As I’ve been making work related to the upcoming show themed “Surroundings” I have not been able to ignore the increasing evidence of homelessness in the urban landscape of Portland and it’s started to show up in the paintings. If I divorce myself from the social and personal tragedy of it and look at it from a visual perspective, it is an undeniable ‘texture’ to our city’s landscape. I watch as camps come and go and come again. They spread out as other campers join and the detritus they generate grows as time passes with no sanitation services. It’s troubling and it’s an undeniable part of our current landscape.
I’ll be part of a three person show, along with Shawn Demarest and Beth Kerschen in December at the Portland’5 Center for the Performing Arts. Shawn and Beth and I showed together in 2013 and I’m looking forward to hanging together again.
The theme of the show is “Surroundings” and I’m including work that’s come out of my experience of my exterior as well as interior surroundings. Above is a new piece for this show. I believe the opening for the show is the First Thursday in December. More details to follow.
In July, it was five years since my wife, Leslie, died from breast cancer. I wrote quite a lot about it here, at the time. I stopped writing about it after a year but, of course, the process of grief continues. It seems strange to think of all that’s happened without her presence since that time. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process. I can’t always tell if I’m processing or indulging but I’m sometimes moved to paint something that arises out of the experience of loss and attachment.
My life is good. I’ve met a wonderful woman to share it with. I think of what I’ve lost and try to balance it with what I’ve gained.
I’ve written a series of posts here about my wife, Leslie’s, death and how I’ve coped with her loss. I feel like I should conclude this somehow but am not sure how. July 3 marked the one year anniversary of her death. I marked it with family and friends over a few days then went off to Italy for a month. As I look back, it appears that I made a kind of project out of it in that, for the year following Les’ death, I did my best to experience that loss and everything that came along with it as deeply and in as many ways as I could. I did several types of therapy, personal growth seminars, healing ceremonies … whatever I could think of. I said yes to most things that came my way and tried to stay open to whatever came at me. I fell in and out of love and learned that relationships don’t have to have the boundaries I usually contain them with.
The second part of the project was to start having new experiences as a person who is in the world alone. Alone in that, although I have friends and family, my life is no longer shared. The month in Italy was the first step in that.
The year of grieving, as I wrote in earlier posts, was tumultuous and both painful and expansive. I grew and unconcealed parts of me that were buried inside for a long time. I think, in many ways, I realized that I’m the person Les always saw in me and have become better able to see that in myself.
Learning to be myself for myself is something I still grapple with and have been keeping in mind the question, can I be enough for myself? Can I find everything I need to be happy inside me? I get disappointed in my self when I feel a longing for something outside. I can usually let go of it and return to the present but longing for something, something I can’t quite describe, revisits me often. The solitude I hated earlier, I’ve learned to love at the same time that I crave connection with others.
I didn’t used to think I was much of a people person but I know that’s not true now. The reason I’m still alive is the people I love. My fondest memories of this past year and my time in Italy are of the beautiful and interesting people who’ve entered or passed through my life.
I’ve explained this a couple of times before on the blog. When I was in college I was given an assignment to do a self portrait and was then given information on the aging process and told to do another self portrait projecting what I thought I would look like at the age of 60. I was 23 when I did the first two drawings. I forgot about them for several years but some time in my 30’s I decided it would be interesting to do a similar self portrait every year near my birthday to see how close my vision was. I had planned on doing it every year and to use the same pose and media, etc so that the drawings could be easily compared. Discipline is not my strongest characteristic and I missed some years and got bored and did other compositions some years but I did produce an interesting collection of images over the 37 years since the original drawings.
This being the year I turned 60 is the logical completion of the project and, although I may still do self portraits on my birthday, the original project ends now. My wife’s health began to collapse this year, not long after my birthday and it’s taken me this much time to get back to thinking about it. Frankly, it’s been difficult to produce any artwork, since her death and this seemed like a fun and simple thing to do to keep my hand in and, of course, to feed the blog.
So it appears that, at the age of 23, I had an exaggerated view of how old 60 is. Perhaps in 1976, 60 year old people did look older than they do today. They say 60 is the new 40, right?
You can find other entries in this progression in the archives of the blog. I posted them as I did them.
I apologize for the quality of the photos. The original two drawings were reproduced from old slides.
Last night was the opening reception for my show of paintings at Brian Marki Fine Art. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. Thank you to everyone who came out.
Brian did a really great job of hanging and lighting the work. I hardly recognized the paintings.
The most frequently asked question was, why are they called dolphins? To which I responded, why are the sides of a boat called gunwhales? I do not understand nautical terms.
Here are a few pictures from the reception. The show is up until the end of August. If you’re nearby, please stop by and let me know what you think.
It’s been two weeks since my dear Leslie died. The days seem almost normal until someone mentions her name or asks how I’m doing. I don’t wake up weeping anymore, it takes me a few minutes for a thought to bring on the tears. Sobbing feels good, when I’m alone but, for some reason, I don’t like to cry in front of others.
I’m looking for silver linings… The car mirrors are always adjusted to my liking now. When I put something down, I know I’ll find it in the same place when I want it. That crazy filing system that Les used can finally be put in something I call order. I’m happy for Les that she won’t have to become really old and doddery and a worry to our children.
I miss her, though.
I have some things to share:
I came across a cassette tape of love songs Les recorded for me for Valentine’s Day in 1983. Nine months later our first daughter, Emily, was born. Les was 31 years old, at the time.
Our dear friend, Andrea Carlisle, has written two beautiful pieces about Leslie’s death. Below are the links:
I haven’t touched a brush for 2 weeks. The only drawing I’ve done has been in Dr’s offices as my wife has been undergoing tests to determine the extent of a recurrence of breast cancer. It’s been nine years since her original diagnosis. I’m very relieved to say that the cancer seems to be limited to the original site and has not spread to her bones or organs. We got the good news yesterday which was our 27th wedding anniversary and had a wonderful celebration last night. She will, obviously have to undergo treatment but her prognosis is very good and she has non-invasive treatment options. I was, frankly, expecting a much worse outcome.
Les and her cat.