Here we are…it’s the morning of the Granary Gallery Show Opening
I want to personally thank all of you who have taken the time to read the string of Blog Posts which have lead up to today’s opening. You being with us for this ride and offering kind words of support and encouragement along the way has softened the edges of the rough parts and lightened the air here in the studio.
So…from our studio
To the red barn on Old County Road on the island of Martha’s Vineyard
And into the homes of all you friends and patrons…
Before today’s Painter’s Notes I want to give you a heads up…
There are just four more days until the Granary Gallery Show opens… Though, as you well know by now, there will not be an “Opening Reception”… the gallery is very much OPEN and the staff are doing an amazing job and going out of their way to make a safe and welcoming environment for people to get in touch with art.
Herself and I have created a video aptly titled…”Wish We Were There” …by way of letting our island community know we are there with them…at least in spirit. The gallery sent me a list of questions and Pat agreed to read them to me on camera and you can expect some frivolity ensued.
I’ll be posting that video here on the blog on Sunday Morning… we hope you’ll pour a cup of tea and join us for that short studio visit.
So…4 days and counting…
That leaves three paintings to go…and today…
we go back to Menemsha. I’ve spent so many hours on this dock that this painting almost painted itself.
The Morning Bell – 24 x 30
One of my enduring memories of that most special week we got to spend “living” in Menemsha up there on Crick Hill was wakening to the early morning sounds of the harbor.
When the wind is right you can hear the bouy bells playing a rhythmic bass line and the gulls picking out the melody
Before the charter engines crank up you can still make out the water lapping against the bigger boats some ropes and chains a’ rattlin’ against the mighty masts and…
If you’re really early enough… the putt putt putter of Louie’s trawler making her way out for the first cast of the day.
So… even though this particular painting is righteously full of the colors that bring the harbor to life for most artists
What I hear… is just as evocative as what you see.
I’ve already introduced you to Jack the Lad and his pal…
Now you get to see the behind the scenes story of our collaboration…
Jack the Lad
This painting came into being by way of a commission. And a most challenging one at that. The gentleman you see seated in the center is a loyal patron of the gallery who wanted to immortalize his pup Jack …who is an even more loyal visitor, indeed many would say, ambassador to the gallery.
I met Jack there, in the gallery for our first meeting, on a bright October morning. He was sitting with rapt attention focused on his pal, or more specifically his pal’s pocket wherein there was a stash of green beans. I knew instantly that anyone who would carry a pocketful of beans as treats for his dog would be a subject worthy of exploring and that any pup who would gaze that lovingly into the eyes of a human for…a bean…be still my vegetable gardeners’ heart.
So, the challenging bit that I mentioned at the start was not the subjects themselves, but rather the fact that there was a very short overlap in our schedules. We had a brief time together in the gallery so the pressure was on…but I needn’t have worried. I fell instantly in love with both of them. It was easy to do as neither of them ever stopped smiling.
Jack, the lad, wandered freely among the paintings and antiques but his spirit was primarily drawn to people. He quickly took the measure of each human who entered the gallery and adjusted his greeting accordingly. The wagging bushy tail, energetic and playful with a group of young children…then softly gently laying down before a woman and her cane…and always, always with one of those soulful brown eyes checking back in with the bean man Himself.
The Granary Gallery is a special place. That big old Red Barn is more like a general store than an art gallery, at least for the regular patrons, and the year round Islanders. Like the bar at Cheers, where everybody knows your name, new friendships are made and old ones deepen each time the bell rings above the opening door.. and the owners and staff make the kind of genuinely gracious human connections which these days is an art all of its own.
Looking back now, despite the brevity of our meeting…or maybe because of it…what lingered throughout the months afterwards, as I worked to find my way into this commission, was the tender upbeat energy that those two souls exuded. This painting became a blended portrait both of them and the gallery itself.
There are lots of details which, like the scavenger hunts the Granary makes for the children to have fun exploring the gallery are just that…fun. But zoom in a bit, just past the red dots under the cormorant statue, and before you count those blue violet bottles on the window shelves…just there beneath the table, at the foot of the tie-dyed man you will see what this painting is really all about.
The heart tugging twinkle in that all adoring look that tells us all we need to know of Jack the Lad…
This is the next painting in order of the way we spent our last night on the Vineyard last October…after Derby’s Wake we drove on up to Aquinnah to see if there was a sunset there…
Aquinnah Sunset – 20 x 30
Anyone who has spent time on the island of Martha’s Vineyard will know how dramatically the quality of light can change in the blink of an eye.
Last year, in what now seems like emotional light years away, we extended our annual fall visit letting the island and our friends there hold us a little longer and a little closer because we needed to be held.
On our last night when up-island was as quiet as I’ve ever seen it we sat in the car in Menemsha saying our goodbyes to the harbor we alone were there as the heavy clouds were obscuring any promised sunset.
We decided to make the loop out to Aquinnah and as we came upon the lighthouse and rounded the bend the winds howled and the heavens parted for waves of color to break through.
Looking back… From where we all are now… I can seen how powerfully looming a harbinger the raging… and then clearing… of that Nor’easter was.
We thought our world had shifted something mighty back then…
Living with six feet of separation… in the hopes of staying on this side of the garden… which as you can see has just begun…
And potatoes newly nestled in Ruth’s bed…
I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am, as an artist, to actually enjoy working at home. Social distancing is my norm. The creative life is not always lived in isolation, but art often begins there.
Making art is about making sense of the world around us and within.
The irony is not lost on me in these early days when artists of all types are filling the airwaves with song and words and paintings…
Spontaneous acts of generosity offering touchstones to beauty portals of peace that simply reach out to remind us of the importance and precious value of our common human existance…
When, for the price of a presidential golf trip, how many schools could bring back the stolen art and music education to teach new generations to make that art.
Maybe that will be one new thing that we change after so much tearing down that is to come.
So, yeah, I feel very lucky to still be able to walk over from the log cabin each day and walk around the studio yard with Finn as the sun rises over the hill and know that my easel awaits and the brushes are ready…
I am very scared. Anxiety and raw fear blend with the persistent vulnerability of aging so that those familiar edges have now become ledges.
But, so far, the Muses have not wavered.
They greet me at the door. Remind me of our new family motto…
So I’m going to join the chorus and start sending out little postcards from the studio.
To share some of what is still so good in our world some paintings that speak to me of that and the constant reminder that the garden gives me that grace abides.
I begin with Skip…Swan Song – An abstract Chilmark Aria
This is Skip.
One of this world’s truly authentic selves.
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.