Thursday, March 31, 2022

Curse of the Southerner

I need to purge. I have too much stuff. As I have said before, my stuff has stuff. As a southerner I am cursed with the idea we are the keepers of our past, as in the "past" 3 generations. Sure I can do without the extra phone cords stuffed in many drawers and boxes around my place. After all, all but 2 no longer fit my phone or any device I currently own. 

My past favorite shoes that are worn - so much so I no longer wear them public, can probably go. But can I really throw out these shoes? In reality yes, I'll no longer wear them and they went out of style several years ago. Those 2 purses that have broken straps. Come to think about it, I bought them on clearance and never cared for them anyway.

All those items I can justify. They were purchased in the past 10 years or so. The problem starts with my Grandmother's wash stand. If I remember correctly, it was passed down to her from her grandmother. I don't care for it, don't have room for it, and my children have made it clear they have no desire to be saddled with it. Sure, I can sell it. But, can I? Aren't I the generation tasked as the care taker?

There are the 3 coffee tables. One I bought at Good Will made of solid wood that I have in the corner of my den, another stored in a closet, and an old worn one I currently use that it the right size and design for me. The fact the finish is worn and scratched and the leather top is coming up in several places doesn't make it the most attractive piece. But it was such a good deal. 

Then there are the 2 matching Empire sofas my Mama had just covered in matching green damask shortly  before her death. How many people have matching Empire style sofas? Confidentially, I admit I am not a fan of the Empire style. What makes me hesitate parting with them? Personally I'm not sure which I fear more - the wrath of Mama's ghost or the guilt of letting it go.

More examples include the 4 large red wine glasses I found at a yard sale - the ones I have never used in the 2 years I have had them. The collection of colored glass I have displayed on shelves, none of which I paid more than a few dollars for, that I hate to dust. My collection of coffee table books? Whoa, they are not going anywhere. I don't care if I do not have room for them - I will some day. The large wing chair, the extra set of dishes I never use? The 3 lamps I have no place for? The 3 sets of shams that came with the last 3 comforters I bought? (I never use shams and 2 of those comforters I am proud to say have been thrown out.)

Let's face it, I am cursed. I am a weighed down with the "wealth" of unused, many useless, things I have strewn about my small abode. Each family piece comes with the ghost of some relative past. Seriously? I do not believe in ghosts. Maybe spirits of longed pass family members. Come to think of it, perhaps what I need is a Ouija Board to reach out and beg for permission and forgiveness to part with things I do not need, cannot use, and should not keep.

I am haunted by ghosts of the past - the burden to keep the "heirlooms" and pass them on, ghosts of the present - the lack of space or practical use, and the ghosts of the future - regret years from now that I parted with such valuable family history. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Resurrection of a Disappointment

 For something that is supposed be enjoyable and a stress reliever, art can be a pain in the ass. In my mind I envision a painting - the colors, the size, the design. At my table I assemble  the appropriate colors, prepare the canvas, and then I start putting color to canvas.

As the design starts to appear - albeit slowly- I am enthused. I think to myself - 'This may be my greatest piece yet'. Then the main subject is too big. The colors are not as vibrant as I imagined. The placement on the canvas is crowded. I begin to see that the streak of (supposedly dried) black paint in the background has leaked  turning the bright green color into shades of muddled gray. While trying to fix this the image gets  distorted. After a while I throw in the brush. At this point I ask - why I put myself through this? 

Sitting back and looking at the canvas I do not recognize the original design I had in mind. It now looks like a piece of art a 5 year old child would create with their hand paints, only not as good. Now what?

Given the muddle of gray and dull brown paint over the bright white, I doubt this is salvageable. Who wants a painting of a mud, in various shades of brown, gray, and olive? So I do what any inspiring artist (I use that term loosely) would do. Taking the spatula, I normally use to even paint on the canvas, I scrape all the paint off.

Now there is a blank canvas and a pool of paint. To my surprise, unlike the muddle mess that was on the canvas, the pool has striations of the bright green, red, and turquoise orginally in the painting. In a move of total frustration and curiosity, I spoon the discarded paint onto a smaller clean canvas. This creates a painting that resembles a work by Sydney Pollack that has melted and spread across the canvas. 

Comments from my posting of this work, that I call  "Resurrection of a Disappointment", are very positive. In fact they are more numerous and positive than other paintings I have shared. This begs to ask: Does my talent lie more with random remnants of a failed painting "spooned" onto a new canvas, rather than the original design I thought was a great idea? Does this mean my "talent" is in starting a painting, failing, then randomly reclaiming the discarded paint onto another canvas?

Perhaps I should take up stamp collecting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Am I Blue??

Yes, I am blue.  Well, it's more like I am blue about one of my blues.

As children we all learned ROYGBIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet). And if one is sticking to the Original Crayola box of 8 (which is more like more like ROYGBBBV) you can add Black and Brown and skip Indigo. But, I digress.

In my palette of paints, I have 6 "Blues". There is Baby Blue, True Blue, Cobalt Blue, Turquoise, Phthalo Blue, and Deep Blue. I use a lot of blue in my paintings. And, I was happy with the Blues until this morning.

A little background here, it takes anywhere from 10 to 20 days for an acrylic painting to completely dry. The time depends on how thick the applied paint is.  So when I finish a painting, I put it on a table upstairs until it dries. When it is completely dry, I apply a polycrylic coating to seal the canvas. This takes 3 to 4 coats, then another 72 hours (at least) for that to dry.

This morning, I went to get a painting I knew should be dry to start the polycrylic process. I was dumbfounded to see that the "Blue" had bled over part of the painting. Turning the canvas over I could see where the blue had spread. The painting was all but ruined. Reviewing several other pieces with blues in them, I found 2 that also had "Blue" issues, but others with blues in them seemed fine. The question was: which "Blue" had bled. I needed to identify it so I would not use it again.  

I easily eliminated "Baby Blue" and "Phthalo Blue". That still left 4. I pulled out a blank small white canvas. Taking the 4 suspect blues, I squirted a circle of each on the canvas. To make sure there was no confusion, I placed each bottle next to its sample. It didn't take but an hour or so to find the guilty color. "True" Blue was the culprit. The sample of that one color at leaked through the canvas.

Lesson learned - The dependable blues are not true!

Friday, March 18, 2022

Pink Carpet, Bad Genes, and a Resurrection

 Do you ever see "that" someone coming toward you that makes you want to don your invisible cloak? Well, in this case, I saw her walking toward me, decked out in her white leather like jacket, matching peach blouse, peach mask, and peach colored head band. But not having a place to hide or Harry Potter's magic cloak, I knew I was dead in the water. Panic almost ensued when I realized that we were in the check out line together. I was doomed to be a captive audience. 

The lady I am speaking of shops in the same grocery store I do. Now, why I am so lucky to be blessed to run into her - often, Lord only knows? Perhaps this is comeuppance by the gods for that night in 1976 when we stole Miss Ella's garden gnome. But I digress. (How did we know it was the last gift from her dear late Herman?)

I knew before she approached there would be details about her death (and resurrection), she would explain in adnauseam  how she was doomed by bad genes. There would be the recounting of how she gave all her things to Goodwill, thinking she was moving to Florida, only to learn the following week that was not the case. (I dared not ask why.) Speaking of Florida, there would be a monologue about the pretty pink carpet she had in the bedroom in her Florida house (40 years ago). And, how the aqua and pink custom drapes matched the carpet and made the room "perfect". 

She approached and her eyes lit up. "Well, hello. I think I saw you here a week or so ago."

Before I could comment, she started, "You know they have wonderful fresh vegetables here. And since I had my heart attack, I try to eat healthy foods". She rattled on, "You know I was doomed by genes. My sister died 6 months before I did."  

She smiled, "You know I died - twice." I nodded (carefully, not wanting to encourage anything.) She continued, "The doctors said it was a miracle I came through it."

She picked up a cloth napkin she had found on the 'aisle of random stuff' in the store and showed it to me. The pink and aqua Lily Pulitzer pattern gave me a foreboding of what was to come. I was not to be disappointed.

"You know, when I lived in Florida I had the most elegant bedroom with pink carpet and these pink and aqua drapes . . ." This is where the confliction of my southern upbringing came in. I smiled just enough to let her know I was listening but not enough to encourage anything. There is the southern guilt that I should be politely paying more attention to her. After all she had been through, her death (and resurrection), and given her age, my Aunt Kat would remind me to respect my elders.

However, on my other shoulder was my dark psyche asking me why the Hell I didn't run fast and far away when I saw her. 

Just as I thought my ordeal was over, she turned back to me. "I just cannot find that same perfect pink colored carpet. You know since I gave all my belongings to Good Will. I planned to move to Florida, but that didn't work out." 

I was saved by the cashier asking, "Mam, are you paying with card or cash?"

Then the cashier made the fatal mistake of commenting about the napkin, "What a lovely pattern. I just love pink and aqua."

With this I looked at my phone to check my email. Perhaps, if I looked busy, and fate was on my side, this nightmare would pass and I could safely resume my life. Mentally, I could picture the pink carpet and the aqua and pink drapes. I wondered what happened with the aborted move to Florida? But, not enough to ask.

And, Now I Am God?

 I don't think so. However, there is a lady in Indiana who must be under that illusion.

As many of you know, I have an Etsy shop that started as a store front for my photography. These days it has morphed into a showcase for my art. But, I digress.

This Hoosier purchased a needle point pattern of a picture of a "Sharry Baby Orchid". As soon as the purchase went through I sent her a digital file (via the email listed on her invoice). This file included the pattern of the image, the image itself, and a list of color threads that would be needed. I did not hear from her for over a week. And, I didn't think anything of it.

Well, that was until I received an email from her today. "Hi Ann, I bought it wrong. Can I return it?" I replied asking what the issue was. Did she intend to buy a copy of the photograph? Did she want a painting of the photograph? Did she select the wrong image?

Imagine my surprise when she replied: "[When I] Search for the name of the plant and think it shows that it is a living plant."

I went back to reread the listing to make sure there was no confusion in the description. There is no reference to a live plant. There is nothing that would lead someone to infer that I was selling a plant. On the list of "Item Overview", the first line reads "Handmade Item". It continues to list it as a painting, a photograph, an original piece of art work, a needle work pattern. I was confused.

When I replied to the customer that the description was very clear and no where in it was a reference to a living plant, etc. the customer sent an email back stating, "I didn't pay attention to shopping on this website for the first time."

It went back and forth, with each message from the customer asking for a refund. Finally I granted the refund, stating that I did not think I was required to do so, since the description was clear and the customer plainly stated that she didn't pay attention, but I would do so anyway.

As I read through the thread of emails, I came to the conclusion that since the customer commented that the listing appeared to be a living orchid plant and it is clear in the item overview that it is a "Handmade Item", I must be God, the creator of heaven and Earth. Well, at least on the third day when God created the dry land, seas, plants, and trees. 

However, since I am a mere mortal, unable to create any carbon based item, the world must settle for my art. The world goes on and the customer received her full refund, which was much a do over $8.95. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Infamous Green Party

 Do you remember where you were on this day in 1978? I certainly do. 

On this morning, 44 years ago, I was arriving at South West Louisiana State University in Lafayette, Louisiana. Some friends and I had driven through the night from Charleston to attend a fraternity party. (Why else would one get in a car and travel that far? - 873 miles and 13 and a half hours?)

My freshman year in college I became great friends with a group of fraternity guys on campus. I wasn't dating any of them, we were just good pals, always game for anything. One of these guys stopped me on my way to class one morning asking if I was up for a road trip. Needless to say I was all ears.

Seems the chapter of their fraternity at SWLSU sponsored an event, the Green Party, every St Patrick's Day at their campus for all their fraternity brothers nationwide. It was legendary. Two and a half days of jambalaya, crawfish, zydeco music, and a tremendous amount of beer. Now who could turn that down.

By the time of the trip there were 15 of us going - 3 girls and 12 guys. I soon learned that everyone was not going together. There would be 3 groups. The first was going to leave early and spend a night on the road, the second was taking the I-20 route through Atlanta, and the third heading dead west on I-10. I was in the third group - me and 7 guys in 2 cars. 

Traveling across the bowels of the south through the night is interesting enough, but going with 7 guys was truly a trip. Even though I was up for anything, they were all very protective of me. There were several places we stopped where they would not let me out of the car. Or if they did there was one or two by my side at all times. They knew my Daddy and knew it was their responsibility to get me there and back safely. 

Thinking back on it, I'm not sure that one place we stopped in Mississippi around 4 am wasn't a brothel. Two of the guys ran in, got drinks for all of us, and we were off again. There were several other shady spots where we stopped but it was all part of the fun.

We arrived in Lafayette around 10 the following morning. My first hint that this was going to be a wild time was the sofa on top of the fraternity house with 2 guys and a keg of beer welcoming everyone. When we finally met up with the rest of our group, we learned that one car had taken the scenic route and stopped for lunch and the sights in New Orleans. The other car had missed several turns and arrived late. (This seemed an odd story when their route was a straight shot on I-20.) Given our experience, their stories sounded lame.

Needless to say, a large time was had by all. We ate and drank and danced. By the time the big party itself started, we found ourselves celebrities having driven further than anyone else.  Our group was especially popular when the guys started telling stories about going through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi in the dead of night. There was some embellishment, although the truth was interesting enough. 

That summer when the movie Animal House was released, we all found the "Road Trip" scene humorous, but we knew our experience had been more fun. The Delta Tau Chi house in the movie closely resembled what we found when we arrived in Lafayette earlier that year. No doubt Pinto and Flounder were among the brothers we met. If not, there were characters there just as outrageous.

Throughout your life there are always "bonding" experiences. And this was one for me. These 7 guys have been life long friends. They were all fun, loyal, and extremely smart. Of the group, 3 would become doctors, 1 a pharmacist, 2 attorneys, and 1 a diplomat. 5 of the 7 were at my wedding years later. Since that time 2 have passed on.

Every year on March 17th I always think of that trip and remember what it felt to be young and free. Carefree enough to get in a car and drive 13 hours to a place you have never been, to see people you have never met, simply because you got an invitation that was too good to turn down. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

My One and Only

 Not that I ever even dare to think I am remotely close to one of the Masters, I often wonder if all painters face similar challenges. Did Da Vinci attempt to paint a "Geovanna" or a "Bella" but found himself frustrated. Seems, he never could reproduce the mysterious smile or beauty that he captured in his "Mona Lisa". 

Did Van Gogh ever find himself at his kitchen table trying to remember how he painted "Sunflowers". After many attempts, his "Daisies" and "Marigolds" never seemed to have the same strength and color of his earlier masterpiece.

Last week I produced a painting that was probably the best I have ever done, and it may very well be the only such one I ever create. When I finished the piece and sat back, I was astounded by the beauty. (And I am extremely hard on myself.) The colors, the variations of shades of pink, peach, rose, and orange, were both subtle and striking. Looking closely there were clear edges of color as well as muted shades. 

So yesterday I sat down with a blank canvas and started working on a second piece in the same style. My first attempt was nowhere close. The colors were mixed and the lines heavy, unlike the delicate ones in my earlier piece. The paint spread into large pools of a single color rather than small slivers of a myriad of colors. My next attempt was worst than the previous one.

I was stumped. How did I create the initial piece? I vaguely remember while working on that painting being frustrated with what I had and changing my method to save whatever could be saved. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall how I painted the first attempt or how I "saved" it by a second attempt. I was truly stumped. Even this morning after 24 hours of racking my brain, I am clueless. I hoped it would come to me out of the blue, but it was not to be. 

So I find myself thwarted and miserable. Perhaps if I continue to try, there will be a moment of clarity when the gods will look down upon me and bless me with knowledge of how I created the initial piece. Or not! Perhaps the painting will be both my debut and my swan song. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Just 2 Generations Later

 All of us studied the US Civil War that started in 1861 - when our great democratic experiment was truly tested. After 4 bloody years and the loss of 620,000 souls, the country had survived and lived to see another day.

In 1914 (3 generations later) the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand brought on the First World War. At that time it was referred to as the “The Great War”, given the assumption that lessons were learned and such an atrocity would never happen again. 

But it was not be. I can remember my father telling me about the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 (2 generations later) when he was 11 years old. He remembered listening to Roosevelt on the radio calming the fears of the nation. 

My mother often referred to the Cuban Missile crisis (yet another 2 generations later in 1961) as bringing us to the edge of the abyss. She said that the country felt it could be the end of the world. Grainy black and white pictures on the TV covered the events of those 13 days. The effect of this incident was so ingrained in her that 50 years later she was fearful for my safety when I visited Cuba in 2011. 

The first international crisis I experienced was 9/11 (in 2001, just 2 generations down the road from the missile crisis). Who can forget the TV coverage of twin towers collapsing in the perfectly clear blue skies of that September morning?

Now in 2022, (yet another 2 generations later) we find ourselves (hopefully not) on the brink of another possible international conflict. This time heightened by the fear of a nuclear holocaust. As of the writing of this missive, the jury is still out as to the outcome of this latest world threat.

All this begs the question, does our pain and memory only last several generations? How quickly can the population as a whole forget? There will always be international struggles, narcissistic autocrats, and those nations who feel personally aggrieved and are willing to rise up and fight for their cause.

Meanwhile so many are overlooking the cry in the wilderness of the environmentalist that the sky is truly falling. And this Earthly disaster will effect civilization as a whole. This frightening reality is not confined by geographical borders, limited to petulant rulers, or the obliteration of certain ethnicities. Unless we all face this reality and make changes, what will be left for future generations, if there are any?