Monday, September 17, 2007

My life as an Allegory

Dear Sisters,

No sooner said than done; enter my life as an allegory!
Last weekend I was beckoned to Paris, and this weekend Glasgow called me with a very special mission. Although the former was a folly the latter was a necessity as coined by my friend D. who is living there and needed a hand. Two hands to be precise. My hands. I had modelled for her when I was her assistant for a while in Brooklyn. It was then that she taught me how to do gold leaf and how to apply encaustic to a painting. She also taught me some good Brooklyn gangster slang like “swim with the fishes” (you don’t want to do that). We’d talk about things like that and about feminism. Positive stuff. She gave me a free place to live for some months. You don't forget that kind of generosity. Ever.

Her hutzpah makes me laugh out loud, you just don’t want to mess with D. We smoke cigars. It was my face she wanted then and I soon became her reincarnation of a Giotto painting. Very demure and serene. Underneath she had asked me to paint the word INDETERMINACY in black, roman capital letters.

This time, the hands. And this necessity for her was worth a plane ticket for me. I mean, what’s a girl to do? Stay at home?

The fact that we spent a lot of the weekend catching up and laughing and some of it walking over hills and getting bathed in oxygen, breathtaking views

and sunlight and sampling delicious meals are just added perks that go with the job!

for the lovers of drystone walling...

Do I think I am a lucky bunny? Do birds have wings? In fact I think the hands were a good pretext for her to be really generous. Although it is good they are attached to my body so the rest of me could also come.

In case any of us ever forgets, painting can be quite difficult.

“Oh no! That looks too much like Van Gogh…I don’t want it to look like that….”
Exit room.
Have a cigar.
Re-enter: “there, that’s better”.
“It’s not quite how I want it”.
Two hours later: “um; I’m going to stop otherwise I am going to spoil it.”
This goes on in cycles for some time. This is what painting is. We raked up that Beckett quote that so aptly fits painting: “try. Fail. Try again. Fail better. “

And here I was not in the driver seat! I just had to sit there, like the last time, as if 8 years hadn’t passed, fitting back into that slot in other-time: where I become the body that is to be depicted, and it all feels right, like it is appointed and the canvas has been waiting. Each time we resit I struggle to get the position right and allow D. to place my fingers as they had been. Outside I spy a magpie watching us. It starts to rain, and the bird wisely finds shelter under some foliage in the swinging tree. I see a spot of dark blue feathers watching me. It is amazing how creaky your fingers get from doing nothing, just holding the same position, with the cloth they are holding with the suggestive crease down the middle.

The hands alive in stark contrast to the rest of the deliberately stylised painting. Still, Giotto is the basis, and Platonism and empiricism and all this stuff I want to study. By the end of the two days there were beautiful hands there. Not finished, but certainly there. Not a bit like Van Gogh, every bit like D. Fine and clear. Painting is your identity. You put it out there again and again.

And the painting, with its various, disparate elements, suddenly came together. Like a rug tying a room together. Kind of like the way it has taken me at least seven years to even start to understand the language of this extraordinary friend, painter, philosopher, devoted mother, teacher, human being sitting opposite me.

Kisses from S2

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