Several years ago I came across the sketchbooks of Horace Pippin and it was the first time I was struck by how weighty and real sketches can be. The power of the image was in their content and the content was the first World War. Pippin gives us images of explosions during battles, of soldiers hiding out in trenches and planes flying overhead.....What I saw in these images influenced the way I composed my sketchbooks.Read More
On this mantel lives a garden, and on the carved ornate frieze, sit various memories from faraway places, all separated by distance and time, their images reflected in the mirror directly behind them. The mirror stretches between two round wooden columns and above sits another shelf cradling books and postcard images of her favorite artists. On the left sit the giant acorns from the Redwood forests. These are the first to be noticed and commented upon by visitors to the studio. Their oversized pattern, and warm color are something she means to come back to, and engage through color and form. When she enters , what she sees first are the curled up dried leaves of the Flamboya tree that was in bloom that day she arrived on the island to bury her father. That morning chaos in Brooklyn began with an early phone call alerting her to his critical condition; that was followed by the second phone call pronouncing his death. She flew to his island that very day in time for an afternoon wake and a burial at dusk. At the cemetery, the Flamboya tree shouted its red color and she responded by collecting its fallen leaves, still curled as if making a fist, their dryness the color of flesh.
Then there are the sea shells. Florida shells mostly, though her favorite is a large conch that can play the ocean 's song and was retrieved from the sea by Paolo when they vacationed in the British Virgin Islands. The smaller shells generously offer her a wide array of color , pattern, line, and shape to coax inspiration from her work. The recent acquisition, is in the shape of a heart. Not a Valentine caricature heart but rather a human heart and it is as large as the palm of her hand. It's underside reveals a cavernous whiteness curling in towards a luminescent pink center . Pretty enough, but it was the ugliness of the outside that caught her eye. The skin of this shell is pockmarked, scratched, with deep pits and scars, yet still miraculously whole and intact. She found it one day walking on the beach, before going to visit her mother at the nursing home.
Then there are the numerous antique bottles, they are blue , and sea green and clear, holding sand, or pebbles or emptiness, the glass reflecting the first light to enter the studio each morning. Her favorite bottle is an old fashioned black perfume bottle with a little tasseled pump. Petra had given her that bottle of perfume on her 28th birthday. They were in Victoria's Secret when Petra noticed her admiring the bottle and promptly gifted it a few days later .It has been 20 years since Petra passed away in Germany. She misses her, still.
Her favorite collection in the archive mantel are the rocks. They are mostly California desert rocks from Death Valley and Joshua Park. Some have Native American paintings on their surface, and one is split wide open to reveal a fossilized fern pattern. Cool to the touch, these are the ones she picks up most often. Then there are two architectural rock acquisitions, the first a small marble stone from Hadrian's villa in Tivoli. At the time it did not seem like a big deal to pick up the small marbled stone from among the ruins that no longer resembled what was once an emperor's lavish retreat. Removing the stone was a tradition, she thought, a justification supported by the fact that much of Hadrian's marble had already been carted away to construct Villa dell' Este nearby. The second stone was architectural . Islamic geometry had been employed to create a new form, turning the deep pink brown stone into a decorative lattice for the palace at Fatehpuh Siskrit in Dehli. Its ladder-like legs were chipped, causing it to sit in a lopsided manner. It had been laying on the ground when she saw it so she picked it up.
She loves that the rocks have a long life. Their profound stillness will outlast all human activity, their cool silence hold an unchanging wisdom, solid between her clasped hands.