Saturday, September 15, 2007

Doing It the Hard Way

An uninvited perk of purchasing a Kaplan prep course for Flannery's MCAT has been a subscription to The Wall Street Journal. Flipping through its pages and seeing how the other half, or should I say 1/4 of 1% (at most), live, has been morbidly entertaining. This past Wednesday there was a story about something called "The Mercedes Benz" fashion show, held in The Armory in New York. These shoes with sideways heels caught my eye. Apparently they're part of Marc Jacobs' Spring 2008 line, which also features yellow dishwashing gloves. It was unclear whether he designed the rubber gloves or just bought them at Target like the rest of us 99.75%. The look is "deconstructionist" someone said. Another said "surreal," yet another, "performance art."

No, this isn't a rant about the decadence of the fashion world. That topic has been done to death. As a matter of fact, an internet search for "sideways heels" revealed that they too have been done to death. Junko Shimada introduced them in the Spring 2007 line. Typical. The Japanese invented the sideways heel; an American got it written up in the business pages. I honestly liked seeing pictures of the Jacobs line. It's playful, the fabrics are beautiful, and, yes, the sideways heels, the incomplete jackets that reveal underwear, and the "found" rubber gloves appeal to me as ideas. Would I like to see people start dressing like this in Real Life? Well, maybe. But only if they created the outfits themselves.

Also, the picture above captures perfectly the way I felt this week getting back into the studio to paint after a too-long absence. I was walking sideways, tentatively, on my toes, and with nothing beneath my heels to keep me down to earth.

Day One was filled with "avoidance behavior"--grocery shopping, calling a friend, calling Bennie, straightening the kitchen, setting up the easel, changing its position, walking back to the kitchen for a snack, lining up the paints, walking back to the kitchen for a glass of water, considering various palettes, walking back to the kitchen to think about what to make for dinner, mixing a little paint, walking back to the kitchen and having the sudden inspiration to make a chicken pot pie from scratch. That was my art for the day. I never got around to actually touching the canvas with any paint, but I did derive great satisfaction from chopping vegetables. And the chicken pot pie, which I decided to season with curry, was delicious!

The morning of Day Two I took a nice long walk with Melinda. I got into the studio earlier. I actually started putting paint on canvas. It was excruciating. I felt completely disoriented, fraudulent, and decadent. The emerging painting recalled the most disappointing of my Fall 2006 line. That's been done to death, I thought. I called Bennie and vented. "You need to give it a break," he said. I made dinner. Taco salad with fresh baby spinach and spring mix and Vidalia onions and vine-ripened tomatoes, and ground beef seasoned with lots of New Mexico red chile. The painting wouldn't leave my mind and I forgot to include avocados.

Day 3 was spent in Total Agony. The painting grew worse--scattered and overworked and shrill-colored. I called Bennie and told him and what he said was, "Don't call me and tell me this. STOP PAINTING RIGHT NOW. GIVE IT A BREAK." I understood the wisdom of what he was saying, but if there's one thing I hate it's somebody telling me not to do something. Especially my spouse. I was back at the canvas, fueled by sheer orneriness. I turned it upside down. I turned it 90 degrees clockwise. I turned it counterclockwise. And back. I started toning down the red with gold. Then I had an irresistible urge to let the gold, in a kind of reverse alchemy, morph into peridot. I enlarged the purple area, so that it began to look like a curtain of purple drawing itself back to reveal peridot. The effect wasn't completely hideous. I was starting to have fun. I was observing the curtain of despair slowly drawing itself back to reveal hope. It was right there, in front of my eyes. The painting was starting to have its way. Did I finish the painting? No! I still have A LOT of work to do.

But for me, there's a magical "tipping point" when I'm working on a painting, a point at which I just know I'm on the right track, and I disappear into the process and I forget about food and water and I forget to look at the clock. Because of that timelessness factor, Days Three's dinner was grilled hot dogs and defrosted french fries.

And then on Night Three, last night, I dreamed I was painting. I was painting without pause, in a rhythm as natural as breath, and I believe I was barefoot.


Flannery said...

I wonder if those shoes are comfortable? I'm sure you'll be back into the swing of painting in no time, cranking out expensive masterpieces and inspiring a new abstractive movement in art that will grace Art History textbooks for years to come.

San said...


I would not suggest negotiating the week you have with footwear like this. I completed the painting! Plus 3 little ones. And I'm back at the gallery today, which means I can post to the blog. My little clamshell laptop at home won't even let me post comments. It was doing that, but now when the comments page opens up, it almost immediately collapses in on itself and shuts down the browser. Curses. I SO like to fiddle around on the internet while I wait for layers of paint to dry. And I was hoping to post comments during that time. Oh well, perhaps a newer, more updated OS is just a painting sale away...

Suzanne said...

Sandra, dear, we are SO alike. I'm hoping you are even freeform enough to forgive my long silences and not take them personally. Some day I will give you an abbreviated synopsis of my current situation, minus the boredom, which takes up at least 90%. It is nowhere near over, and for that I am grateful.

For the record: my only husband was named Bennie, spelled that way. I used to paint and sculpt; I write. I gave birth to two amazing offspring.

I believe in, and rely on, the power of levity. And I live on avoidance behavior.

Melinda said...

You depict the struggle, the daily intrudes of LIFE, and then the breakthrough, the passion and transcendence which caps off the
journey,explaining why we creative types go through it all.

San said...

Melinda, thank you for that lovely turn of phrase "the passion and the transcendence which caps off the journey." Makes me want to get back to the studio ASAP.

San said...

Suzanne, I believe we were EVIL TWINS in a previous life.

Rebekah said...

I love those shoes!!