Bigger Splash

California Dreamin.’ No people here, though. Only smooth linearity and cool contrasts. If it weren’t for the live-edge, vivid color I’d turn away from these surgical lines. But there’s a mystery here so I’ll bite.

Sink down, down through the linear elements. The flat turquoise sky, faintly lined. The terracotta boxed house. The tan expanse of pool deck. The aquamarine pool. All stack on top of each other, neat blocks with no beginning or end. The right and left sides of the canvas push out infinite edges. Lest all this eternity disturb us, Hockney adds two vertical palms with quirky feathered tops. Rests our eyes. Another bristled stretch of grass to soften the lines. I notice the director’s chair, a silent judge sitting. A clue.

Everything static still. Listen to the heavy heat breathing and the cicadas’ distant chatter.  A yellow diving board slices diagonally through the water and something careens off, diving or cannonballing.  A big, big splash. A very large person or a not-person?

Watch the scale of the splash. It’s quite high, as high as the house or higher even. It appears larger because it’s closer to us and the house smaller because it’s farther away. But Hockney is playing with perspective. He  intentionally flattened it out with the linear elements, but now baits our depth perception with this gigantic splash.

The chair is sooo small, so far away. The splash, tsumnamic in proportion. Is the splash so close to us? Then pool and deck must be very long indeed. Yet they appear too thin in terms of width and we don’t seem close enough to the splash to get soaked. Terrible Hockney to tease us so.

I’m working up a sweat; my toes curl around the pool’s edge.  I’m gonna make a wave myself. Geronimo!

Cloud nine

Jay Gaskill Triple Stacked Mitsubishi 2011

Jay Gaskill, Triple Stacked Mitsubishi, 2011

It’s a Monday morning and I’ve made my list for the week. Every task has its number and the calendars are synced. I’m set for smooth sailing, for a Monday I’m on cloud nine. Lots to do, but manageable for an A+ manager.

Suddenly, I’m quite irritated at the items defying “the List”. Silent, important things.  “You-can’t-check-the-box” things. Be a good parent. Be a decent spouse. Be content. Be Relaxed.

See exhibit A, this painting by Jay Gaskill. Isn’t there supreme order here? I look at the shapes and say, “my they are quite evenly spaced and symmetrical, bravo for imposing some unity and sensibility.”  The colors are a nice mix of both soothing and energetic. A cheery kaleidoscope. Golf clap.

A brain warning light flashes on. Something’s not quite right- can’t seem to put my finger on it. Looking closer now.

Start to study the forms from the white cloud circle pushing outward. Arghh. You realize that this is not a repeating pattern of pleasing colors and shapes like you hoped. Oh no, it’s a carefully constructed chaos. An un-pattern. A deliberation of chaos, disguised as semi-order. Groan.

Grudging, I admit my tidy list is only a paper boat that I hope will float me though this week’s rapids. Maybe tending to the “unlisted” things will keep the unrelenting chaos at bay. Then the bright idea hits me.

“Darling, wouldn’t this pattern make lovely wallpaper for the guest bathroom?”

Hanky panky

Still Life Ingredients 1976 by Patrick Caulfield

Still Life Ingredients 1976 by Patrick Caulfield, Tate Britain, England

Is it true? Sex starts in the kitchen? The men in my family are hardworking at the sink, and “dishwasher” was my partner’s first real job description. Suds and sponge. Then hanky-panky.

Since when has a scallion looked so sexy? How provocative the ladle. The redripe tomatoes in the corner set a beat, ready to groove.  A ravishing coral honeysuckle vase deserves a smooch or two.

Don’t miss the interplay of masculine and feminine here. Heavy black lines, stolid and strong, delineate the forms. Maybe taking themselves a bit too seriously.  Light blue leaves overlace the scene, frilling out the feminine qualities. Playful titillating.

It fact, I don’t think any cooking is happening tonight. Skip the kitchen and head for the bed. Dishes can wait.

An eye for pie

Alan Davie, 'My Heart for A Fruit, opus O.543A', May 1964, oil on board, 122 x 182 cms. From Gimpel Fils.

Alan Davie, 'My Heart for A Fruit, opus O.543A', May 1964, oil on board, From Gimpel Fils.

My heart for a fruit. Well that would have to be a blackberry. I’d give my heart for a pail of those, picked fresh from the piney woods. I know they are seedy and that’s a minus, but as a girl I would scour the brambled floor of the woods for them, eyes squinting though the gloom.

Maybe it’s the delectable joy of discovery, or the private burst of ripeness, intense and purplesweet. Maybe it’s the triumph of plucking the berry from under the prickly nosed thorns,unscathed. Not many would make it back to the kitchen, but those survivors would be plunked into a pie. With a squeeze of lemon juice and a heap of sugar.

I love this kitchen because it’s colorful and messy, improvisational. Because if you are a foodie, your kitchen is rarely clean. A sparkling kitchen both scares me and makes me sigh with joy. Scared, knowing that within a matter of minutes something will be dumped on the counter, thoughtlessly destroying perfection. Joyful, knowing there is a clean slate to tackle the daily cycle of mealtimes that would make even Sisyphus cry.

This still life is a happy chaos. Fresh and immediate.  However, Davie presses each contrasting element into unity using that blissful teal blue background. We could get nervous about that pile of motion on the left side, but the strong circles and curving lines soothe our visual palate.

I see a rolling pin and pie in this painting.  And a curved stick of butter, essential to every pastry (and meal for that matter – thank the French.) Butter and cream. But the nutritionists preach the need to eat colorfully. So why not – isn’t that a red strawberry pie sitting right there on the counter? Grab a fork.

Passed over

Cy Twombly, Fifty Days at Iliam: The Fire that Consumes All before It, 1978   

Cy Twombly, Fifty Days at Iliam: The Fire that Consumes All before It, 1978 Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA.

I’m exploring spiritual paintings and my mind turns to this week’s Passover celebration. But more on that later.

The Tantric painting of last post reminded me of this one by Cy Twombly. Shares many similarities, but oh so different. This canvas is one in a series that recounts the Battle of Troy as told in Homer’s Iliad. Twombly painted ten canvases chronicling the story and this one illustrates the part when the Greeks torch Troy.

I’m amazed at how this work with such great restraint, breathes such utter devastation. At first the beauty of its crimson streak  draws you in and then you read the words and realize with dismay that it’s actually a burning.  A gasping heat.

And blood.  A double entendre of fire and smeared blood. Smeared across and off the canvas, as if there is more to come. And I recall Passover -the night before Moses leads the Jews out of slavery, the culmination of ten ravaging plagues that pried open the Exodus door. To escape the angel of death, a Jewish father slaughtered a perfect lamb and painted its blood on the front door. When the angel passed above the home and saw the sacrifice, the first-born child was spared death. The night Death “passed over.” In this painting I see  mythic devastation, powerfully moving. And I feel the urge to step back and get out of its way.

And I think of what it means to be “passed over.”  As in, I got “passed over” for the job. Or “I’m sorry but we are going to pass on this one.”  The fire of shame that ignites, the bitter-red taste of failure.  Thoughts of a very black nature consume us. The hatred of the gatekeeper; our own incompetence. But being “passed over” could signal a new chance at life, a reconsidering.  Redeploy your resources perhaps, or build a Trojan horse,  or make your escape and Exodus-out to some promised land of your own choosing. To drink. To toast with my faux Jewish mother-in-law, “Le Chaim!”

Knock, knock.

Norman Lewis, La Puerta de Sol, Blanton Museum, Austin, Texas

Norman Lewis, La Puerta de Sol, Blanton Museum, Austin, Texas

Who’s there? A lovely burst of warmth for you today.  The sun has opened her door this morning and offers something bright to cheer you in these wetcold days of winter. Come on in and settle down with this Norman Lewis called La Puerta del Sol.  Sun’s door.

I love the fresh lavender and honey-golden yellow in this canvas.  It’s friendly and inviting.  I see an echo of his native Harlem here in the energy and vibrance of the colors peeking though the shining sunsnow blanket.

My granddad loves to mix honey and butter together and spread it over toast.  I think you could just take your spoon, scoop out a little dollop of this painting and spread it over your toast for a bright sweet-eyed morning treat. Mmmm. . .

Cheer up my friends, spring is just around the corner! Sun’s door is soon flung open.