Sunday, June 11, 2017

Man Being Touched 1988


On Monday of this week, my husband's right leg began to swell.  He had been experiencing pain in his buttock, but could tease it away by stretching.  However, this new development concerned us. On Tuesday, he had an ultra sound taken of his leg, knowing that it might be a DVT(deep vein thrombosis), but it showed nothing of concern.  We sighed a collective sigh of relief:  our daughter's wedding was to be held in a few days in Mexico and we were relieved that we would be able to go.  The next day his leg was more swollen, and quite painful.  This time he had an ultra sound done, which showed that he had an enormous blood clot that went down his chest and into his right leg.  Weak with anxiety and fear, he had himself admitted to one of the big the ERs here in town where he was pretty much ignored,  then checked himself out AMA(against medical advice)and was readmitted our Heart Hospital, where a surgeon was waiting with a team to do a thrombectomy(1). Two days and three procedures later he was released from the hospital to begin a new life with daily blood thinners and the knowledge that his body was not the strong, capable vessel he always thought of it as being.We were able to watch the wedding on FaceTime sitting at our kitchen counter in front of my Ipad.  Not what we had imagined, but good enough.

(1)  the emergency surgical removal of emboli which are blocking blood circulation. It usually involves removal of thrombi (blood clots)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Breathing 1997

This last week I went from having bad allergies to suddenly having a bad chest cold.  I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Chu, who tortured me with needles and cupping, then sent me home with instructions to make sure I wore socks with my shoes(I had worn flip flops in) and a baggie of herbs to be taken twice a day.  Two days later I couldn't seem to move, think, or react.  My cough had turned into a deep ,wracking, and painful bark and I began to bring up nasty looking phlegm, colors that I wouldn't have minded using in my paintings but didn't feel good about making in my lungs, which ached terribly. My husband and I talked it over(he's a physician)and we decided that I had contracted a bacterial infection in my lungs(aka pneumonia) and I needed to start on antibiotics.  I'm an antibiotic nihilist, but, in this case, it seemed clear to me: if I didn't do something, I was going to be toast.  So, I started on doxycycline. I couldn't help but feel that something dark and scary had been knocking on my door, and I needed to do everything I could to keep that door shut, including wearing socks at all times and taking my daily dose of doxy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Painting with oil 2017

 Woman Brushing Her Hair 2017
 Woman with Black Hair 2000

I recently started painting with oils again after a 14 year hiatus. It was serendipitous really, a friend having just given me about 20 tubes of Gamblin oils.  http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2017/04/floating.htm  I had plenty of tubes of oil paint in my studio that were left over from my oil painting days, but these new ones were colors I had never used before.  As well, I've been a little lost in the desert for the last couple of years with my old techniques and have been unsure of where I'm headed.  So, It's been interesting watching myself using this media that I was once so familiar with, but am now relearning, both in technique and approach.  

17 years ago, in 2000, when I did "Woman with Black Hair" I was basing my painting on the photo that lay underneath.  Although I've never been able to preconceive what the final painting would look like, I knew when starting that the image would have something to do with the photo, no matter how little or how much was left of it in the final painting.  Now, however, my creative self seems not to want to have anything to do with any photos, and my guide to what I'm going to paint seems to be the paint itself rather than the photo underneath.  "Woman Brushing Her Hair" does have an image buried beneath the paint, but nothing of it exists in the final piece.  As always, I have no idea of where I'm headed, but I do seem to have a very clear directive to just let go and allow the paint and my brushes to call the shots. Although this is the essence of how I've always made my work, there seems to be a new sense of confidence that didn't exist before. It understands that I just need to get out of the way, and that once I do, everything will be alright.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dog Barking 2017

 In trying to make drawings that took away most of my control, I came up with the idea of using dog's hair. While petting our dog Sophie, idly collecting her hair in my hand as it came off, I suddenly saw the beautiful chaotic spiral that the hair made. I put the clump on a sheet of white paper, and took it out to my studio where it sat for several weeks.  I finally got around to photographing the hair and then tried using the image as an abstract, but my figure making self wouldn't allow me do it. I began to "draw" with the hair.  It seemed only fitting that one of the first drawings to come out of this new process was of a dog, an alert male dog doing his dog job of letting the world know that he was taking care of things.  Since then, I have done many more of these "hair drawings", and have begun to amass baggies full of not only dog's hair, but my own(from my hairbrush), my husband's and different friends hair after haircuts, not to mention wire, cord, metal findings, frayed rope, dried snap pea stems and tiny wadded pieces of paper sprayed with India ink.  The most banal and mundane objects in my life are now all grist for the mill.
Sophie's Hair

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Floating

In 2004 I turned my back on the paints I loved, and started painting with plastic.  I had painted with oils for over 30 years, and found that I didn't have anywhere else to go with them.  With the acrylics, I had an entire new planet to explore, and explore I did.  Now, 13 years later, with about 20 tubes of Gamblin oils given to me by a friend, I find myself, once again, painting with oils. It's a very different experience from the acrylics I've become used to--like going from a Unitarian service in California where everyone is wearing flip-flops, to high mass in a Catholic Church in Rome where there are candles and chanting and mysterious men clad in dark robes and funny hats. The oil paints have a rich heaviness and stay wet forever, letting me blend colors and add and change things even a day or two later, while the acrylics, while immediate and fresh, once they are dry, or drying(within minutes of being applied)can't be altered.  I'm rediscovering my brushes from 14 years ago, and remembering what each one does, some with only a hair or two left from so much use.  I'm not sure where this will go, only that I don't want to repeat what I did all those years ago, hoping that I will find a different way to marry my photographs with paint.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Guard Dog 2016

Almost two years ago, our youngest daughter wasn't able to keep her beloved Mastiff cross, Cash, with her, so we offered to keep him until she could.  He settled in nicely, with two smaller dogs to hang with, a huge backyard to protect and defend, and a steady supply of sun and dirt to bask in.  We've grown to deeply love this dog, with has steady dignity, deep intelligence and quirky, funny ways. However, in loving Cash, something has moved in me so that now, whenever I see any kind of large animal--elephant, horse, bear, lion, etc.--I find I have a deep connection with them as well, something that I didn't have before Cash came into our lives.  There is something about his size or his dignity that attracts me to these massive beings.  Movies with Elephants especially can bring me to tears.  Cash is in his last days now, having stopped eating, and mostly sleeping.  It's just a matter of time before we call the vet.  I will miss him so very much, but at least I will able to keep loving him through this new connection to the large animals in my life.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Standing by the River 1997

The River Styx (Greek: Στύξ, Stux, also meaning "hate" and "detestation") was a river in Greek mythology which formed the boundary between Earth and the Underworld.

Sometime around the year 1996, our friend, Bob Zachary, had to have open heart surgery.  While the surgery was being performed, he was connected to a heart-lung machine. During the surgery, to my simple, magical thinking artist's mind, he wasn't completely alive, but neither was he dead, just in a nether land between the two. After the surgery he had a beautiful scar going from his throat to the middle of his stomach, with two incisions on either side. It's still there, but not really visible after 20 years.