And we have arrived at the end… only to start at the beginning.
I owe everything Vineyard to my friend Lynn. She brought me here for the first time.
We would throw a box of spaghetti and some brownie mix into her car and drive from our shared apartment in Somerville out to the ferry and over to her beloved island.
It was ten years or more before I even knew there were towns other than Chilmark.
We drove straight from boat to bluff and left only briefly for the annual lobster from Larsen’s …and regular visits to Chilmark Chocolate.
Lynn had the biggest heart I’ve ever known and its core and depths were chiseled out of those cliffs.
Her honest and joyful humor was wedged in between every one of the giant stones she tended along her wall.
Her kindness and overflowing generosity live on in the daffodils that now soak up her spring sunshine.
Her friendship and her family have given me the closest thing to a home that I have ever known.
The monarch is for her. Actually it may BE her.
For me they always will be.
On the day I captured this light there was a very short window of this calm after the storm just enough time for the sheep to make their way across the field to where I stood and as the sun began to set she flew behind me and landed on this bend of grass and stayed until I turned around.
Her smile was exactly as I remembered it with that laughter and love come to share the moment which I had been searching for all those years as we had made a ritual of stopping at this turnout each time we left her camp to see if the sheep were there and the muses might be too.
After four decades … and with a wink and a nod from one happy dancing angel they did.
After a loooooonnnng day of firing up the old framing muscles, and after an arduous winter, lifting tiny brushes, and bowing to hard driving muses, it is sooooooooo nice to look at this painting, the ferry docks at Wood’s Hole, and know that in just a little over one week, we will be right there.
With a car full of freshly framed oil paintings, two tired but happy old women, on board a great iron vessel, steaming for home.
I never tire of that 45 minute trip. Even the passages which I have spent deep in the bowels, catching a few last zzzzz’s on the 7am boat, before the long drive back to Pennsylvania, or the one’s where I chose to shelter from the raging winter storms, and look out over the freight boat’s rail, while knitting those fisherman’s patterns, in the warm and cozy cab of the truck.
For those, and all those other trips, when the summer sun was shining, or the October fog blanketed the sound, when the passengers played with the following gulls, and the benches left our shorts wet from the waves, and my camera caught just the right raking light on a rigging of canvas sail that was carrying some other sailor home from the sea…
I owe all of that magic, all of those memories, all that the vineyard has become in our lives, to that very first voyage, can it be so close to 40 years ago… with my friend Lynn.
Last year at this time, I was polishing up the tiara, and mirror ball, for the opening of …
Since then, the dynamic creative production duo of David and Barbarella Fokos, aka Salt and Sugar Productions have been dividing their time between studio work, filming and editing of new productions for TAO, The Artist’s Odyssey (check out their updated website), oh…AND enjoying awards ceremonies at International Film Festivals.
Yep, that’s me at the easel again…still painting that blue door !
So, as I am in final production for my next show, at the Granary Gallery in only a couple weeks, I have been given the opportunity to provide my readers and viewers with a special chance to see the movie, Visions of Home, in all it’s seaside glory, here from my website.
For anyone who might have missed it the first go round, or who may be new to this site because they saw it at some film festival without knowing beforehand who that old woman with the paint all over her shirt was, and for the rest of you who just simply cannot get enough of watching paint dry, and do not let me overlook Finnegan’s fan base…
Anyway, David has made a lovely page dedicated to the movie where you can see the trailer and watch the full film and get some backstory, with the wonderful blog post that Barbarella wrote about last years’ debut screening and some of the process behind their process, which alone is worth the read…and he’s included the article which The Vineyard Gazette published around the time of the opening in which they interviewed Barb and David about the making of the film.
So grab a bowl of popcorn, pull up your lawn chair by the kiddie pool, put a straw in some cool beverage, set your favorite viewing device to this link…
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.
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.
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.
A person for whom the esthetics of beauty is the fundamental element of existence.
Someone deeply connected to nature’s expressions, who finds art and music and dance vibrating between all living things, and whose joyful spirit, when unleashed, can fill an island with song.
Over a year ago I asked Skip to model for me. I had some ideas. Skip had other ideas.
We met and shared some croissants and coffee, listened to each others’ stories, talked about art, and Findhorn, and philosophy, and listened some more.
Then we set out to seek the muses. Skip pointed me down up-island roads that were hidden from maps, we stopped for stone walls, and wildlife, wildflowers, and whispers.
There were stories behind every corner, pebbles on the road, on Skips’ journey, and a few on mine, and new ones we were creating together.
Skip is a painter. And one of the things we talked about was including one of those paintings …in my painting. We brought it along, and let the muses decide.
We ended up at the bluff, Camp Sunrise. A melding of sacred spaces. The morning sun had risen to clear October skies, and the meadow was just waking up to the light.
This is the part where I get emotional.
Because the morning sessions I spent working with Skip studying and working, in that profoundly familiar space, was the last time I saw the house, perched on the edge of the planet, in all her grace and glory, before they demolished it.
We all knew it was coming. The time when nature’s pounding would erode the bluff, wearing away at the land, until there was no where else for the houses to rest.
In my island time… which began as the great gift of knowing Lynn Langmuir, whose generous heart was deeper than the ocean, and steadier than her beloved stone wall, that very wall which wanders through this painting… over the thirty plus years I have been coming to this bluff, the chicken coop of a farm house, had twice been moved back from that threatening edge.
It is hard to imagine, in this painting, that there is a 40 foot drop from bluff to beach, just a mere five feet from the edge of her front porch.
And, still, this old Yankee stalwart ship-of-a-shack, she stood proud, holding her own, and by that I mean generations of the Langmuir family, and the many who were welcomed by them, into the embrace of this enchanted space.
But the land…ran out. And so, while the other, more modern structures of garage and bunkhouse, were able to be moved out back and beyond the wetlands, to the farthest section of the parcel, the bones of this old gal had been deemed too fragile for the move.
You couldn’t tell, from our distant vantage point, that while Skip and I gamboled among the stones, and communed with the muses, the house had been emptied of all its touchstones.
The old wicker woven lounging chair was gone… the daybeds stripped of their sleep-softened pillows, kitchen shelves bare of the pastel colored fiesta ware, paperback mysteries of Riggs and Craig, no longer insulating the cubby-holed shelves.
Puzzles and kite string, checkers and cribbage… amber eyed owls who lit up the hearth, journals of writings from visiting friends, with new chapters each year for us all to catch up.
New nicks, and old, from bumps on the bedroom lintel, where a hundred layers on the yellow painted symbol of a duck…reminding us to.
The tears in each sink from the iron and rust, the old brown barn coat ever-hanging on the white wooden hooks behind the green door.
All these objects, and a hundred more … they have been the keeper of our memories.
The sunny days, the stormy nights, we grew up in that house, on the bluff, as she grew old, and, in her weathered-shingled way, became… the things we are made of.
This painting then, for the house, is her swan song.
Skip sings it for us all, an aria as abstract as the tapestry of souls who have ducked to cross her threshold, and sought refuge in her wings.