Listening - watching
taking a moment
drawing the world
finding the way to connection
again and again.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Dark Sunflowers

At the edge of the cornfield that I pass every day
a long line of sunflowers has been growing all season.

Now they are dried and dark,
their heavy heads bending over.

The stark shapes catch my eye
and I feel that drawing tug for the first time in months.

But I wait. It's cold and windy.
Sitting out in a big field by a noisy road is not that appealing.

Then the weather warms a little and I nudge myself to venture forth -
to face the sunflowers - and the page.

I park the car on the side of the road, sit inside, and draw the whole line first.
Cars whoosh by, rocking me each time with their force.

I get out of the car, cross the road and walk down the line studying the shapes.
The farmer who lives nearby shows up, wondering what I'm doing out there.
We chat about the sunflowers and the weather and he reminds me that hunting season
starts in two days. Probably best not to be sitting out in a field at that point . . .
He leaves and I sit down next to the bending stalks.

I come back the next day for one more visit before the hunters show up.
The wind has died down, the rustling is almost imperceptible now.
The sunflowers are like sentinels with life rushing by unaware.
The leaves tremble slightly, the stalks shift back and forth.
It's lonely - just me and the stark sunflower world.

Back in the studio I paint in the dark tones of stalks and leaves loosely.
My loneliness softens.

Then I begin to trace the sunflower face I had carried back from the field.
Now I am the rushing world, moving too fast to see a sunflower.

I pause, start again. It's impossible to track the intersecting spirals . . .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Guinea Sketchbook / Part Three

Here are the third group of sketchbook images from my trip last February.
(see Part One and Part Two )

First a map of Conakry, the capital of Guinea, where we spent most of our time.
It doesn't show the incredible density of life that fills this narrow peninsula.

You can see that the house we were staying in was RIGHT NEXT to the airport.
The landing of the big Air France plane each afternoon was something you noticed !
And the new house that Pam and Mimo are having built was along the mangrove waters.
We walked over there often to assess the progress.

Some days we drove into the center of the city to shop, visit friends, and change money.
We traveled along the main Autoroute. Life lined this road fully
and surprised me each time with what was encountered . . .
what was offered through the car windows as we passed by . . .
what struck my eye as unique, or odd, or poignant . . .

The pressure to perform well - in dance class - in the sketchbook - is with me.
I carry it inside and suffer with it.
In this slowed down world of low accomplishment and daily circular tasks,
my worries stand out, tied to this effort. Yet I feel myself drifting - all effort futile. . .
Sitting now with the sadness - and toughness - and beauty of this Guinea world.

On the last day I make watercolor cards and write notes in French to the family, friends,
and teachers I have connected with here.

We have one more dance class and it isn't about perfection - just joy and appreciation and love.
I hand out the cards to everyone and we cry and laugh and sit together, looking out.
While everyone rests before lunch I go out back and paint the big palm tree in the yard.
I'm feeling loose and bold and relaxed.

Here it is - the core strong - the fronds dancing - moving - alive.

On the way to the airport we pass small clusters of people - men, women, children -
just sitting together quietly - looking out . . .

And here we are - the Guinea women - all of us !

Mariama            Djeli Kany         me        Mayeni     Mary    Djeli Guinee     Pam        Dorothy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guinea Sketchbook / Part Two

A lot of our time was spent within the compound walls
(see Guinea Sketchbook / Part One ).
Our dance classes happened there, friends came to us,
and political unrest in the city kept us sequestered some days . . .

When we did venture out in the car I carried a small notepad with me
to catch the images passing by as we hurtled along,
searching for moments of interest. . . surprise. . .  beauty . . .

Later I'd redraw the images in my larger sketchbook and add some color.
Although this allowed lots of harvesting "on the fly" I missed the directness
of the sketchbook capture and felt a bit tight and careful in the re-drawing process.

Here are the pages created from our day trip inland to Kindia Falls
with the names of the villages we passed weaving through . . .

After three hours on the road we arrived at the Falls - a cool, fresh and quiet place . . .
I felt rejuvenated by the hugeness of it all - the long cascade of water -
the butterflies flitting around . . .
I sat right down and dove into a large sketchbook double spread .
(click on the image to enlarge)

I picked up a big beautiful leaf as we walked away,
carrying it carefully on my lap in the car all the way back.

We drove to the Palais des Peuples the next morning
and sat for four hours through an endless series of speeches.
It was the Coalition de les Femmes et Filles de Guinee pour
Dialogue et Conciliation de la Paix et Development -
a thousand women gathered to raise their voices in response
to the political deadlock in the country.

It was very warm in the auditorium.

We had come to hear our teacher, Djeli Guinee, sing to the crowd.
Turned out she was last on the program !

I passed the hours collecting the headscarf creations all around me . . .

Feeling both the beauty and the discomfort of this place -
stretching my soul . . .

Part Three of the story coming soon . . .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guinea Sketchbook / Part One

This February I spent three weeks in Guinea, West Africa
dancing, sketching and sweating - it was over 90 degrees every day !

I had traveled to Guinea ten years before in 2003
with my dance teachers Pam and Mimo Camara.
Mimo had been a principal dancer for twenty years with Les Ballets Africains -
the National Dance Ensemble of Guinea - which toured the world.
The teachers we would be studying with now were old friends of Mimo
and longtime dancers with the Ballet.

We stayed in a house on the edge of Conakry, the capital.
It was walled and gated. Because of the intensity of the city,
and the political protests going on intermittently,
we sometimes stayed in the compound all day -
dance teachers and friends coming to us.

So the sketchbook begins with what was close at hand in our enclosed world,
surrounded by the sound of roosters crowing, the call to prayer,
footsteps and soft voices passing by beyond the gate-
here is what I saw within these walls . . .

Here is the constellation of Mimo's family and friends
that I came to know and love -

The dances we were learning were complex,
yet I was energized by them, my body felt light and lithe.
I created a pictographic language to help me remember the steps.
Here is the Harvest Dance done holding the round flat baskets used for cleaning rice.

I mapped which areas of Guinea the dances we were learning came from . . .

And here is a clip of our teachers -
Djeli Kany, Mayeni and Djeli Guinee singing to us . . .

More to come !

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An Afternoon at the Rubin Museum

I wander through an exhibit of exquisitely tiny sculptures -
Casting the Divine : The Nyingjei Lam Collection -
and settle first on a figure from Tibet, 16th century -
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, an early teacher of the Sakya School.
Three inches high . . .

Then turn towards the Enthroned Vajrasattva -
Purifier of Karma, Bringer of Peace - Tibet, 14th century.
Minute and so complex, encircled with creatures -
Garuda lording over the top, beast guardians, snakes
and little humans holding on to the sides . . .

Now I gaze on the two tiny Chitipati figures - Tibet 14th century.
Lords of the charnel ground - grinning and dancing - heads cocked,
holding those skullcups . . .

Ending with Green Tara, 11th century NE India.
The Female Buddha of Enlightend Activity.
I draw slower now, feeling my way into her small and gorgeous shapes,
held in an intimate way . . .