Double Moon

Robert Motherwell, Blue Elegy, 1987, National Gallery of Austrailia

Robert Motherwell, Blue Elegy, 1987, National Gallery of Australia

Blue Moon Friday. That’s right, a second chance this month to see that spacious pearl rise and reflect more glowing light to love by. Due to the calendar we’ve concocted and the actual lunar cycle, we get a bonus full moon today –  happens every 2.7 years. Ok, so that’s mildly interesting. A good time to concoct a love potion perhaps.

This month’s two-moon tango reminds me of Blue Elegy by Robert Motherwell. I did a double take on this one. Only a pair of marks here, not an eye pleasing threesome. It’s repeated but not repetition. Just tandem. Why?

Powerful strokes that were originally the work of chance and subconscious, are now Motherwell’s signature mark. The strong downward stroke with the affixed oval shape (art critics say rectilinear and ovoid, ugh). He did about two hundred paintings in his Elegies series, mainly this same repeating mark in graphic black. A protest against the atrocities of the Spanish Civil war, as Picasso did in Guernica. See one here.

But this Elegy’s in blue. Takes on celestial feel instead of the dark, stagnated fury of the black ones. The stroke now softened by sky blue and gilded by a gold top line. This mark usually told of senseless death and war’s vengeful repeating.  Now, it speaks of something more heavenly and I think more hopeful. The gift of second chance.

You struggle to say something important but you can’t quite get it out. You try again. You do something brilliant and then try it again –  fear of failure be damned. You attempted life, but it didn’t quite work out. You look up to see that second beautiful chance you thought you’d never get.

Blue moon shining.

To Russia with love

Maria Garkavenko, Untitled, 2008, Ten43 Gallery, New York

I spent a summer in Eastern Russia (Siberia that is) in 1991 and maybe that is why I’m so drawn to this painting by Russian artist Maria Garkavenko. I remember the simplicity of the grayish town, living in a small flat on one of the many streets of looming cinder block buildings. Searching the sidewalks for an “ice cream vendor” and the gnawing the brick-hard brown bread. Calculating the price of a chicken with an abacus.

A granite Lenin head (25 ft tall & 42 tons) stared us down in the public square, casting a deep shadow.  Tongue clicking babushka’s wore chunky sweaters and wool knee socks on the trams in the dead heat of summer (they disapproved of my short sleeves). You could taste the harshness of life there, but the open hearts of the friends I made created resonating beauty. Lots of  boisterous singing after supper and a bending over backwards to offer you the best of everything. Even the highly prized “meat jello.” A joyful simplicity in the face of brutal winters and not a shred of democracy to be had. My English students called me “Marilyn” because I reminded them of Marilyn Monroe, so I must always love them for that.

It’s that resonating beauty that speaks to me in this painting of  a man and a women sleeping under a yellow moon. The stark simplicity of their state is arresting. Note the use of primary colors. Initially the figures look similar, yet there are subtle differences like the uplifted woman’s chin and the shorted neck on the blue headed man. Their hair, like feathers, flows off their heads, cascades down, ‘twining  together in a bold hued braid.  At peace.  Maybe male and female aren’t all that different, and that any differences can be knitted together over time into a stronger strand, or at least a more colorful one.

I’m reminded of the two faces of the Roman god Janus – the god of beginnings and transitions. He faces both directions, seeing the future and the past-reigning over time and often associated with sun and moon.  Although in this version, the eyes are closed. The future and possibly the past is unknowable, but togetherness creates a cosmic unity beyond the reach of time.

I really like the prominent braid, a traditional hairstyle for girls in Russia, because the strands look like arms intertwined. The braided hair symbolizes love. And today I think of Russia with love.