Granary Gallery 2016

There you are…

Fifteen paintings to mark the fifteenth year of showing at the Granary Gallery.

Our wildly good fortune has evolved into enduring friendships and unwavering support.

Herself and I are grateful every single day that Chris Morse agreed to hang my paintings on the wall of his Red Barn. For the last fifteen years, he, his wife Sheila, their entire family, the extraordinary staff of the gallery, and the generous patrons and supporters on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, have made it possible for me to wake up every day and go to my studio and …paint.

I am one lucky artist, and I do not take one single minute of the last fifteen years at my easel for granted. With just a bit more of that luck, and all the energy I can muster, we will have many more years of collaboration, and friendship, together.

Thank you all.


Noli Timere

Noli Timere cx

Be not afraid.

I called her Scout.

Because, I knew I was going to be spending
a lot of intimate hours with this sheep
and she needed a name.

Because, on the day I started this painting,
the news came across the airwaves
that Harper Lee had died.

And because I wanted to be just like
Atticus’ curious, strong,
loyal and fiercely brave
daughter Scout.

It was late in February
when I began this painting.
We were deep into a very rough winter
of care-giving and hospice nursing
for Pat’s elderly aunt and uncle.

His death in November
left a wife of 72 years to grieve
through the cobwebs of Alzheimers.

Two days after I began this painting,
Aunt Mary died, in the dark hours
between dusk and dawn,
while Pat slept
on the floor beside her bed.

The afternoon before,
out of a deep state of rest,
Mary sat up in bed and cried,
Pat, help me, I’m so afraid.

Taking her hand Pat comforted Mary
with the words that her room was full of angels,
and all of them were there to take her to Bob.

Pat’s art is her compassion.
She was born to be a hospice nurse.
It is hard, meaningful work,
that only someone strong,
and fiercely brave can do.

Her courage runs fathoms deep.

The grief that followed Mary’s death,
was interrupted by waves of peace.

In the wake of that chapter in our lives,
I was drawn into a profound intensity of focus,
as I tried to shine some light on the emotions
that were trying their best to hide.

Scout and I spent those weeks together,
weaving our way through her pasture of grasses,
and catching the sunset in the fibers of her fleece.

I had been listening to Louis Penny’s wonderful
Three Pines Mystery series, and was so happy to be
among the old friends her characters have become.
They are real, and honest, loyal and brave.
Spiked with just enough wit and humor to keep my pencils sharp.

At some point,
most likely when I was struggling with
refracting the rainbow of light
through one of those four hundred million locks,
I caught a new word, and paused the book
to go back and listen again.

She was describing the words that Seamus Heaney
had written to his wife, on his deathbed…

Noli Timere

I put down the brushes.
Scout smiled.

As I am writing this now,
in this troubled world,
with so much to fear,
I am sitting next to Scout,
framed in her quiet island pasture,
searching my soul
for the courage… to listen.


Flying Horses

Flying Horses

Everyone has a story.

If you mention the carousel,
to anyone on the island,
you will first get a smile,
and then a story.

I remember when I took my first ride…

The Flying Horses Carousel is the oldest operating platform carousel in America.
For 140 years children have ridden,
round and round
on these gorgeous steeds,
in the little red barn,
in the town of Oak Bluffs,
on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

With music from a 1923 Wurlitzer Band Organ,
the smell of popcorn from the refreshment stand,
the brightly colored hand-painted signs, (thank Skip for those),
the original painted placards that revolve with scenes of far away places,
and the laughter of children enjoying the ride,
there is a circus-like atmosphere
when you walk inside,
out of the blazing summer beach scene,
and into the cool throwback in time,
and the world turns at a slower,
happier pace.

On the cool crisp October day,
when we met Wendy and John outside the red building,
the horses were gearing up
for the last race of the season.

Walking in, before the doors were open to the patrons,
it was eerily dark as we waited for John to throw on the lights.
I wandered around to the back of the barn,
following a shaft of bright morning light,
that was streaming in from the topmost windows.

The strong raking light
caught the tip of an ear,
and the edge of a saddle,
the ginger flank of one horse,
and the flowing blond mane of another.

It cast the long thin shadow
of a stirrup,
on the circular green floor,
and then popped up
to reveal the brilliant red arm,
and slid silkily down to the very end,
which was, ever so gently,
holding one shiny brass ring.

Just as the sunlight
winked on the edge of that brass ring,
while their caretaker John was still fumbling for the switch,
I felt a breeze,
and heard a distant whinny…
and off they went.

It was a breathtaking sight…
riderless and free,
they took to the wind,
and, for one more time…
those beautiful horses…flew.

You can read more about the Carousel here
from the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust website.

And I can thank Wendy and John for the inspiration, and the ride.


Our Ladies of Menemsha

Our Ladies of Menemsha

If I did my job right,
a lot of you are going to recognize
at least two of these
ladies of Menemsha.

The one in the middle is my favorite, Jane Slater.
This is the fortieth year for the shop that she and her husband Herb
have owned in the little fishing village on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Her dear sweet swordfisherman of a partner Herb
was called to the fleet in heaven
a couple years ago,
and their even sweeter companion of a pup Lucy
soon thereafter to be by his side…
but Jane…
she’s a Yankee through and through,
and the island needs her
around for a good long while yet,
thank you very much.

But…40 years of being a shop-owner,
behind that desk, that chapter is about to close.
The sign comes down when the leaves start to drop this fall.

40 years of telling everyone who walks in that she’d be happy to answer any questions,
while Herb puttered back behind the curtain,
and Lucy’s tail could be heard thumping at his side,
and the good folk of the island wandered in and out,
only the truest among them
being offered that one extra chair
for a set-a-spell chat.

Some of my fondest memories of spending time with Ted
were the visits we made there.
Ted got the seat.
The three of them, Jane, Herb and Ted
had a lifetime of island stories to tell,
and my heart aches with the desire,
for one more afternoon of just listening to them pull on a good yarn.

I painted this mostly for me.
So that I could invite her into my studio,
so far away from that island…
to spend some time
sitting in the chair by my easel,
and listen to more of her stories
as I tried to capture
the elusive sparkle
in those beautiful eyes
just there
in that smile
at the edge
of her heart.


Squirreled Away

Squirreled Away

Last year it was the Cardinal,
His Holiness Wolsey
the basher of windows.

This winter,
it was Sir Squirrel,
the chomper of walnuts.

He who kept me company,
through the snowy storms,
perched on the air-conditioning unit,
just outside my easel window,
flaunting his propitious,
hoarding prowess,
and watching.

We watched each other actually.
Watched out for each other may be more accurate.

When we got that Nor’easter,
which dumped 4 feet of fresh snow,
on the already whitened studio yard,
it took me three days to dig out a path
for Finnegan to get to her privy.

I noticed that Sir Sq. had been a no show
and made a wee annex to Finn’s run
from the arbor vitae to his window perch.

The mere work of a teaspoon,
but it sufficed for him to re-surface
and check back in
to make sure I was ok,
and able to lift those tiny brushes
after all that shoveling.

Sitting there,
sporting new pairs
of both snow shoes
and sunglasses,
and chewing
on a particularly prodigious nut,
he must have noticed
I was looking ever so slightly famished, because,
after devouring a full three quarters thereof,
he reached out to offer me a nibble…

See,
that’s what I’m talking about…

it takes a village.


In Our Wake

osprey

We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot

Stripped bare of its family…

of all their resting,
reading, playing,
love making,
place holders…

with every thread
of their living here
hauled away…

and her shelves
and floorboards
gently
swept…

where wildflower,
and wildlife,
are set to reclaim…

here,
in our wake,
in the light of her last sunset…

after all those days
of our exploration…

what I know of this place…
is that it was home.


The Old Rugged Cross

The Old Rugged Cross

Nothing,
for me,
so captures the soul of Camp Sunrise,
as this garage door.

For over a century
it has swung open
to let in the ocean breezes,
and, when those winds
took a turn for the worse,
she shuttered up tight
and kept the storms at bay.

But really,
it’s all about the paint.
I often felt
that the paint itself,
hundreds of layers thick,
and dried to a deep crust,
was all that was holding those
doors together.

That,
and the stick of cedar
that we used to keep
closed the hasp.

They were able to save this building,
and the doors,
but she will never reflect
this same view again.

None of us will.


A Sense of Place

gull

One of the things I found on this bluff was a sense of place.

During my early childhood we moved every two years or less.
From state to state, and coast to coast.
But I began my life on an island, Oahu.
On the other side of the planet.

It could only be a cosmic coincidence,
since I was barely 2 when we left Hawaii,
and lots of people describe the experience,
but maybe there is something on a cellular level
about an island,
that feels like coming home.

On a deeply emotional level,
this house, this land,
this ocean-side slice of the planet,
the friendship that first offered it,
the new ones that blossomed here,
the family that shared summer breezes,
and quiet moments of solitude,
the hours of creative inspiration,
and the deep inhalation of peace…

they have all been woven
into a marvelous tapestry of memories,
that echo through my soul
each and every day of my life.

When I walked through these empty rooms
for the final time,
with the house slated for demolition,
those memories washed over me
like a rogue wave.

Tumbling with the roiling tide,
amidst the laughter and song…
my heart thudded against remembered losses.

Loved ones whose hands we held
when the camp welcomed a sunrise…
and had to let go of too soon,
so they could walk into their sunset.

Saying goodbye to those friends,
again,
I was drawn into a melancholy
that stayed with me for most of
the winter months.

At home, in the studio,
I had planned to work on a series of paintings
from the camp.
A sort of final chapter with some favorite views,
and unexplored corners.
A way to lift me up and back to the happier times.

Then someone sent me a photo,
taken from Squibnocket beach,
looking back up at the bluff,
and when I saw the empty horizon,
I lost it.

In a paraphrasing of C.S. Lewis,
who was “Surprised by Joy”,
I was taken aback by the sense of loss.

I put aside the sketchbook of ideas
for the camp series,
and threw my energies into other compositions.

The hours I spent
painstakingly refracting the light,
of a Chilmark sunset,
through a larger than life woolen fleece,
and the challenges of making
the varnished and weathered
old wooden horses fly…
seemed to provide a cathartic
and creative release.

When the spring light started to thaw
the world outside the studio,
I was ready to revisit Camp Sunrise within.

And what I saw,
in the reference photos and sketches,
and in my heart,
renewed and refreshed
and waiting there all along,
was…the light.

Yes, she, the house,
had made old bones.
And yes, I absolutely love the patina
of that century of lives that marks her walls and floors,
and cherish having added my DNA  into the mix,
but take all those touchstones away,
and you are left with what was always there
surrounding us and holding us…
the island light.

So, that is what I painted.
The bare bones
of a sanctuary,
as we let go of her hand,
and she welcomed a new day.

 


A Secret Chord

A Secret Chord

I was going to post this later,
but after the madness of the violence this week,
I am searching for some kind of peace.
This is a study I did of Skip.The expression was so powerful,
intimate and human…
and maybe
somewhere in that mix
there is some common ground.
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was my Favorite

this was my favorite

I always dreamed of being able to see the ocean
from this kitchen window,
while the bacon sizzled.
The last summer we gathered on the bluff,
this was the view.

I will remember this tiny galley space,
full of friends,
grabbing for pots and pans,
reaching behind the dish-washer,
who was sudsing away at the old porcelain sink…
criss-crossing some other arm,
in search of a knife for the cheese plate…
and the two of us who were wrangling the lid
on the about-to-boil lobster pot,
which took up three of the four burners on the little stove,
leaning to one side,
as the screen door came banging in,
and one or other of the urchins came flying by,
after being told to fetch the bug spray
for those who were re-applying after showers
and a day at the beach.

If you were standing in that kitchen,
looking out this window,
and turned to your right,
you would be enlisted as the “passer”.

The sliding window,
opened to the sun porch,
was the pass through for the ones
who were charged with setting the table,and relaying drink orders,
and hurrying the cooks along
as the hungry beach stragglers,
who had done the breakfast service,
were seated at the long blue benches.

So many meals,
so much laughter,
some dancing,
and not a few kisses,
we just simply lived love
in that space.

When first I visited this camp,
on the bluff,
at the edge of the world,
there were six.

The most perfectly weighted,
richly glazed,
smoothly worn,
ceramic mugs.

They aged with us,
but even with a crack or chip or two,
I could happily lose myself
in that deep marine indigo cave.

At the end
there was one
alone to remember,

with the patina
of all those morning hands…

the whispers of our days
lived by the sea.