Hi. I'm a painter, a writer and a mother of three teenage sons, one with a severe disability. This is a journal: riotously disorganized, full of art, food, children and everyday domestic events. Unless you are a friend or family member you may not be interested, but you are welcome to look. Artists who are parents may find some common ground here, as well as parents of children with special needs. For art only, see my site: nancybeamiller.blogspot.com
Wednesday, May 31
set of twins in our family. My cousin Dorothy's delightful eight year old girls, E and C. Unlike my twins, these two seem to be pretty identical. However, nobody knows for sure, and so this is a fun topic of debate at family gatherings. The girls seem to enjoy their twininess, but got different haircuts to help people differentiate them (thank goodness!)
Saturday, May 27
FRUIT BASKET REDUX
Usually kept brimming with fruit, the family fruit basket's contents declined to an alarming degree recently. But it presented a lovely, natural still-life that I could not resist photographing. I didn't have time to paint it, as one of the boys was standing behind me waiting to grab a piece when I was finished shooting.
Friday, May 26
Kind of nice to have a sign proclaiming peace over your front door. Maybe there's another sign in the front hall saying "Abandon ire all ye who enter here." I was downtown, just hurrying by on my way to an art opening. I did not actually enter the Peace House except in my mind!
Thursday, May 25
reigns on top of H's dresser. Like many young children he adores tiny objects. The problem is, how do you keep up with them all? I remember my father created a little chest of drawers for us kids when we were young. It was called the "jinky-junky drawers", and was where all small, miscellaneous toys went to live. And what fun it was to play with the fascinating and diverse collections! Plastic dutch dolls nestling against wooden tops jostling an old Sucrets tin filled with flattened bottle caps: well, you get the picture. Treasures within treasures. Things only a child would value. But my parents still have the jinky-junky drawers and on my occasional visits home I still enjoy sifting through the objects within. Like Proust's madeleines, but tactile and visual instead of olfactory, they are a powerful aide memoir. I need to make a set of "jinky -junky drawers" for my own children.
The lady who lived in this house before us must have had a penchant for magenta and purple flowers. Mostly the yard is planted with trees and leafy shrubs, but the few flowering plants she left sport either purple or magenta blossoms. I wonder if it was a real aesthetic choice, or if purple blossoming plants are hardier in some (genetic) way, and so these are the ones which have survived over time?
Certainly, many of the serious gardeners I know look down upon this intense magenta coloring, preferring subtler shades of peach and cream (I am partial to a nice salmon-color, myself.) And of course, the Vita Sackville-West influenced pinnacle of good taste: the pure white blossom. I can't help but wonder if the disfavor for the hardy, magenta-blooming plants stems mainly from the human desire for interfering with nature. Which color, for instance, is more attractive to a bee?
Monday, May 22
FOREIGN YET NEARBY
This is another of the murals we saw on the Philadelphia Mural Arts Project bus tour (see last post.) Painted in a part of the city with a large Puerto Rican population, it is a scene of wild Peurto Rican beauty. Our tour guide told us that this artist is much admired in the community, and that she has more calls to do murals of Peurto Rico than she has time to do them all!
This is for the Moody Monday challenge today of "Foreign" and I hope it isn't too much of a stretch. I was honored to be asked to be last week's "Moody Monday Favorites" judge (to be honest, I think they were desperate for new blood). You can check out my picks here. If you have never worked as a judge you should try it. It gives you a whole different (and valuable) perspective on the competition process. There were dozens of excellent entries: it was a challenge to whittle my list down to just five!
Friday, May 19
Well, really this was an elementary school field trip I went on last week, a Philadelphia Murals bus tour. You can bet that I begged to be a chaperone for this! Despite overcast skies and smeary schoolbus windows it was terrific. Under two hours long, and aimed at 8 to 9 year olds, I don't think we got anywhere near the complete tour, but it was incredibly rich and diverse all the same. What was interesting too, was that we passed many "rogue murals", unsponsored and undocumented by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program: just a spontaneous, private outpouring. And also "tag walls", where young graffiti artists are actually allowed to do their stuff: ever-changing and quite remarkable. The murals of Philadelphia are one of the most amazing things about this city.
Jouncing around Philly with a bus load of excited third graders may not be the most luxurious way to view the murals but it had a certain piquancy all its own. The kid's comments were often very entertaining, as was the way our (excellent) tour guide soft-pedaled certain aspects of some murals. When we (quickly) passed one about drug and alcohol abuse and someone asked "What's that?" she glibly explained it being in honor of good medical care, and being sure to take your medicine just the way the doctor prescribed it!
This mural in the photo is in honor of the Nursing profession. It is really quite impressive. I thought I'd post it in honor of my mother and aunt who are retired nurses, and also my cousin Keith, a hard-working nurse in an poor urban community.
We went to Chanticleer Garden on Mother's Day, a place of incredible, quirky beauty. It feels like a series of garden "rooms" and each one you enter is even more astonishing than the last. Or at least, each astonishes and delights you in a different way. It is not just the rare horticultural specimens, like this green dogwood, but the artistry and subtle humor with which the gardens are designed. Absolutely my cup of tea, garden-wise.
For some reason, we had never gone there at precisely this time of year. So the whole experience was even more astonishing than ever. It seemed almost like an entirely different place.
Tuesday, May 16
DOLCE FAR NIENTE
How sweet it is, sometimes, to do nothing.
Sunday, May 14
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!
We were all somebody's mother in a past life, according to some eastern philosophies, even you readers of the male persuasion.
Mother's Day Proclamation
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
Julia Ward Howe 1870
Saturday, May 13
Ate too much. All I really wanted was that salty "hit". Maybe I need my own personal salt-lick? A lot less calories.
Friday, May 12
When you have scads of excellent pieces, how do you choose? I visited my friend Meri Adelman today and she showed me some of her latest ink drawings. She has to sort through the piles and pick out a bunch to take with her on an upcoming visit to Poland, where she will be having an exhibition. But there were so many good ones! A dilemma indeed.
A FAVORITE MASTERPIECE
from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Moses and the Burning Bush, with Moses Removing His Shoes
Attributed to Dierick Bouts
Took this shot with my little Canon which I keep secreted in my shoulderbag. You can see that my hand was shaking slightly, from guilt? Even though photography is allowed in most of the galleries, I am always unsure. I go ahead and shoot anyway (no flash), but I'm just waiting for the heavy hand of the law to clap down on my shoulder. So ridiculous!
Anyway, I love how this painting, and most work I have seen by Bouts, is both real and surreal at the very same time. You swing back and forth between suspension of disbelief and absolute conviction of reality. And I love the comical feature of Moses sitting down and matter-of-factly removing his shoes because he is on Holy Ground. I wish could get my three boys to do likewise when they enter the house, caked in mud. Unfortunately, they are on to me: I am no Holy Oracle.
Thursday, May 11
Here you see my mother giving my nephew G his first taste of coffee. Even unsweetened, he liked it. Notice his little hand reaching up for more. My boys like it too. You'd think we were all Swedish or something!
Tuesday, May 9
Today is my birthday, and my darling next-door neighbor K got wind of that somehow and came by with this present for me: candy sushi! She was so adorably excited to be giving me this gift, which of course made it even more special. I had to run in and get my camera.
Monday, May 8
From in front of the local public library. Some dedicated library-gardener makes the place beautiful in every season.
Sunday, May 7
A Sunday runner takes a break under one of the many beautiful bridges on the Schuylkill River. We often take a family bike ride around the river drives. I am the slowest member of the group, always bringing up the rear. Mostly because I can't help leaping off my bike every few miles to take pictures. These are known as "Mom's little pit stops." and everyone is very accustomed to the drill.
Of course, what I REALLY wish is that I could paint here at the river. But there are so many people, a constant stream in every direction. I did try it once, but there were way too many people coming up to chat and telling me all about their great-uncles who paint, their sister who paints, their best friend from high school who paints etc etc. Although I know people mean it only as a friendly bridge to conversation, from the perspective of the captive audience (the painter), the dozens of such tales of talented relatives can become a little discouraging over the course of a two hour painting session. As well as just being distracting. My favorite type of spectator is one who pauses quietly behind me at a little distance, then moves off murmuring "Lovely!" or some such kind comment with no expectation of engaging in conversation.
However, if you avoid a crowded scene and try to paint in a secluded spot there are safety issues to consider. You are pretty vulnerable really, standing there alone, concentrating on something in the distace. A friend of mine was out painting in a fairly deserted area when a group of teenage boys with pit bulls stopped by and shook her down for money. She only had a dollar or two so there was a lot of threatening and macho posturing before they moved off to another victim. Scary. I was also out painting that day, but had chosen a spot closer to a more public area. I had seen the gang of boys and dogs in the distance. So you kind of have to choose, safety or interruptions?
Once when I was painting at Olana I had the very best kind of spectator. Someone kept coming back quietly to watch me paint several quick views of the river. Then when it became apparent that I was starting to clean up my gear they stepped forward and asked to buy one of the paintings. Now THAT was a real compliment.
Friday, May 5
shy white heron
watches the fireworks
poised to fly
Thursday, May 4
Recently I have started getting the occasional letter from art school and college students asking questions about my work. This is very, very flattering, but also humbling. I can't help but think, "If only they knew how little I actually know!" and, "If they could just see my studio, they'd run a mile!"
So, in the interests of full-disclosure, here is a partial shot of my palatial studio: it is about 12 feet by 16 feet. Notice my state-of-the-art palette stand: an old creaky sculpture plinth picked up at a yard sale. Note the fancy palette: a pad of disposables, and my elegant turps cup: an old Herb-Ox boullion cube container. Observe the cleverly engineered storage system: paintings piled 6 deep along the walls. Not shown, my indispensible studio assistant: the family cat.
But it works! It is that all-important asset, a room of my own, in which I can do my work. That is the main thing.
Wednesday, May 3
I guess there is ancient precedent for this half-clad mourning figure. H has gotten very interested in Ancient Eygypt and so we've gotten a lot of books on the subject. In one, we were reading about their troops of professional mourners: women who you could hire to add class to your relative's funerals. They'd rend their garments exposing their chests (symbolic of emotional dissarray), sprinkle ashes over their heads and caterwaul for hours on end. I'm sure it was highly entertaining. This lissome young lady seems very proper and sedate by comparison!
Tuesday, May 2
SMALL PAINTINGS SHOW
Last week I went to the opening reception of the Philadelphia Sketch Club's small oil paintings exhibit. I got two paintings juried into it, and I think it is kind of cool to be in a show that has happened annually for 143 years! Makes you reflect upon the long line of painters that have come and gone before you, and the others who will continue to come and go long after you paint your last.
I was trying to get a shot that included my two pieces when this Duane Hansen-ish couple seated themselves pretty much right in front of my viewfinder. They were most likely tired (it was a very crowded and hot opening) and I certainly did not begrudge them the seat. Plus, it made for an interesting, if unplanned, photograph! You can see my painting "The Knish" above and to the left of the woman, but "Chinese Export Cup with Mints" is almost completely obscured by the man's sports jacket.
Incidentally, I was very taken with the painting of the pumpkin hanging inbetween the couple. It is by an artist I don't know named Tim Conte. And I was thrilled when several different people at the reception assumed it was by me! I wish. I had a brief fling of painting pumpkins a few years back, and I kind of got them out of my system. But seeing this one brings back some of that old desire.
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