those small paintings has renewed my sense of discipline - shower, coffee and toast and back to the brushes and paints - every day.  Pablo Casals a very old man loving his cello....Bach serenades.   Routine, purpose - the meaning of me becomes clearer with every little painting. A renewed sense of accomplishment.....good things to come.

Almost gave away my large easel earlier this year - and all my paints and brushes!!!!  Believe this was the lead up to my health crisis in April - I was very sick.  Now a new 48"x36" canvas is underpainted and ready to go - Don Gregorio's Winter Field - starting work on it tomorrow.....

Each fall for many years I make an inventory of the supplies I will need to get me through the winter...and I plan some field trips to gather new source material.  A monster box of paints, gesso and turpentine arrived last week from Jerry's Artarama.  Huge step!!!  Now there is no going back - it is all beginning....life makes sense again.  Field trip this coming week.  Photos of the views of Ranchos valley from the rim road - at sunset.  The leaves are are beginning to turn.  Am unfamiliar with this part of Taos.


  
“The images of peace are ephemeral. The language of peace is subtle. The reasons for peace, the definitions of peace, the very idea of peace have to be invented, and invented again.
Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war: In a time of destruction, create something. A poem. A parade. A community. A school. A vow. A moral principle. One peaceful moment.”
—From THE FIFTH BOOK OF PEACE, Maxine Hong Kingston

Saturday, September 14, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #72 - SEEING DINOSAURS


Las Nubes de Truchas (The Clouds of Truchas)


As soon as there is stopping, there is happiness. There is peace. When we stop like that, it looks as if nothing is happening, but in fact everything is happening. You are deeply established in the present moment, and you touch your cosmic body. You touch eternity. There is no more restlessness, no more seeking.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Sitting on the old railroad bench under the front portal this morning there was a huge cloud in the shape of a dinosaur! It morphed into a huge standing bear - a few minutes later over the Pecos foothills, another dinosaur!  Have been a cloud watcher since I was a child - some don't understand what is missing when you can't look up and see the sky.  (Looking at an iphone)  One of my most favorite cloud watching spots was the old teepee platform on the horse ranch in Truchas....instead of painting, I would just spread my arms out to the sky and watch the clouds for hours (painting with my mind!) 

While fixing my morning coffee last week a beautiful coyote jogged right in front of the kitchen window - probably on his way to join his relatives.  Most nights you can hear them singing to the moon - I have dubbed them the Supremes!  Down the road a feisty rooster crows loudly every morning about 4AM - no longer any need for an alarm clock!

So much has happened in the past five months - I don't know where to start.  Just beginning to process that emergency plane ride to the hospital in Colorado Springs and the profound changes in my life since that event.  Asked the nurse for an extra blanket - the stretcher was narrow and uncomfortable and I was freezing.  "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the power to change the things I can" At that moment I knew I was completely powerless.  Suddenly my body relaxed.  In the span of a few short breaths, I let go - complete and total surrender.  Would I live?  Would I die? Strangely I new I would be at peace either way.   

As we arrived at the hospital I could see the lights inside - doors opened, nurses and orderlies hurried me out of the plane; from the serious speed with which they hustled me inside, I knew it was entirely possible that I might not make it.  Just a few minutes before I released the outcome - if this was the night I would go to that Big Easel in the Sky, it was okay with me.  There was no fear, but some new strength came through me.  This was not a time to ask questions or make demands - just be quiet - let these doctors and nurses do what they do best.  Any fear left me. My life was in their hands.

Sparing the grisly details - except for the still reddish foot long scar down my middle (with a very polite detour around my belly button!), I am healing nicely.  They removed much more than a blockage - still looking for my snarkiness (my inner bitch), my urge to find all that is wrong with the world, my need for perfection - and the deep dark grief that hung over all my waking days since my son John died.  Gone - all gone.  After seven  days a wheelchair was brought to my room and in one short elevator ride I was sitting in a parking lot under the warm Colorado sun!  Now what? 

Soon to celebrate my eightieth year on earth as a recovering drama queen - was it time for me to die?  Every morning I wake up and ask myself one question - what if I live for another twenty years?  One step at a time - one day at a time.....life always surprises me!!! 

 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #71 - INTO THE DREAM


Making Room
"Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.
Everything that occurs is not only usable and workable but is actually the path itself. We can use everything that happens to us as the means for waking up. We can use everything that occurs—whether it’s our conflicting emotions and thoughts or our seemingly outer situation—to show us where we are asleep and how we can wake up completely, utterly, without reservations."
~ Pema Chodron

The image above is the view from the portal in front of this new house.  Such a coincidence that it is facing the Pecos Wilderness - the same view from my kitchen window at 313 Santistevan Lane. Soon there will be dark snow clouds swirling around Taos Mountain and the Pecos. Time to order a cord of wood for the stove adjacent to the kitchen.  Buying a few extra non-perishables at the grocery store, just in case.  My landlord promises to plow the driveway in front of the house whenever it snows.  

All my winter lessons in survival were learned when I lived at the horse ranch in Truchas.  Moved there on September 17th 1984 - first snow on the mountains that day - pure magic!  Packed in our belongings was a brand new medium sized freezer from Sears which we kept in a little shed. The house was a long way out on Llano Quemado next to the Land Grant from the King of Spain.  I called this place "suburban Truchas".....as close as you can get to living right under the magnificent Truchas Peaks.  It snowed for three days during Christmas that first year...bear tracks near the horse barns - big mountain lion footprints on the front porch!  School vacation time - no snow plows for about ten days - we were snowed in!!  Brilliant white silence all around...complete solitude....and a well stocked freezer! 

Am close as I will ever get to reliving that place and time today in this new house....waking up and making room for the Dream one more time!

The creation process

The Dreaming also explains the creation process. Ancestor beings rose and roamed the initially barren land, fought and loved, and created the land's features as we see them today. After creating the 'sacred world' the spiritual beings "turned into rocks or trees or a part of the landscape. These became sacred places, to be seen only by initiated men." [6]
The spirits of the ancestor beings are passed on to their descendants, e.g. shark, kangaroo, honey ant, snake and so on and hundreds of others which have become totems within the diverse Indigenous groups across the continent [3].
Spirits don't belong to anyone and can be accessed by everyone. "No-one owns a spirits," says Quandamooka woman Evelyn Parkin. "You can have what I have got if you're in touch with the spirit." [7].
It is interesting to note that many Aboriginal people also use the term 'Dreaming' to refer to their concepts about spirituality. This might be because some of them find ceremonies or songs in a state of dreaming, a state between sleeping and waking [1]. Strictly speaking, dreaming and mythology can be considered as the same thing: the deep mental archetypes and images of wisdom which we take on to be guided by them when the conscious mind is in a state of quietness [8].
The fact that the Dreaming is still around Aboriginal people is a fundamental difference to other spiritual beliefs. In Christianity, for example, the spiritual world is 'heaven', and many Christians believe it is reachable only after death and never while the person is still alive. (Those who find heaven inside might disagree, but such a discussion is beyond this article.)
Aboriginal man Midnight Davies describes how all-encompassing the Dreaming can be for Aboriginal people: [9]
"The Dreaming is, however, more than just an explanation of cultural norms, and where we came from. The Dreaming is a complete guide to life and living - it is an encyclopaedia of the world. It is not just stories - it is art, songs, dance; it is written into the land itself.
"Through the Dreaming we are taught knowledge of plants and animals, to us many of the flowering plants are treated as signs of animals available to hunt, fish about to appear, fruits about to ripen; the movement of the stars foretells the changing of weather, the birth of animals, the time for ceremony and gatherings.
"The Dreaming completely surrounds us, we are shown proof of it everyday. It’s not some old book written thousands of years ago, it is the living world itself. The Dreaming belongs to every Aboriginal person - it isn’t the sacred property of a few priests/rabbis/imams, it is the property of everyone - every ceremony, every right, every tradition, every bit of knowledge is destined to be known to an individual sometime within their lifetime.
"The Dreaming was not designed to be just practised one day a week, or to only be turned to only in times of need - it is designed to be lived in every moment, and to shield you from those times of need. It serves as a guide to day-to-day life, a guide to the spiritual side of life."
What we draw on from our memories, and think, imagine and create in our daily lives is our dreaming. — Djon Mundine, Bundjalung man and Aboriginal Curator, Campbelltown Arts Centre [10]


Source: What is the 'Dreamtime' or the 'Dreaming'? - Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/spirituality/what-is-the-dreamtime-or-the-dreaming

The creation process

The Dreaming also explains the creation process. Ancestor beings rose and roamed the initially barren land, fought and loved, and created the land's features as we see them today. After creating the 'sacred world' the spiritual beings "turned into rocks or trees or a part of the landscape. These became sacred places, to be seen only by initiated men." [6]
The spirits of the ancestor beings are passed on to their descendants, e.g. shark, kangaroo, honey ant, snake and so on and hundreds of others which have become totems within the diverse Indigenous groups across the continent [3].
Spirits don't belong to anyone and can be accessed by everyone. "No-one owns a spirits," says Quandamooka woman Evelyn Parkin. "You can have what I have got if you're in touch with the spirit." [7].
It is interesting to note that many Aboriginal people also use the term 'Dreaming' to refer to their concepts about spirituality. This might be because some of them find ceremonies or songs in a state of dreaming, a state between sleeping and waking [1]. Strictly speaking, dreaming and mythology can be considered as the same thing: the deep mental archetypes and images of wisdom which we take on to be guided by them when the conscious mind is in a state of quietness [8].
The fact that the Dreaming is still around Aboriginal people is a fundamental difference to other spiritual beliefs. In Christianity, for example, the spiritual world is 'heaven', and many Christians believe it is reachable only after death and never while the person is still alive. (Those who find heaven inside might disagree, but such a discussion is beyond this article.)
Aboriginal man Midnight Davies describes how all-encompassing the Dreaming can be for Aboriginal people: [9]
"The Dreaming is, however, more than just an explanation of cultural norms, and where we came from. The Dreaming is a complete guide to life and living - it is an encyclopaedia of the world. It is not just stories - it is art, songs, dance; it is written into the land itself.
"Through the Dreaming we are taught knowledge of plants and animals, to us many of the flowering plants are treated as signs of animals available to hunt, fish about to appear, fruits about to ripen; the movement of the stars foretells the changing of weather, the birth of animals, the time for ceremony and gatherings.
"The Dreaming completely surrounds us, we are shown proof of it everyday. It’s not some old book written thousands of years ago, it is the living world itself. The Dreaming belongs to every Aboriginal person - it isn’t the sacred property of a few priests/rabbis/imams, it is the property of everyone - every ceremony, every right, every tradition, every bit of knowledge is destined to be known to an individual sometime within their lifetime.
"The Dreaming was not designed to be just practised one day a week, or to only be turned to only in times of need - it is designed to be lived in every moment, and to shield you from those times of need. It serves as a guide to day-to-day life, a guide to the spiritual side of life."
What we draw on from our memories, and think, imagine and create in our daily lives is our dreaming. — Djon Mundine, Bundjalung man and Aboriginal Curator, Campbelltown Arts Centre [10]


Source: What is the 'Dreamtime' or the 'Dreaming'? - Creative Spirits, retrieved from https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/spirituality/what-is-the-dreamtime-or-the-dreaming

Friday, August 16, 2019

WORD PAINTINGS #70 - DANCING WITH MY EASEL

Llano Quemado, New Mexico - 8/16/19 - My synapses are firing again!!! It has been such a long time since I felt connected to my easel.  It is almost human - stares at me accusingly if I am not working, laughs at my avoidance routines, makes me feel guilty for taking a nap when I should be painting!!

Moving to this new house makes all the difference - I can feel the FLOW!!! CREATIVITY!!!  Watching the monsoon clouds build all around me every afternoon is opening my heart.  Time stopped for me when my son died five years ago and the grief took its toll.  Living in two houses where I was unable to see clouds, no changing skies; every sunset was blocked from view - there  was little color.   Perhaps I needed that containment - a closed in place to hold my grief....a time to look inward.

It is wild, but I know I dreamed this house into being. WAKE UP!  feel the earth around me.  Made the initial sketch on the 48"x36" canvas now on my big studio easel.  Reviving my old habit of posting progress notes to my Art Journal - http://donnaclair.blogspot.com/


Time to open up and share - give it all I got!!  This painting is called Don Gregorio's Winter Field - the view across from my little adobe studio in Truchas so long ago.  Did a small 10"x8" sketch of it last year - and the image became real to me again demanding a larger canvas - more space - meditation on a winter's morning.  Some places will stay in my heart forever.

Now that my big easel has had its wounds from the moving van healed, it is ready to go to work again, and so am I!  Dancing with my easel will begin every morning - do the laundry, pay the bills, do the dishes, make some phone calls. PAINT! -  dance, dance, dance.  Oh, Donna!  Just sit down - that easel is not a rack, it is your oldest friend - there is an adventure in that blank canvas and just DO IT!!!  At the end of the day, like a health nut doing a thousand push ups, relief; a sense of accomplishment....hard won achievement.

Eyes Wide Open....

WORD PAINTINGS #76 - "OUT OF THE WILDERNESS"

                                  ROAD TO WILDERNESS GATE (Truchas, New Mexico) Llano Quemado, New Mexico - 2 November 2019 - This pain...