This is almost what my studio kitchen looks like today…
Add a kitchen table, stacks of art books and magazines, two baskets of laundry, another row of teacup shelves, a different iron, and a large bernese mt dog at my feet…
and you would be welcome to come join us as we head into the final stages of preparing to leave for the Granary Gallery show !
I left the ironing ’til last. Despite my predilection for sweats and smocks,I do try to make an effort to look respectable when I leave the studio and venture out into the real world.
And, while this heat dome is determined to hover over the east coast, I am determined to let linen keep what little air movement there may be…flowing.I’m halfway through the ironing. For the last two hours, Finnegan has been laying in front of the air vent.
I needed a break, so I’m writing to say hey, stay frosty out there my friends, and island breezes…here we come !
Well…in a little over a week it will be MOVIE TIME !!!
This is a reminder that, if you are on the island of Martha’s Vineyard next week, and you want to join us for the premiere of the movie, Visions of Home, Directed, by David and Barbarella Fokos, produced for Chris Fessenden, founder of the new arts website venture, TAO The Artist Odyssey… all you need is a ticket.
The tickets are FREE.
But you do need to reserve them. You can do that in two ways,
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…