Monday, October 15, 2007


Yesterday I did the honor of accompanying Flannery to the mall to have her ears pierced. It's tradition in our family for the women to late-bloom with regard to piercings. A tendency to maintain intact earlobes for decades of one's life has been solemnly passed down in the DNA on both sides of the family. My mother is 75 and has yet to let a piercing professional anywhere near her clip-ons. My mother-in-law waited until she was well into her 40s. We have an unwavering, stubborn attitude when it comes to elective surgery. Don't suggest we relinquish our tonsils, or tie our tubes or, God forbid, have our ears altered to suit the fleeting, flimsy fancies of fashion.

Yesterday, as Flannery sat on a stool outside Claire's in Santa Fe Place, she methodically read, line by line, every word of every clause of the innumerable disclaimers of the several-paged piercing agreement. I explained to the piercing lady how Flan's father had had one of his ears pierced years before I even thought of doing mine. She was properly impressed.

It was 1984 and I was 31 when I finally succumbed to the pressures of fashion and the downright torture of Eighties clip-ons. Remember those enormous, pendulous earrings that were so in vogue then? (If you're too young to do so, maybe you've seen them in the movies.) Feeling decadent and fashion-victimized, I underwent the harrowing procedure at a boutique on Polk Street in San Francisco, then promptly went to--I believe it was called--Gadzooks on Clement Street and purchased the two weightiest pairs they had in stock. One set was geometric, enameled stainless steel, manufactured by the Memphis Design Group. They were kind of like end tables for the ears. I still have them. What's depicted in the smaller image above (pirated from someone's retro e-store) is reminiscent of them, although mine are a bit more elaborate and involve two ladders, one ascending the right ear at a rakish 30-degree angle, the other climbing down the left.

The other pair was all ethnically inspired, with little silver balls hanging from itty-bitty brass tubes hanging from somewhat larger brass tubes suspended from an elongated, very thick, brass loop. Everything was connected by an intricate series of teeny-tiny gold circles. You could hear me coming from two blocks away when I wore them, particularly when one of the little tubes detached itself and fell to the sidewalk. This would happen when I sneezed.

As the danglies aged, they took on a rich patina not unlike what I was going for in this painting I called "Relics." I called it that because of the way I applied layer after layer of color, allowed each to dry, then scratched out areas to reveal the painting's past.

While Flan and I were having her ears pierced at Santa Fe Place and joking about our family's past, Bennie was at the gallery selling "Relics" to a couple from Wichita who were celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary in Santa Fe. What stylish synchronicity. Beverly told Bennie she loved the green in the painting. That would be the oxidized patina of my 1984 earrings. She also said the red area reminded her of a flame. Wow! As often happens when someone talks about one of my paintings, I begin to see my own art with refreshed eyes.

I still see the green, memory-infused patina, but I also see an abiding flame in the presence of change. How perfect for a wedding anniversary. How perfect a day. Flannery initiated into the deeper mysteries of ear adornment. "Relics" placed in the proper home.


murat11 said...

Like this painting a lot, the palimpsest: those lovely overtones, the texturing, that "avid" scraping on the left side of the canvas. It's like determined exposure and masking, all at the same time. Our Lady of Guadalupe / Mary is a huge presence in my psyche: she's always the blue for me. I soak that blue up as much as the Sedona red.

Anonymous said...

Noticed your comment on Amber Lounder's Blog ... went from there to check out your art here ... you are a great writer ... loved your story of the ear piercing; retro clip ons selling of the painting to anniversary couple! Very entertaining Blog!

San said...

Murat, the way you talk about art shows real visual sensitivity. Thank you so much! As I'm sure you know, Guadalupe figures very prominently around these parts. Sadly, her image has been commercialized a bit. There's a great passage in Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye in which the protagonist, who happens to be a painter, goes to Mexico and has her own encounter with Guadalupe. I need to re-read that. Your comment reminds me of it. Thanks again.

San said...

Anonymous bearer of good cheer,

Thank you for stopping by. Please visit again!

Lee said...

San, I like the painting and the colors but I doubt that I'm seeing anything anyone else is. I see salmon swimming upstream. (shrug) It just looks like they are underwater. :)

That's actually a very peaceful image. I've fished in a stream where I saw small young salmon and also salmon eggs. My parents got to catch salmon in Colorado when we were all younger. Those were good family times.


San said...

Lee, I defnitely saw water when I completed this painting! And I'm glad that it evokes a nice memory for you. Thanks!