Tuesday, May 17, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #121 -WHAT IF LIFE BEGINS AT EJACULATION?

WORD PAINTINGS #121 - (How I Came to New Mexico and learned about Art and Life - "What if Life begins at Ejaculation?"

Two weeks ago I read the remarks by Clarence Thomas in regard to the public's response to Justice Alito's leaked decision to overturn Roe vs Wade.  Shocked and surprised by memories of another life, it was time for me to put the pieces together and admit to myself the unromantic truth of how I came to New Mexico 55 years ago. Broken and confused I had no idea of the long and amazing journey just ahead for my little family.

What is so disturbing to me is that pregnancy seems to be some form of immaculate conception used as a cudgel against the woman and her rights. Some states are proposing laws that will charge a woman, her doctor, or any helper with homicide with a sentence of ten years in prison.  The Texas law that offers a $10,000 bounty if there are any attempts to obtain an abortion. This same law has recently been adopted by Oklahoma. This is the wild west of political power and a woman's worst nightmare - losing control of her body and her very future.  This is the complete opposite of freedom.  What is missing here?  We suddenly find a government that refuses to acknowledge a man's contribution to abortion.  Men and their fertile sperm are never mentioned! The failure to hold a man accountable in any way for his part in the pregnancy and support of the woman and the child is mind-boggling.  Crusty old men are making decisions that will forever impact a woman's power to make choices.  Some salvation in the form of birth control is next item on their list of things to repeal and catapult us back to the Dark Ages of women's health care.  Question: Does birth control contribute to fewer abortions? Why ban birth control?

Men are one-half of the baby-making process!  Many men do it right and take responsibility for the babies they help bring into the world. Others seem to have no idea what makes a baby and prefer to blame the woman for getting pregnant in the first place - especially the Supreme Court Justices and the men they choose to ignore.  Struggled with myself whether or not to tell my truth at this time....it is now or never! 

                                                             ****************** 


            

 My labor pains began at four in the morning of December 9th 1966. Only five minutes apart we had no time to waste getting to the hospital.  My parents came to watch our 18 month old son until our regular babysitter could step in.  My husband taught English Literature at a small Catholic college in East Chicago, Indiana and our babysitter of some months was one of his students.  Leaving the house that morning I had no idea that this was one of the most significant days of my life. Revelations and changes would crush all my cozy dreams of a happy marriage to a highly regarded English professor, raising our babies together, and creating a good home for us to share - all vanished in one devastating phone call.

That call came one evening after dinner.  Our babysitter's mother told me that her daughter was pregnant and my husband was the father of her child!  Apparently she had gotten pregnant in my bed while I was in the hospital giving birth to the twins. My son was in his crib across the hall.  And, she asked, what was I going to do about it?  Exhausted from giving birth, I broke down and went to some dark never-land where I wanted to stay forever.  Called our physician who kindly made a house call and talked with me for a long time. He counseled me to leave.  Gratefully trauma has always led me to a level of numbness which allows me to go through the motions until I can gain my equilibrium.  Leaving was not an option.  The girls were only weeks old and on a every three hour feeding schedule. Their baby brother was in shock at not one but two new midnight howlers.  And there were a few more surprises to come!!

The babysitter and her family were strict Catholics.  Abortion was out of the question.  She was given an airplane ticket to Florida where she gave birth to a baby boy.  Her father was a made man and there was a contract put on my husband's life if he ever set foot in East Chicago again.  He lost his job.  We had no money. A good friend lived in Santa Fe. He rented a little adobe house for us.  I had one week to pack up the house before we could make our "getaway"!  We arrived in Santa Fe in August of 1967, about one month before the birth of his fourth child (in two years)!  That is the truth of how I came to New Mexico and Learned About Art and Life!!! But wait, there's more. 

The father of my children secured a teaching job at a local college.  Days after our divorce was final, he married one of his students, adopted her daughter and fathered two more children in a short span of time. They eventually divorced.  In a few short years he found himself the father of seven children none of whom he supported in any way!!!  Yes, Justice Thomas, life does begin at ejaculation!  Many years and three more marriages, I'm certain he gives no thought to the wreckage he has left behind.

What was lost in all this drama was my being able to live the fullness of life with my babies.  Most of the time I was terrified that we wouldn't have enough food, or that we would be evicted because I couldn't pay the rent.  If there were sicknesses (and there were many) I was the responsible party and had to pay the hospital bills instead of the utility bills.  Too early in their little lives they were latchkey children.  Anytime I had to take him to court for child support I was made to feel guilty for the divorce and expecting their father to be financially responsible for his children.  On the days he said he would visit he would "forget" and they would stand at the front window and sob.  These things will never be forgotten - it isn't even my job to forgive....I leave that to a higher authority.

Being raised Catholic, abortion was never an option for me.  Having friends who have had abortions, I know it is the most difficult decision anyone ever has to make.  During my high school years back alley abortions were common.  The wealthier families sent their daughters to some secret place to give birth and the baby was put up in "closed" adoptions - never to know their biological mother or father.  The boy was sent away and his name was never to be mentioned again.  Dark secrets forever.

Even though I am old, if I put myself in the position of young women today I am beyond rage at the patriarchy that continues to hold women hostage. I am pro CHOICE!  If most of our politicians were seriously questioned regarding their Christian principles, I am sure you would come away knowing in your heart it is only about the next election cycle.  How dare they?


Thursday, May 5, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #120 - A CRUEL SEASON


 

WORD PAINTINGS #120 (How I Came to New Mexico and Learned About Life and Art) - A CRUEL SEASON

4 May 2022 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - View from my kitchen window: What began as a few plumes of white over towards Las Vegas on or about the 20th of April became 75,000 acres forest fire on Friday; as of this morning it has grown to 160,000 acres and it is only 20% contained.  Evacuation centers are open in Penasco and Taos - the towns of Mora and Las Vegas are under severe threat and total evacuation.  The cause seems to be a "controlled burn" by the Forest Service. Homes, vacation cabins, livestock, wildlife - gone.  Have been roaming the roads in these villages for 55 years - so many beautiful days!  Heavy smoke from this fire and the one burning in Jemez. Fear, sadness - deep grief.  Prayers for the firefighters, all those evacuees - we need prayers - and a lot of rain! 

Our clear and present danger sure takes the attention off the war in Ukraine.  Ali Velshi is back home covering all the abortion news.  President Zelensky's fear that the world will look away from the horror and destruction is becoming a reality.  Less news from there this past week.  They say no news is good news.  That doesn't feel right.  The gung ho enthusiasm for the Ukranian fighting spirit isn't quite as loud and bullish as it was.  Imagine Ukraine a year from now - will these brave people will still be fighting this fake-made up war?  Will the devastation be so complete that the rest of the world will be forced to look away?  Considering that all of Europe is under threat now it is hard to imagine that will happen.  Heard Chef Jose Andres say this country will need a Marshall Plan in order to rebuild.  Prayers for the Ukranian people.

Ah, and then there is our "Supreme Court" and their leaked decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Crusty old men and one evangelical white woman with a really annoying voice are deciding the fate of American women - and men.  Think the dog has caught the car this time and they have taken too big a bite out of women's rights.  No doubt they will come for LGBT rights, birth control, gay marriage - power and control.  Their fear of the changing demographics in this country is palpable.  If I was a defeatist, I would say that we are screwed!  Scary men are doing scary things under the guise of protecting our freedom and liberty - all in the name of Christianity.  Sadly Christ is nowhere to be found in this New World Order. Considering their ex-President is acknowledged to be a serial sex offender and two of the Justices are alleged sex offenders...how dare they? Prayers for the Justices of the Supreme Court.

Graduated from high school in 1957 - and Roe v. Wade became law in 1973.  Yes I remember the "good old days".  Wealthy families in Chicago Heights and Flossmoor sent their girls to Florida to have an abortion or give birth and put their babies up for adoption.  My best friend returned from her Florida trip to find a surprise from her daddy - a white Cadillac convertible - she felt no joy when we all piled in with her for our evening "joy rides". She was always sad and broken and I know that every day of her life she thought about her baby.  In our town there was a three story brick house with a long flight of stairs going to the top floor.  Everyone knew that was the place where girls from not so wealthy families took care of their problem. This is what I know is true....I believe in the right to choose.  I believe this, in most cases, is a the most painful choice a woman will ever have to make, but it is her CHOICE.   We are at the mercy of a sweeping authoritarian movement. Prayers for all women everywhere today.

PS: The smoky skies have cleared this afternoon - praying for rain.  DC

Friday, April 29, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #119 - GOING TO SANCTUARY

 

 

30 April 2022 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - High winds, forest fires - smoky haze settling on Taos Valley.  Heard yesterday that he winds will pick up again today. I can hear some whistles at the windows.  Rain clouds formed over the area across from my kitchen window.  Plumes of smoke from the Las Vegas fire. My heart leapt with anticipation.  Within a short time the skies were again a bright but smoky blue - no rain!  Mother Nature just teasing us with the hope of relief.

The saga of my new painting Centinelas de Oro roared to life again this week with more pressure for me to sell.  Guilt trips galore!  Art conflicts are a pain in the ass!  Money rules in this business.  Have been selling my work in New Mexico for 55 years and some things never change. Pressure to produce and sell, sell, sell.  Fighting for the right to keep my own painting.  Craziness!  Holding back my resentment and anger.  Instead the arguments just roll around in my head like black clouds disrupting my process.  Painting will be varnished and signed this weekend.  The frame is waiting.  A sense of fulfillment to see it hanging on my wall next week.  

The clouds parted yesterday afternoon.  Grocery day, housecleaning day - closet purge!  Time to sit down and set up a new painting from a February day in Truchas. Back into my "Donna Bubble", my sanctuary.  When I was a child my crayons and coloring books helped my little world to right itself whenever family life got too loud and scary.  My own private "cone of silence".   Need to come back home to myself now.

"Evening Shadows" is almost finished.  Scene from an evening drive along Ranchitos Road - the Immaculate Conception capilla - always lovely and serene. 

 

Waiting for my DNA kit from Ancestry.  The war in Ukraine is bringing up some vivid memories of my family during the years of WWII.  My relatives in Poland all came from the same village south of Danzig - the port where the first invasion took place on September lst 1939 - I was born on the 3rd. Today Poland's population has increased by 10% due to Ukranians fleeing to safety.  The Polish people are opening their hearts and homes to complete strangers.  I am so proud to be Polish!  This is the beginning of a new journey for me.  In my family there were only whispers of what really went on during the war years - SSsssh! The children will hear.  I want to remember....

Back to my Bubble!  - DC

 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #118 - EARTH, WIND AND FIRE!!


 

25 April 2022     (Llano Quemado, New Mexico)  - All I can say is "WOW"!!! Yesterday definitely felt like the end of the world. Sixty mile an hour winds up here on the Llano (94 mile an hour at the Ski Valley).  Blowing from south toward Taos Mountain the sand and dust was thick enough to obscure the foothills.  Dried chamisa blowing across the road in bundles.  Have a picture in my mind that there is a neighbor's fence somewhere down the road piled high with these dried bolls of branches.  All this chaos and grit mixed with the smoke from a forest fire in the mountains near Las Vegas, N.M. Watched the plume of smoke rise every afternoon from my kitchen window since Thursday.  The winds feel stronger and more persistent than ever this spring. Does not bode well for the fire season!  Praying for soaking, drenching beautiful rain!

Two weeks of "one damned thing after another".  Put the brushes down on Centinelas de Oro and felt great loss at its completion.  A sale popped up immediately - four days of "should I? shouldn't I?".  The thought of anyone else hanging this piece on their wall made my heart hurt!  You guessed it - it is still drying in my office just waiting for a coat of varnish and framing.  Decided to have those beautiful golden sentinels keep me company for a very long time!

This painting is my "beginning of the end"; it is definitely a New Beginning.  At 82 the physical challenges of doing large or even medium canvases gets more difficult by the day.  How can it be I feel strongly that I am on the verge of doing some of my best work? Do I dare to dream?

Three boxes of new paints and brushes from Jerry's Artarama were delivered this week.  A big container of gesso included. Mixed Payne's Grey and the gesso together yesterday.  Clearing off my worktable in the back room to prep the blank canvases with the "grisaille".  Tremendous doubts about my mortality before I ordered the new supplies.  Finally the good feelings I get from Centinelas encourages me to move forward with a series of new paintings.  Hoping to document my progress on this blog.

The images for new paintings are settled and the source material is at the ready!  What the Hell!!! I'll never know if I don't try!   Doing a white board this week - want to have a loosey goosey plan to move forward. Each one of those pieces has been painted in my head at least a hundred times!  The time is now!

Ashamed of myself for complaining about the weather when there is so much death and destruction in Ukraine. My roots are in Poland, Germany and Prussia; I was born in Chicago two days after Hitler invaded the port of Danzig, Poland. On the map this is the same geographical neighborhood where all the bombs are destroying great histories and ancient cultures now in Ukraine.  This is World War III!  The same destruction, the same evil.  What I know for certain - despots will die, but the Ukranian spirit will survive! Cities can be reduced to ashes, but strong hearts and souls will bring Ukraine to Life again.

Jose Andres - founder of the World Central Kitchen is helping to feed the thousands of refugees in Poland and other countries surrounding Ukraine.  He believes people will begin to heal "one hot meal at a time".  This is a world-size challenge - we all need to pitch in - even five dollars will help!  Please donate if you can!

Let there be peace on Earth - hold someone close to your heart today!

 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #117 - A CANDLE FOR GRAMPA JIM

GOOD FRIDAY - 15 April 2022.  Just lit a candle for my Grampa Jim.  The story goes that Valentin Danielewski came over on the boat from either Prussia or Poland when he was eight years old.  As a young adult he Americanized his name to Jim Daniels.  In time he married my grandmother Ella, adopted my mother and they had one child, my Aunt Jeanette.  He was 17 years younger than Ella but from all appearances they had a solid and happy marriage.  My brother and I lived with them more than we did our parents.  

Jim was a butcher by trade....and a good provider for his family.  Some Saturdays he would take me to the market stalls on Maxwell Street - fill me up with a farmer's homegrown tomatoes then we would go to his favorite tavern to see all his pals from work.  He would give me the signal to do my Shirley Temple dance and the pockets on my pinafore would soon be filled with silver dollars!  Grandma would be waiting with dinner Later we would sit by the radio and listen to Gospel Music from his favorite churches on the South Side of Chicago.  Jim was and still is my HERO!

My Dad was transferred to Milwaukee when I was eight and my brother was five.  We had to move and leave the safety and protection of my grandparents. Our moving boxes weren't yet unpacked when my mother met me at school to say that Grampa had a heart attack and died.  He was 48.  I really didn't know what it meant to die - I just knew I would never see the most important person in my life ever again. 

My parents enrolled me in Catechism class at St. Anthony's Catholic School and I quickly learned that there were only 3 places people went when they died - Heaven, Purgatory or HELL!   Our house was only 2 blocks away from St. Josaphat's Basilica - massive structure modeled after the Vatican. The main aisle with crucified Christ at the altar seemed to stretch  for miles.  Many of our Polish neighbors crawled up the aisle on their knees to do penance.  I decided to do the same - all the while praying for Grampa Jim to be released from Purgatory. I remember wanting to quit half way through - I was a little kid and my knees hurt really bad!  Somehow I made it and knew Grampa was one step closer to Heaven!

Jim didn't go to Mass, cussed and drank lots of beer!  However he made sure we always had food and a sense of security. He made us laugh. He  took great joy in taking us to Brookfield Zoo and the big amusement park with the "largest ferris wheel in the world".  We fished off the pier at Lake Michigan and caught our first blue gills and perch.  He was always present.  During the war he helped other families with food from Grandma's ration coupons.  Every night he would give my brother and I a big hug and put his forefinger to his mouth and say "Remember - a slip of the lip will sink a ship!"  Jim was a good and gentle man.

Later I told this to the priest at St. Anthony's.  Asked him how long it would take for me to pray my Grampa into Heaven.  He never smiled, just looked the long way down at me and sternly said "My dear, you will never pray him out of HELL!"  It took me 16 blocks to walk home that evening - and I cried all the way. 

Grampa Jim is in Heaven with all the other angels. In my 8 year old heart I knew that priest was wrong.   It has taken me years and years to find my own way - my own belief system.  I am at peace believing that there is no such place as Purgatory!!


WORD PAINTINGS #116 - CENTINELAS DE ORO


STUDIO #1322 - CENTINELAS DE ORO (Rio Grande at Pilar, New Mexico) NEW! 30"X40" Original Oil 

13 April 2022 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) - Opened my window last night to hear the coyotes way down by the river.  The winds started up early this morning and they are Fierce!  Some gusts make the house shake.  Answered emails - called Dan Kuehn and made some changes to the website - breakfast - a shower.  Sat down at the easel to work on a 24"x30" and realized the wind was too much of a distraction.  Put in a load of laundry and will do dishes instead.  Doing the things in life which must be done. The calm simplicity of ordinary days. 

Finished "Centinelas de Oro" about noon yesterday and put it up for sale within an hour.   Ebay, 2 Facebook pages, my Art Journal, Linked In and a Studio Newsletter.  Big mistake.  Gabe Abrums called from Chimayo Trading to say that a lady was in the gallery first thing this morning ready to buy.  Said the painting was still wet and there was no way I could let it go now.  This work took 2 months to paint. After some careful thought, just sent email declining offer - I have taken it off the market.  Why? Because I want to avoid feeling the loss of it right now.

Gave up doing art shows for that very same reason.  Two years of intense work.  Holding the work back from the market with only a hint of future sales. Huge investment in framing the paintings.  No money.  The build up to showtime - crazy excitement - many, many collectors....a sell out. Money enough to pay the all the back bills I which I juggled for two years.  Yay!  Not much left over.  The morning after I sat in a lawn chair on the patio and sobbed.  All the walls in my house were empty and I felt profound loss.    It took a good long while for me to find my balance and get back to work. Not everything is about the money!

Time to do the dishes - fold the laundry. Wait for the wind to die down. 

****

Holy Thursday - Phone call from Gabe this morning that Centinelas de Oro has sold less than 24 hours after completion! More than a few awkward moments when I told him that I had taken the painting off the market and wanted to keep it.  He said the price had already been paid in full. Felt I was being coerced into selling "Donna, after all we have done for you!" A guilt trip.  He convinced me it was going to a good home.  Just wish I had a little more time to live with this painting - it might be easier to let go. I have to give it more thought. My feelings of loss are not going away. 

 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

WORD PAINTINGS #115 - INTO THE GREAT UNKNOWN

 

“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

8 April 2022 (Llano Quemado, New Mexico) -  Am in a state of disquiet.  A highly anticipated visit from my family last week devolved into chaos over my Power of Attorney, Will and who gets their name on my checking account.  It is hard for me to recall a time when there was true kindness between these people.     My vision of the last day of my life is peaceful - and hopefully I will be able to conclude my rather long and colorful journey to that Big Easel in the Sky with some modicum of dignity and grace.  The only answer for me at this moment seems to be retreat.

 9 April 2022 (Llano Quemado) - It takes me a few days to regain my balance after a family drama - this one was a full week.  Telling myself I needed a rest, I put my brushes down and just quit for days.  Hurt and anger lingered in my house - the walls vibrated with their scratchy noise. Finally the air began to soften and some ordinariness settled in. Doing dishes, watering plants, folding clothes always brings me round.  Doing one's tasks for their own sake is a moving meditation which allows the harshness to fade. Right now the whole world feels off its axis - spinning out of control and the tragic events in the world breed uncertainties and fears which affect everyone.  We need to create some peaceful moments!!!!  More words will only make this worse - let it go, let it all go.   

 ***********

Two 24"x30"frames delivered yesterday one painting that size is almost completed and the other will be sketched out tomorrow.  Three orders of art supplies from Jerry's Artarama this morning - tubes and tubes of oil paint - Holbein, Grumbacher, Gamblin.    Setting up a new palette tomorrow morning - big globs of juicy colors - waiting for some new brushes.  Only a few hours left to finish my new 30"x40" piece "Centinelas de Oro" - autumn trees over the Rio Grande at Pilar.  (You are invited to visit my Art Journal for color notes for this underpainting - https://donnaclair.blogspot.com/)  Coffee, breakfast and a whole new day begins tomorrow - small adventures with my colors and canvases. 

High spring winds this afternoon. My neighbor's little black dog still chases the dust devils as they form. Watching him spin and twirl in the clouds of sandy dust brings the world right again. Sometimes it is just the small things that lift my spirits.    The field in front of my house is greening up and the birdsongs are sweet enough to make one weep!  No sign of my friend the little red fox - she might be in a secret burrow with her kits.... it's that time of year.

10 April 2022 (Llano Quemado) - Spring is a-roar!!!  Strong winds buffeting this house on a hill. No birdsongs this morning - the little ones are in hiding. The foothills and Taos Mountain blurred by the dense sandy air.  Slow to wake up.  Opened my iPad, checked my e.mail and absently clicked the PBS app - and there it was again - the BIG SONIA documentary.  Sonia Warshawski - a Holocaust survivor - one of my all time greatest heroines!!!  Life energy - hope and inspiration.  Wish I could thank you, beautiful lady! Just the shot I needed right now. There are at least 10 to fifteen medium to large canvases which have been painted in my head - yes, that is how it all starts. Sometimes it takes a week until the finished work. Other more complicated pieces might swirl around in that old brain of mine for a couple of years before the canvases taste the paint!  Planning to post this finished painting tomorrow.  It is Easter - a time of renewal and I am ready!  - Thank you, Sonia!!! Time to create some paintings....an empty-handed leap into the Great Unknown!

PEACE!


 

WORD PAINTINGS #121 -WHAT IF LIFE BEGINS AT EJACULATION?

WORD PAINTINGS #121 - (How I Came to New Mexico and learned a bout Art and Life - "What if Life begins at Ejaculation?" Two weeks ...