“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
– Andy Warhol
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
– Andy Warhol
Below you will find the link to my column Lost in Translation and my most recent article, “All Grown Up.” A story with more questions than answers. A story about an artist.
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Look closely and you will see a heart.
This Valentines day, as I contemplate love, fear, risk and all that spring and winter brings me, l’ll take Mr. Saint-Exupéry’s advice and accept (stay open to) them all.
I have come far enough
from where I was not before
to have seen the things
looking in at me from through the open door
and have walked tonight
to see the moonlight
and see it as trees
and shapes more fearful
because I feared
what I did not know
but have wanted to know.
My face is my own, I thought.
But you have seen it
turn into a thousand years.
I watched you cry.
I could not touch you.
I wanted very much to
but could not.
If it is dark
when this is given to you,
have care for its content
when the moon shines.
My face is my own.
My hands are my own.
My mouth is my own
but I am not.
when you leave me alone
all the darkness is
an utter blackness,
a pit of fear,
never to touch.
But I love you.
Do you love me.
What to say
when you see me.
Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Originally this painting was to be my representation of the Red-Light district in Frankfurt, Germany. Although for some odd reason it morphed into a painting of fall, or autumn, with all of the reds, yellows and browns – which I happened to finish on the first day of Spring. Odd..
I’ve had multiple conversations lately both here on One Street Shy and in private about Rainer Maria Rilke, who happens to be one of my favorite authors of all time. Sometimes feelings are lost in translation so I have posted Rilkes thoughts on Autumn in both his mother-tongue and in English. Seems fitting.
“Zu keinem anderen Zeitpunkt (als Herbst) bewegt sich die Erde lassen sich eingeatmet werden in einem Geruch, der Reife Erde; in der Geruch ist in keiner Weise eine Verschlechterung an den Geruch des Meeres, bitter wo grenzt es an Geschmack und vieles mehr süss wie Honig, wo sie das Gefühl haben, dass sie den ersten Tönen. Mit Tiefe in sich, Dunkelheit, etwas von der schweren fast.”
“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
From red to green all the yellow dies away
Paris Vancouver Hyeres Maintenon New York and the Antilles
The window opens like an orange
The beautiful fruit of light
– Guillaume Apollinaire
If little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you
Little by little
If suddenly you forget me
Do not look for me
For I shall already have forgotten you
If you think it long and mad the wind of banners that passes through my life
And you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots
That on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms
And my roots will set off to seek another land”
― Pablo Neruda
“Our sadness won’t be of the searing kind but more like a blend of joy and melancholy: joy at the perfection we see before us, melancholy at an awareness of how seldom we are sufficiently blessed to encounter anything of its kind. The flawless object throws into perspective the mediocrity that surrounds it. We are reminded of the way we would wish things always to be and of how incomplete our lives remain.”
– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
“When you go,
if you go,
And I should want to die,
there’s nothing I’d be saved by
more than the time
you fell asleep in my arms
in a trust so gentle
I let the darkening room
drink up the evening, till
rest, or the new rain
lightly roused you awake.
I asked if you heard the rain in your dream
and half dreaming still you only said, I love you.”
– Edwin Morgan, Selected Poems
“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow’.”
– Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
“I don’t want to stand before you
like a thing, shrewd, secretive.
I want my own will, and I want
simply to be with my will,
as it goes toward action.
And in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times,
when something is coming near,
I want to be with those who know
secret things or else alone.
I want to unfold.
I don’t want to be folded anywhere,
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
“This being human is a guest house,
Every morning a new arrival….
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Rumi – The Guest House
Rumi’s poem, The Guest House, is one of my favorites of his. For many years I would read it to my yoga students while they rested in Sivasana. This morning, after a cold, wet and windy brisk walk I settled inside of my warm studio to paint. Today my studio also became my Guest House. You see, I woke this morning with a lump in my throat; a lump of expression and emotion that as it always is with me, would only be sated by means of writing, painting or drawing. Otherwise that lump only grows until I metaphorically choke on it, unable to breathe.
When I first began painting the piece below I knew it would be a lesson; an experimental work. I’m trying some new techniques with watercolor and synthetic paper and had this idea that I would make a black and white watercolor look almost like one of my charcoals. The piece morphed at least a dozen times and in the end, looked nothing like what I intended it to be. This happens all the time, but today – today my emotions morphed right along with my painting. I had so many guests appear at the door of my mind, so many emotions, that I could scarcely keep up with all of them. I’d stop for a cup of tea or a glass of wine and sit on the stool in front of my easel and stare at her – the painting.
In the end I was grateful for each of my guests as they were able to appear within each stroke and I worked some stored up stress out from my insides. Also with my lump now gone from my throat I can breathe once more and although frustrating, I’ve decided to continue my self-study on watercolor techniques……and emotions.
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
I am an advocate of many things – of the arts, of humans, of trees, of philosophy, of poetry and literature, of interaction, of expression and of love. A man whose words have always touched me deeply were those of the Lebanese-American Kahil Gibran. If I could bring anyone back for an evening of conversation over a meal, it would be him. I’d like that – to sit in an olive grove with Mr. Gibran and just listen…
Olive trees, as you may have read in my past posts, hold an allure for me. I like that their gnarly trunks make this bold statement of, “I am here and have been for many years and will continue to do so,” while their dainty silver-like leaves seem to be fickle in their presence..almost blending in to the sky behind them…
“I have been astonished that men could die martyrs
for their religion–
I have shuddered at it,
I shudder no more.
I could be martyred for my religion.
Love is my religion
and I could die for that.
I could die for you.”
– John Keats
“Was it necessary to tell me that you wanted nothing in the world but me?’
The corners of his mouth drooped peevishly.
‘Oh, my dear, it’s rather hard to take quite literally the things a man says when he’s in love with you.’
‘Didn’t you mean them?’
At the moment.”
-W.Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil
“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.”
― Oscar Wilde
On my last evening in Verona I walked through Piazza Erbe one last time. While resting at a cafe I noticed this young man waiting by a statue holding a red rose and looking nervous. I wasn’t going to shoot him, but then the old man to the left walked by him and noticed him as well. He gave him a look I couldn’t pass photographing – a knowing look. It’s not the best of photo quality…but it says a lot about the two men and their thoughts.
“Perhaps only people who are capable of real togetherness have that look of being alone in the universe. The others have a certain stickiness, they stick to the mass.”
― D.H. Lawrence
Yesterday I spent some time “talking” to Lucia, the owner of the art supply store I frequent on Corso Cavour. I was specifically looking for a large piece of watercolor paper. Although I’ve no idea what I’m going to paint on it, I’m sure whatever or whoever it is will no doubt be unclothed. Not sure of how to ask for watercolor paper, I spent a good twenty minutes beforehand researching the correct way to ask it in Italian as I’ve explained in an earlier post, Lucia doesn’t speak any English. I even wrote down on paper exactly what to say so I could practice on my way to the store – Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Going above and beyond, I then prepared how to ask if the paper I already bought may work for watercolor – Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per acqerello?
Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Ho visogno di carta da aquerello. Ho visogno di ca……..
Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per acquerello? Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare bene per aquerello? Sara questa carta ho goja comprato fare be……
Over and over and over I practiced. I have been working on my language skills for months now and this being my eleventh time to Italy, it’s about time. I was proud of myself. I had it down pat. I’m sure I walked with my head held a little higher than usual. “I can do this” I thought. If there is one gift I have it’s the ability to pick up different accents. Having moved around every few years my entire life, I was able to blend in quickly to wherever I was living because of that gift. I may not really speak the language, but dog-gone-it, my accent sounds good. And if a good accent isn’t “La Bella Figura,” I don’t know what is. Crossing the bridge before coming to her place I didn’t even focus on the sunset – I was hell bent on asking properly for my paper. What I didn’t prepare myself for, however, was her answer – and the conversation that would follow. Walking up to the store I saw Lucia standing outside, enjoying the sunshine and people watching. She smiled when she saw me approaching.
“Ciao, come sta?” I said
“Oh bene, bene. E tu?” she responded smiling and followed me into the store.
Then came my big moment. Although…..I felt on the spot…. and forgot what I was going to say…. so I fished my note from my pocket and re-read it while she stood waiting.
“Ho visogno di carta da aquerello.” I finally blurted out in my best Italian accent. My presentation was perfect.
I wondered if she understood me because she had to think about it for a second. I was sure I had translated it correctly. Then she cocked her head and looked at me and said, “Ah, aquerello?”
“Si!!” I responded, as happy as a clam and smiling big. She had understood me! I pulled it off! I had asked for something besides food items or directions in Italian and had finally been understood! All my dreams were beginning to come true, right there, in that itty bitty art supply store.
Then came Lucia’s response. It sounded something like this to me…”Si, questa…akdjfadsjflhdslkfhjadslkfjhds kfjasdkfjad pui grande skfjds;lkfjdslkfja;d e media slfkjalsk es bello djfdskfhldsakflaksdjf;dslkf j;asdlkfj;sdlkfj;asdlkfj;sdlkfjasdkfjk dsjfkas dljfadskjfkdsfjhdksjfkds fjkasfjksdfjds;fkjd skfd;fj asd;lkjfd;kfj sd;lk f;dlskj l;adskjf l;sdkjf;lkdjf;ladkjfl; kjd;lkjdlkjfdlskfjds;lkfjdlksfjdf f al;fdjdflkjdsflkjdfj dsf fldkfjd;lfkjd;lfkjdf aldkjlkd lakdj oajfdkjfl a a;ldkjfdaj fl; f;adkjf dadfljdflkdjf;lkdjf;ldf;jflsdkfja;kfhladhgfkldafdsk akdflkdjf;asdkjf;dsakjf Capice?”
“Cosa? What?” I said; my brow furrowing. It was then, in that split second, that I realized something very important. Because I had memorized a sentence; a tough one no doubt and had pulled it off brilliantly with my accent, I had given Lucia the impression that I’d actually know how to answer with as much fluidity as I asked with. Apparently, I have much to learn about “La Bella Figura” because I most certainly didn’t pull it off yesterday.
I laughed a little and she smiled and slowed everything down for me and used her hands to show me the words/items. She’d say a word then point or make a gesture. In the end, we actually had a long “conversation” and even finally exchanged names. I learned that she spoke German, but didn’t feel the need to learn English, that she didn’t like her name (but showed me how my name would be written in Italian) and that she likes old paintings. She of course didn’t charge me what was on the shelf and even covered my “carta da aquerello” in a pretty wrapping paper so it wouldn’t get anything on it; a perfect presentation.
I left with my paper and as I walked home I thought of one of my favorite books, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. In the book he moves to France with his partner Hugh and begins to learn the language. He describes it like this, “On my fifth trip to France I limited myself to the words and phrases that people actually use. From the dog owners I learned ‘Lie down,’ ‘Shut up,’ and ‘Who shit on this carpet?’ The couple across the road taught me to ask questions correctly, and the grocer taught me to count. Things began to come together, and I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. ‘Is thems the thoughts of cows?’ I’d ask the butcher, pointing to the calves’ brains displayed in the front window. ‘I want me some lamb chop with handles on ’em.’” ….. I thought it was funny when I read it a few years ago but walking home from the art shop, I clearly understood exactly how ridiculous and frustrating it is – the whole language thing. Although I’ll continue trying, I’m still in the “evil baby” phase of the Italian language – Just ask Lucia.
P.S. While out this evening with my friend Michelle, her husband Eros and a few of their friends I happen to mention my little language fiasco. Michelle teaches English to doctors, lawyers and other professionals and has lived here in Italy for twenty-four years. Needless to say, she knows the language well. Her response to me was, “Well they speak with a different dialect here, so not all Italian words will be the same anyway.” She then gave me the book, La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini as a gift to read so I can “understand Italians.”
Really? I mean really? Now I have to think about dialects?? Ugh?
“I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of all things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction. Neither am I the means to any end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant of their needs. I am not a sacrifice on their alters.”
― Ayn Rand
While taking a break from writing today I sat at a bench and sketched what I saw instead of just snapping a photo… Here is a piece of my sketchbook.
Argentine tango is danced in an embrace that can vary from very open, in which leader and follower connect at arm’s length, to very closed, in which the connection is chest-to-chest, or anywhere in between.
Tango dance is essentially walking with a partner and the music. Dancing appropriately to the emotion and speed of a tango is extremely important to dancing tango. A good dancer is one who transmits a feeling of the music to the partner, leading them effectively throughout the dance. Also, dancers generally keep their feet close to the floor as they walk, the ankles and knees brushing as one leg passes the other.”
“Close your eyes and just feel it – don’t look down.” he said – his chest to my chest, softly holding my right hand in his left hand, while his other hand rested on the middle of my back. He stopped mid dance so I could “collect” my heels and as I did, I felt his chest fill with air as he took a deep breath in. His warm breath then left his mouth and passed quietly by my right ear; comforting me. He was helping me to relax; to let go of all the tension I had let build up on the dance floor as I scrambled to remember each move; what to do next. Moving his chest and body ever so slightly from side to side he repeatedly took my balance from one heel to the other so I could “feel” his next move.
With my eyes closed I let my body relax once again and taking a deep breath in I allowed myself to feel every nuance of his body’s movements just as he had said I would. After our long pause to breath, collect, and feel, his right chest and shoulder subtly pressed into my left. It was my cue to take a step back so as he could step forward towards me. For a few more minutes he led me around the dance floor like some master artist. I felt as though I was a thread in a great tapestry and he was the weaver guiding me through the loom until the song ended.
Forgetting the rules once again I thanked him (I’m polite if nothing else.) He responded with a slight scolding of, “Don’t thank me unless we are done dancing.” I smiled at that and apologized; grateful it was him, who happens to be a good friend of mine (as well as a musician and tango instructor), that reminded me (once again) of dance etiquette. It’s okay to thank a friend by accident, but entirely different when you thank a new partner who then wonders what they may have done wrong that warranted your ending the “dance.” The “rule” or “etiquette” is as follows: Typically a “dance” will include more than one song. Also, when you say thank you to your partner before those songs are done, you are essentially telling them that you no longer want to dance with them. My politeness be damned, I held my tongue when the next song ended and after three songs we finished. I was then free to express my sincere thanks, of which I did.
By the end of the night I had danced with a few partners (all completely different), learned a couple of new techniques and ochoed my way across the wood floor multiple times. More importantly though I felt free, entranced, expressive, womanly, artistic and utterly happy all at once. Dancing has become for me just one more outlet to express myself and like the other forms of art I practice, I’ll not leave it…
Here I’ve decided to share another of my drawings/sketches. Although the figures I draw may or may not be me, they all contain me…
Beauty has a truth all its own.
La bellezza ha una verita tutta sua