Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, Wherever You Are

Pipe Dreams





When I thought about doing another smoke painting, I decided to use a pipe as my source for some voluminous smoke and couldn’t help but choose what I and probably everyone thinks of as the pipe Sherlock Holmes smoked for my subject, if only because I love the look of it. It wasn’t until just now, trying to come up with something to post about my painting, Pipe Dreams, that I googled “Sherlock Holmes pipe” and found out that the one I painted is called a calabash and was first used by an actor playing Holmes on the stage. As soon as I saw “calabash,” I could only think of Jimmy Durante (google him, if you’re too young to have heard of him), who said goodnight to Mrs. Calabash after every performance. As mysterious as smoke… 


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…