Yesterday soon after Margaret Olley left this world a baby girl named Beatrix was born to friends of mine. I heard Margaret talk about the wheel of life, about giving and receiving and giving, and now I’m thinking about the wheel of life and death and life.

Her house was one big still life, the inspiration for her many paintings. Every now and then I paint a still life. It makes me still. Once I heard Donald Friend say that the best thing about a still life is that you can eat the subject when you’ve finished!
still life with caserole
This morning I watched a doco about James Castle, an American artist who drew every day of his life from 6 years of age. He drew with soot, spit and a stick onto found papers and card. An amazing collection of hundreds of drawings and objects made by a man who couldn’t hear and so was not distracted by the miriad noises that fill the world. His will is what made him great. His choice to make art, without the clutter of doubt. (He also had a family who supported him, but don’t let that stop the rest of us!)

Perhaps Margaret had that clarity too. Just make the work. A ribbon around 60 years worth of artworks and a new babe in the world.

aiden july 10

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The reason for my good fortune yesterday was the opening of an exhibition of paintings by 4 artists/friends who went to central Australia a while back for a workshop with Elisabeth Cummings. (At the time I didn’t want to hear their stories because I was so jealous.) This morning was the artist talk, and what fun it was. Generous and funny. The images seemed to glow off the walls. Not everything can be expressed in words.
dusk
It felt good to hear other painters talk of the ‘wonderful anguish’ that painting causes; discovering what the work is about along the way or right at the end of the making; emmersing oneself in the world and then returning to the studio to begin who knows what? We fumble and fidget and hope for a moment of flow, and when it happens we wonder where it came from.
grampians 3
Gathering drawings and paintings from a place is a way of understanding and later remembering some small truth about that place. Time and attention. I found a few drawings from my travels –  in the Grampians after the fires, and up north on the crater rim around Mount Warning.
Pinnacles Mt Warning

Well I’ve just spent the evening with the woman whose paintings have moved me as much as any works of art ever have. Her name is Elisabeth Cummings and I first saw her work live at a show in Melbourne 9 years ago.

Mum and I met at the station from opposite directions and we walked up Flinders Lane to see the exhibition. With one look we were both enthralled and stayed there for a long time. When our feet began to ache on the concrete floor we sat cross-legged together against a pillar so we could stay with these beautiful images a little longer, me wishing for a lotto win on Mum’s weekly ticket.

Elisabeth has been a silent mentor for me since then, a steady light. Tonight we talked of art and teaching, family and community, of going out into the world to make art, and working quietly at home. I feel happy to have finally met her.

Copy of parallel lives 1

Snow shoes

July 14, 2011

Tomorrow I’ll see some snow for the first time this winter. When I shut my eyes lately it feels like snow might be all around me. Had to sleep with an extra blanket on last night.

The only time I have attempted cross-country skiing it ended in tears. When I got home and spoke to a couple of girlfriends, they told me I was not alone in that. One friend said it took her the whole first season to feel confident.

Although my desire to ski is minimal, the challenge it poses and the delights it offers make it a tempting goal. Some days.

After the trauma of that initiation had worn off a bit I was inspired to prepare my body for a possible second attempt. The thing that noone had told me of beforehand was the inescapable and treacherous side-slide. I thought skis went forward and backward. Who could know they go sideways as well? In opposite directions.

In the small world that is my brain I came up with a rollerskate that does the same.
exercise device for ski training

Far from the source

July 9, 2011

I have believed that we can connect with anyone if we look past the roles, the age, gender, circumstances, genetics, beliefs. That the generation gap is a construct, as is religion and social status. That distance can be overcome by true engagement.

But the extra stuff gets in the way. Memory, history, associations, expectations.

My sons are in my life because I am their mother, but surely not only because of that. I’ve always been very aware of them as beings separate from me, who have graced my life for reasons known only to our souls.

My dear friend Olive was 73 when we met, and I was 28 and our age gap was never a consideration.

I met a man once in a club, with whom I connected before he even saw me, and we talked for the next 3 hours like old friends (completely sober), and I’ve never seen him again.

And for each of these connections there have been times when fear or pride or ignorance have prevented me from connecting. But I always believed it was possible.

Now I’m not so sure. I think for much of our lives we get buried under the constructed layers, far removed from the essential being of each of us and all of us. Hiding behind the complexities of the mind.
veil sm

The solo show

July 2, 2011

On an artist’s CV you’ll see 2 lists of exhibitions – Group and Solo. The Solo show can be a daunting undertaking. Scarier than a group show and way more work.

Recently I was in a conversation about the difficulties of being a lone musician – too hard we all agreed. So then I made the connection to visual art (as I do with all things muse-related) saying yeah same with solo shows. But to my surprise a veherment response from one person of “Oh no – artists must have solo shows! To walk into a gallery and the whole room is full of Mary-Roseness. (or whoever) In a group show you can’t get the true feel of what the artist is on about – it gets watered down.”

Copy of self on card for ben 2011
I guess it’s like playing only one track off a concept album.

In the past month I’ve been fortunate to be around 2 friends who have offered their work to the world, solo. And both shows were amazing. The second one opened just today and the Lynne Gasperovness, like the Vicki Lukeness, was like a miniature world.

This week I’ll be in Kate James’ world and Linda Fish’s world, two exquisite shows in Melbourne.

My sincere thanks to all of you.