You know how Snoopy sits on the top of his dog house with the typewriter and begins every story he writes with “it was a dark and stormy night?” I can’t make it up to my rooftop, but if I could, I would have written the first line of this post about my art opening with the sentence “There was a beautiful calm between storms, and a full moon in Leo rising.”
There wasn’t even much wind when Romeo and I packed up some extra Slow Miracle Cards in my backpack and walked down to the Co-op. I didn’t need my ice cleats or my Yak tracks or my heavy snow boots (which means I didn’t have to prepare to take them off and/or change to shoes I could stand in without slipping on the smooth cement floor once I got there). The air was cold and fresh and the lights that string through the bare trees lining Main Street twinkled at us as we walked under their leafless branches.
When I got there people I knew were already waiting for me. There was a nice array of snacks out to nosh on, including the apples and carrots I had asked for when Sandi, the volunteer who arranges the art openings, wanted to know what I’d like to eat.
Like the head of a beautiful brassica, each leaf of friend overlapped another, and the veins in each leaf connected us all at the heart. There were old family friends, artist friends, the dear friend who helped me find Romeo and is now his vet and who took most of these wonderful photos, and friends who raised their kids with me while I was raising mine, new friends from the Paradise Creek Trail, friends I always see at the Co-op, friends from the university–and many interwoven overlappings of these combinations, kind of like this:
Kale is my absolute favorite “green,” but look how many colors can be in a “green” veggie, and that’s the way it is with my friends–lots of variation, but all of them nourish me in very essential and joyful ways. One of the great joys of the evening was watching friends of mine who hadn’t met each other meet, light up, and start a conversation. Or friends of mine who are old friends of each other relish a chance to catch up. I know in my post about Portland I might have mentioned that I think heaven must be close to the rose garden there we visited on a beautiful evening. But for me heaven is also a place where all my friends meet and embrace each other. So I got a nice slice of that at my Valentine’s Day opening. One friend, having gotten the night wrong, came twice–once on Thursday and again on Friday–even though she doesn’t drive and had to walk both times. And another who couldn’t make it during the opening but had stopped by earlier taped a lovely note to the wall for me at the bottom of my exhibit.
In my artist statement I called my show “Then and Now” because I decided to show a few works from long ago with more recent ones, and of course because of the transformation my health has undergone over the long haul. I wrote about the day fourteen years ago Annie had seen Listening to the Earth and suggested I have a show and that now, that time had finally come, and how Valentine’s Day is such an important anniversary for me. I also wrote that “I try to see the light in things, people, animals, plants and places, and to “get” that somehow in my watercolors and chalk pastel drawings. Everything shines and I try to catch that shine. I also love the many colors in a single color and try to show that complexity of color when I draw or paint. The light here on the Palouse in the sky and in all living things is so beautiful. I just do my best to try and capture a feeling for it.”
There was also another very fun kind of “then” and “now” that happened the night of the show. One of the pieces on the wall is a pencil drawing of a lovely teenager I have known since she was a tiny baby. It’s called Upside Down Delight:
I did this drawing from a photo she posted on facebook that her mother had taken of her on a recent family road trip. I decided to message her and let her know she was in the show, but of course not identified as herself–since you never know how teenagers are going to react to such things. I am pleased to say she was delighted and promised she’d stop by and see it. But I didn’t expect to see her at the opening. It was Valentine’s Day after all. From the time her Dad was building my masonry stove when she was about 8 months old, until she was old enough to only need to call and check in with me that she’d made it to the swimming pool on her bike, I have been one of what she used to call her “big friends.” When she was two we would “talk on the phone” using an old broken remote control that I had in a basket of toys for little ones that came to visit. “It’s my Mom,” she’d say, “She wants to talk to you now.” And back and forth we’d go. And when she was 4, I got my first phone message from her, one of my all time favorite phone messages, which I have memorized. “Maria, it’s me. I don’t know if you think or know, but I have a new haircut. Call me back.” When she was in grade school we spent occasional evenings playing the marble game mancala while her parents caught a movie together, and talked about all manner of things. Sometimes we’d munch on sheets of nori. When I suggested that maybe her Mom would get her some if she asked she said, “Well, I like to eat it at your house, but I don’t think I’d like to eat it at my house.” Perhaps my favorite wisdom of hers in her growing up years was her definition of a friend: “A friend is someone who comes over to your house, and invites you over to their house.” Pretty darn astute. So no wonder she’s an excellent student and a star athlete, with a wonderful social consciousness who organized a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless, with a nice boyfriend–and naturally beautiful, to boot. I don’t see her a lot anymore, so it was a special “then and now” surprise when she showed up at the opening, and I was able to visit with her a little and enjoy seeing her so happy with the drawing I had done.
Since it’s hard to get individual shots of all the paintings once they’re hung because some are up so high (and I was too overwhelmed to think of it when we had the ladder out to hang them), my artist friend Jeanne took painstaking close-ups beforehand of many pieces, including Upside Down Delight. Here’s one of a watercolor from “then” called “Elemental”:
And here are a few more shots of the opening courtesy of both my other dear friend Lynne and Jeanne, including a fun panorama of the show wall, and also one of me greeting one of the youngest people in attendance, the daughter of a friend from poetry night.
A few of my friends in the sciences stopped by too. One bought this watercolor “Beets.” She said she’d tell me the story of her research on beets sometime, but for now she just wanted to be sure she could buy this painting:
When she saw my pomegranate painting and card, another of my friends in the sciences said she had been teaching her class that day that pomegranates are actually considered an unusual kind of berry. The rind of the pomegranate is like the sepal at the base of a rose or a blackberry, except that it grows much larger and encompasses all the seeds of the berry inside of it. Pretty neat, yes?
Being a long time lover of the moon, I have two paintings of it in the show: the original watercolor painting that I printed Slow Miracle Cards from, and a much larger watercolor I painted years ago called “Winter Night”:
So it was only fitting when my neighbor and comrade in getting a pocket park built in our neighborhood, who had pointed out to me that my poetry reading had also been on a beautiful full moon night, came back in after saying good-bye to tell me to go outside and look up at the moon, that I’d see my painting. And she was right. That beautiful Leo full moon was shining bright in an indigo sky and if you stood just right, you could see it through the bare branches of a tree lining the sidewalk at the edge of the co-op. The full circle of art imitating life and life imitating art was complete. I don’t see how it could have gotten better than that.
But then the next night after the opening, I was riding in a friend’s car down the street past the co-op, on the side where the windows of the deli open out to the street. And there through the glass, for a brief flash, through the small lights lining the long window, I saw the wall with my paintings glistening and reflecting through the glass among the city lights. That was a pretty cool encore.
And, the co-op keeps track of this for me during the show, but last time I checked, I have sold seven paintings!!