The Flock

The Flock  –  48 x 92

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.

Thank you dear sweet soul.


New Rust

New Rust  –  24 x 37

This is the last painting in the Hancock Mitchell House series, and for me it pulls all seven of them together. My working title for this originally was Advent because all those openings and passages reminded me of an advent calendar.

As if you could open each one and step through and back in time and pick a different century in which to explore.

I personally imagine doing that as the woodworker I used to be. With hatchet in hand and shaving horse at the ready, I’d love to work alongside all of the builders of this house. Learning from the masters who cut the massive timbers and swung the hewing axes. Listening to stories of sea voyages as they wove the wattles and mixed the daub.

I can almost feel the ocean breeze lift across the grassy plain, come to softly cool the sweat on my shoulders and back as we share in the splitting of lath under a steamy solstice summer sun.

Above the cry of a pond diving gull, I can hear the rhythmic swish…pull…swish of the planes as they fashion the moulded edges along the wide cabinet boards.

Across the wind swept meadow, along the road from the beach, I can see a cloud of dust rising as a team of draft horses pulls a sled of ship-wrecked planks, washed ashore and gleaned to live now… a landlubbers life of pantry shelf, mantelpiece or sill.

And from just over the treetops, on the next island farm, catching a ride on the early morning breeze, the remnant of woodsmoke drifts from the forge where its fire burns and builds to harden her irons.

Away and alas…
here in this century
I have put down my hatchet
to pick up a brush…and quill…

From the depths of her shadows
in the company of her years
opens a new whitened door
holding fast and proud
to its first ever latch
poised now to witness
this next chapter of life
for a quiet old house
on a wild island plain
and so it begins
with a trickling thin line
reddening apace
of modest…new rust.


Map Room

Map Room  –  24 x 26

There’s a whole lot of maritime history to be witnessed in this little room

Hanging left and right are copies of centuries old nautical maps and charts which were discovered in the attic of the Hancock Mitchell House when the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation began its restoration.

Having recently trodden my own path along the rugged Wild Atlantic Way, I am choosing the map of the West Coast of Ireland to feature in detail here…

Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and New Bedford were at the center of the whaling industry in the mid 1800’s. Several whaling ship captains came from this homestead in Quansoo. One of whom was West Mitchell…

I have lifted these lines from a 2017 article by Alex Elvin in The Vineyard Gazette, click here for direct link to read the entire piece…HERE.

Capt. West Mitchell, who once lived in the house, was among those who weathered the whaling disaster of 1871, when dozens of whaling ships from the region became stranded in the Arctic. He was captain of the barque Massachusetts, which now lies at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

Mr. Mitchell’s name remains scratched into a wall in the Quansoo house, barely visible above the stairs leading to the attic.

Here indeed is that very mark…

I found more information on The Whaling Disaster of 1871 on Wikipedia…click here to read.

This one ticks all the boxes for me…
centuries of living on the island
talismans left for us to puzzle
maps to point the way
salt and brine soaked patina
on wood worked by hand
passages in
and passages out
and always and ever
our return…to the sea.


Brigantine

Brigantine  –  24 x 32

The most exciting artifacts discovered in this house are on…and in…the walls.

Tucked into planking and stairwell are all kinds of hand carved symbols and signatures and…ships.

I knew that. Adam Moore had pointed out a few of them on his tour and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation site explores this in their literature…

Inside the house, one finds plastered walls and various kinds of decorations. The plaster was made from a mixture of crushed oyster shells and horse hair. Some walls,such as those in the Borning Room, are inscribed with intricate carvings of ships. Other walls, such as those in the attic, bear drawings of lotus-flowers, drawings which a child might have made with a compass. In the Pantry,old bottles and canning jars line the curving shelves. Some jars, still sealed after many years, contain perfectly preserved tomatoes and peaches.

And when I was working on this composition it was all about the pantry light for me.
And the magnificent blue paint. And the way the newly shored up timbers had shifted the old baseboard to reveal the startlingly bright original color of that blue and a mystery slice of yellow.

After a bit of sketching and watching how the light was changing with the moving sun, I got up to stretch and moved the door, which had been opened wide against the wall, and this is what was hiding behind it…

I know. Under how many generations of paint, and at either a child’s height or a seated adult’s, was this little gem of a carving.

There were many ship’s captains who owned and occupied this house over its hundreds of years so they and the loved ones watching the horizon for their returns would have had a vivid understanding of ship design.

As does my pal Captain Morse so I queried him about the type of vessel we might have here. His best guess has become the title… mostly because I love the word itself.

There will be many many more Captains at the Granary Gallery opening for this show and I guarantee I’m gonna hear just as many theories as to what manner of ship this be.

I can only say that I have remained steadfastly true to the verisimilitude of this particular hand carved vessel…and leaned heavily on the more romantic essences of the rich and dreamy maritime for my title.

Sail on little one.


A soft day on Black Point Pond

A soft day on Black Point Pond  –  16 x 24

This one is for Herself.

My stalwart champion
protector and defender
lover of the ocean
lover of straw hats
lover of me.

If you stand in front of the painting, The Study House,

look out the front door
and use your zoom lens
you will see the barest sliver
of Black Point Pond.

When I was working on this painting spring was in full bloom.
The studio garden was soaking up the warming sun, with spinach,
buttercrunch, land cress, hakuri turnips, cherry red radishes,
and purple sprouting broccoli filling our salad bowls with life itself.

One fine day Miss Pat came over to fetch a bowlful of spring
and poked her smiling face into the studio for a visit.
She noticed a photo tucked into the shelf behind my easel
and asked could she see it please.

It was a snap shot of the pond’s edge
with a woman strolling along
in a straw hat.

Oh, I LOVE this.
Are you going to paint it next.

No, I said, that’s just something the camera caught
while I was photographing the front yard through the door.

But I REALLY love this.
It is such a soft Vineyard moment.

And…there ya go.

My love
AND
My Muse.

This one’s for you Babe.

 

 

 


The Study House

Study House  –  26 x 36

This is the Hancock-Mitchell House.

On the island of Martha’s Vineyard there is an organization, The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, which is dedicated to…”Conserving the natural, beautiful, rural landscape and the character of Martha’s Vineyard for present and future generations.”

From their website…
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation is the local land trust for the island of Martha’s Vineyard. We protect 2,900 acres of land across the island. We own 72 distinct preserves comprising 2,075 acres, and hold 42 conservation restrictions over an additional 825 acres. We own land in each of the six towns on Martha’s Vineyard.

On a small island, an organization like this makes it possible for those of us who love it but do not own property there to follow those trails to some of the planet’s most magical places. A well worn map of theirs lives in my car all year round. The HM house which sits on the plains of Quansoo in the town of Chilmark is part of a recent acquisition to the foundation.

There is a vigorous debate over in which century the house was built, added on to, and who may have lived in it and when. But early in this century the house and 150 acres of the farmland surrounding it was donated to the foundation by it’s last occupant, Florence B. “Flipper” Harris.

And ideas for a grand restoration began.

The first I heard of this was reading an article by, Mike Seccombe, in the Vineyard Gazette. I’ve been following their coverage of the progress of the restoration over the years as the historians, architects, archeologists and carpenters peeled away layers of wallpaper, clapboard, shingles and paint.

There are several places on the web which reference the process and the discoveries and I’ll link you to them in the upcoming notes.

There are seven paintings in this series and I want to start it off by letting you take in what the house looked like when I first walked in.

On one of our Ted trips, and after a wild and somewhat harrowing adventure of a ride, Katie and I drove out of the spiderwebbed Ichabod Crane like woods and into a wide open landscape. All sky and endless fields of grasses, a sliver of blue pond, and far in the distance a low line of sand dunes with the promise of an ocean beyond.

And sitting tucked along the wooded edge…a simple island house.

Adam Moore, is the Executive Director of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation and he met us there for an introductory tour. I could hear in his voice the excitement and devotion he has for this ongoing project. He explained that the goal is to bring the house into a stable and safe state but not to renovate for contemporary occupation. Rather, it will be restored to the architectural equivalent of somewhere in the middle of its 1700’s lifespan. And then offered to islanders, academics and interested others as a Study House.

In the coming days I’ll give you an in-depth look into each of the rooms and let them tell the stories of the builders, the ship captains and the generations of women and children who called it home.

None of them brought fancy modern inventions like electricity…or running water in to spoil her bones. So, like the richly weathered decking on the whale ship the Charles W. Morgan, there’s an honestly earned patina on every hewn surface.

And enough beauty in the sunlit robin’s egg blue reflections from the milk painted wall boards…to last…thanks to some supremely dedicated islanders… for centuries to come.

 

 


Travelers

Travelers  –  30 x 48

This painting started out with a shaft of light and the better part of a house…

I had been trying my damnedest to bring two elements into this composition which in the real world are hundreds of feet on either side of this little red pump. The old lamp and sign pole, and the old station owner’s house.

Along the way I was listening to “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles, when a phrase jumped out at me…”over the bar hung four studies of gas stations by Stuart Davis”. So off I go to look up said paintings. Which lead to a refresher course in early 20th century American art  and in particular his cubist-ic like paintings of the new elements of modern urban life.

My aim was a bit less wild but referencing the same era as I wanted to bring a corner of the iconic white New England clapboard house in to balance the tall slender light pole and play around with an Edward Hopper-like isolation of the lonely gas pump on an up country road. Standing now as a relic but hearkening back to a heyday when it and the cars it fed were shiny new and the light from the top of that pole would beckon wayfaring travelers.

But all the proportions were wrong. It wasn’t a problem to muscle my artistic license around and re-arrange some elements. The problem was the pump. Which is what I really wanted to shine. Think of an overall clad mechanic wiping grease off his hands before lifting the handle to fuel up the Ford, then folding a wing on the top of the pump and leaning in to say hey.

Right, the pump is actually…short…compared to the 20 foot pole and the porch of the house which sits up on that grassy yard behind the stone wall. To get them all in and have the pump large enough so that I could get out the tiny brushes and show you that the price was 49 and 1/10 cents…

well it would have meant an enormously large and dis-proportioned panel. Maybe someday I’ll revisit that. It’s still rambling around and every once in a while, like right now, the Muses kick that ball back onto the playing field.

Instead I went to another era of Art History and pulled my Albrecht Durer books off the shelf to study his “Great Piece of Turf”. A 16th century marvel that has always brought me to my knees. I played loose and free with the positioning of some of that vegetation but all of the passages of jungled vines do live nearby the pump…

and boy did they fight their way into becoming star players in this painting. No blending into the background sea of foliage for those gnarly twisters. They pushed aside that dappled light and danced.

So I whittled the composition down to its essence.

An old red pump
a deep woods county road
a tire rutted turnout
an ancient fieldstone wall
and a traveler.

There are treasures to be found
along every Vineyard road.

Mr. Morse sent me down this one
which was sorta fun.

 


Visions revisited…

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.

Indeed, news that Visions of Home
was an official selection of NOVA Fest — the Northern Virginia International Film & Music Festival (http://www.novafilmfest.com), came across the airwaves back in March.

Then comes news this week, that TWO of their films will be included in the
Oceanside International Film Festival 2017, next month !!!

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…

Visions of Home

and Herself and I will welcome you into our lives…
and our hearts.

 


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.


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.