BallenIsles Art Expo | 2015

After a crazy week with a Twitter threat causing my flight to Florida to be cancelled so that I could be in Boston in time to experience the more than two feet of snow from Juno, I finally got to Palm Beach Gardens for the BallenIsles Art Expo | 2015, which featured paintings, photographs, collages, mixed media, sculpture, needlework, woodwork and even hand-made Christmas ornaments.  Eclectic!

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

My husband is my biggest fan.  He loves most of my paintings, even the ones that don’t include pretty women or body parts, but he doesn’t really like my jellyfish.  It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the skill involved, but the subjects creep him out.  He grew up in Brighton Beach, NY, spent his childhood at the beach and apparently had his fill of slimy, stinging jellyfish.  That doesn’t stop me from painting the more beautiful and interesting of the species, but it doesn’t make him like those paintings much either.  I’ve been fooling around with ways to paint other things that are transparent and in motion, as much to challenge myself as to find something he might enjoy.  I decided to experiment with smoke: blowing out candles, lighting matches, watching smoke streams.

Up in Smoke

Up in Smoke

 

When I’m in Boston, it is my habit to come home from a day of painting at the Acorn Gallery, put my current painting on the easel in my studio (which faces out into my front hall) and look at it.  I stop on my way out of my kitchen and study it; I stop on my way back to the kitchen and stare at it, often having to remind myself that I came down to make dinner or get a drink.  I look at it when I’m bringing the newspaper in, and I see it when I’ve picked up the mail.  But that’s just me being a little obsessive about my work—seeing what needs to be changed, what might be enhanced, what should come next.  I never really expect anyone else to be quite as mesmerized by something I paint as I am.  Until now.  There’s something about staring at that smoke stream in Up in Smoke that keeps you hypnotized.  I don’t know why it does that, but it makes me want to paint more smoke—a series, perhaps, with the smoke on each canvas coming from different sources. Inspiration sometimes floats in on a puff of smoke…

Sentimental Reasons

Madison & 33rd | circa 1952

Madison & 33rd | circa 1952

As a rule, I don’t do architectural paintings.  I painted “Madison & 33rd | circa 1952” as a birthday gift for my sister.  She’s eight years older than I am, and each of us has described ourselves growing up as Mollie and Harry’s two only children.  She was married by the time I was twelve, so I painted Lomar, our family’s restaurant, to celebrate that brief period of family history that we had shared, after I could hold up my end of a conversation and before she was married.  I flew down to Virginia to give it to her, and we had a good cry for times gone by and parents missed.  When I was painting Lomar for the second time (30” X 40” instead of 16” X 20”) at the insistence of my daughter, planning to hang it in my dining room in Florida, my painting teacher had me study the photorealistic paintings of Richard Estes to see how a master paints reflections in windows.  It was helpful for that painting, but I had no interest in trying to become the next Richard Estes.

I exhibited the larger “Madison & 33rd | circa 1952” in the BallenIsles Art Expo in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, several years ago and came home from dinner one night soon after to a message on my answering machine from a neighbor in my community who had seen the painting.  He wanted to know how I had come to paint it, because the owner of that restaurant had been his father’s best friend.  Imagine his surprise to learn that I was that owner’s daughter!  I hadn’t seen him for well over forty years, and he didn’t really remember me at all, a little girl twelve years younger than he, but I certainly remembered him, his brother and his parents, whom I had called Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe.

So I haven’t painted anything architectural since.  Until now.  My daughter-in-law came to me last spring with a photograph of RumBa, the bar in Boston where she met my son, and asked me to paint it for them.  They happened to be sitting on those two stools, right next to each other, on December 31, 2007, each with their own friends.  She asked him to take a picture for her, and now they’ve been married for two years, we have a bull mastiff grandpuppy, and a baby is on the way!  As always for me, I saw the painting that I came to call “Kismet” as a portrait of those two stools.  It took me six months to paint–now I could use a drink!

Kismet

Kismet

Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, et al

BFF'S

BFF’S

Birds on a Wire

Birds on a Wire

 

 

There’s something about pears for me…the shapes, the contours, the colors. Though I’d never turn down the chance to eat a sweet, juicy pear, I’m much more interested in them as subjects for still lifes.  And they’ve got that anthropomorphic thing going for me: I certainly see them as female–all those lovely torsos.  I painted BFF’s to celebrate the friendship between two women (I’m the taller one) and the Birds on a Wire are having a gossipy chat.

When I came across a poem about pears online, it inspired me to paint the pears that hang in my kitchen in Florida, so I  painted the first two lines of the poem in DaVinci script, directly on the painting:
Some say
it was a pear
Eve ate.
Why else the shape
of the womb,
or of the cello?
Some say it was a pear Eve ate...

Some say it was a pear Eve ate…

When I painted The Bartletts, a triptych of eight pears, I used pears I had spent some time selecting at our local fruit store as my models.  I very carefully wrapped them up and kept them at the back of my fruit drawer between painting classes, hoping to keep them from getting too ripe.  I was about half done with the painting when we went away away for the weekend, and as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I knew that our son had been at the house while we were away.  (He just left a light on in the den.)  I had no problem with that until I saw the note he left on the kitchen counter: “Mom, where did you get those pears?  They were awesome!”  He had eaten three of my models!  Don’t think it was so easy to replace them, either.  Who knew that no two pears are alike?

The Bartletts

The Bartletts

About Girlfriends and Birthdays

I have a bff who was approaching a “big birthday” about five years ago.  Her husband was throwing a surprise party for her, and I was thinking about what gift I could give to a woman who really does have everything.  Of course, I would paint something for her, but what?  After awhile, it came to me…

Since my girlfriend and her telephone are never very far apart, I decided to paint a telephone keypad for her, with every number and symbol representing something personal about her.  To make it physically look like a keypad, I painted twelve 8” X 8” canvasses, each an inch and a half deep, to look like buttons.  The result, in its own way, is a portrait of her (I told you I think of all my paintings as portraits).  I’ll explain:

Number 1 is painted on a house.  She’s a very successful realtor and has been the number 1 producer in her agency for most of her career.

Number 2 is a conversation bubble.  She’s a talker.

Number 3 is a nod to our girl golf trips to Aruba and her enjoyment of the craps table.

Number 4 celebrates the game we love to play together.

Number 5 is all about makeup.  Did I say she’s a looker?

Number 6 is a conversation hearts candy.  See number 2.  Her favorite food is candy.

Number 7 is a ticket stub.  She loves plays, musicals, and concerts and is the social director for a group of friends who rely on her to get them tickets too.

Number 8 is a triangle.  Remember the ones you got to play in kindergarten?  She has one.  It makes her happy to play it sometimes.

Number 9 is a mah jongg tile: 9 dot.  Girlfriends like to play games.  See number 3 and 4.

The * key is a magic wand.  She has one and uses it when she thinks she needs it.  See number 8.

The # key is a scale (get it?).  She organized a group that worked with a nutritionist to lose weight and eat healthier.  See number 6.

Operator is a CD.  She’s a big fan of music (see number 7 and 8) and often gifts friends with CD’s she’s burned of her favorite singers.  If you play the notes on the music staff below the CD, you will hear Op-er-a-tor (Jim Croce).

Telephone Keypad

Telephone Keypad

Of Parrots and Palm Trees

I have a wall in my condo in Florida that was perfectly suited for a mural.  Now, I’m not really a fan of murals—I’ve never seen any that I could imagine on my own walls—so I started thinking about what I might paint myself.  The rug in that room is a needlepoint of parrots and palm trees, so I had to come up with something that wouldn’t conflict with it.

I was sitting on my patio, late one afternoon a year ago last May, just relaxing, playing word games on my iPad and listening to music, when I noticed the shadows of the palm trees in the yard on the building next to mine.  The fronds were moving in the breeze, and it was somewhat soothing to watch the motion on the wall in front of me, a little hypnotic.  I thought how cool it would be to have a palm tree inside, on my wall.  The dimensions of the wall (9.5’ X 12.5’, then an arch over the bedroom doorway and another 9.5′ X 3′) wouldn’t allow for a painting of those palms that had inspired me, so I decided on a Bismarck palm, a variety of the fan palm with a short trunk and sage green fronds.  I photographed one at my friend Judith’s house, because it was the perfect shape for my wall, then painted it last summer on a proportionately smaller canvas, as a sketch for my mural.

Last November, back in Florida, I was lucky enough to have one of my painting teachers, Alexis Baliotis, a young and very talented artist, come to stay with me for a week to help me paint my Bismarck palm on my wall.  A few weeks after, I  painted inside the arch of the doorway, then fiddled around with the background for some time, until I could call it done.  It makes me smile every time I walk into my home, but it will be the only one of its kind, since I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever…paint another.

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Bismarck Palm

Bismarck Palm

Dance Lessons

I’ve been dancing all my life.  When I was almost five, my mom enrolled me in my first ballet class, and for years after I took ballet, tap and even Spanish dancing, then jazz classes as an adult.  My husband and I took ballroom and disco lessons in the 70’s and early 80’s and were regulars at the Fan Club in Boston.  We still dance whenever possible, so perhaps that explains why I would want to paint dancers.

I like to fill the frame in my paintings and often crop my images to do so, thinking that a partial image can sometimes tell the whole story.  I also like to use multiple canvases, so my first tango painting became a happy accident.  I sketched an image of tango dancers on two canvases, thinking I’d make it a diptych, perhaps even non-linear.  Instead, as I kept looking at the sketch, I realized that the legs alone—entwined, flicking, dragging, kicking—were all I needed to express the emotions of the dance.  The tango is, after all, a sexy dance, a dance of love, incorporating sensuality, aggression, and surrender in every routine.  Since my first tango series, I have painted many individual poses, expanding my views to include torsos on larger canvasses.  Perhaps my next tango painting will  go even further…

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