Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reaching into the Medicine Bag

What do you put in your medicine bag? Walking the dogs this morning (a crisp, clear, warm, and sunny morning), it occurred to me that I need to consider the kind of medicine that we give to one another and the kind we give to ourselves. 

Poison...We give to ourselves when we listen to the negative thoughts from an unsettled mind, from the unwarranted criticism of others, the result of our choices, or about art, and then act upon them.
Sustenance...Ah, this is what we give and receive when we count as legitimate the good comments and the healthy internal dialog that we speak out loud. We recognize the courage it takes to approach a canvas and to make a mark. We decide who we are. As we present ourselves to the world, it is not always possible to be received well. 

What will we do with those responses... I reached into my medicine bag today and found some healing medicine: 
My fellow artists: I'm fed by your work. You can do no wrong when you are authentic, and because of you, I am drawn to go forward. 
My artistic ancestors: How did Frida overcome? How did Joan Brown navigate a path with family and professional art? What did Georgia O'Keeffe say, and how powerfully did she dig in her heels for her own beliefs? How hard was it for Käthe Kollwitz to create uncomfortable works and thereby comfort us?
Words that comfort, in winter, in recession, in the face of an unpredictable future: "Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure....think on these things." 
Symbols: A leather medicine bag (drawing, 5 3/4" x 6") that I made for Ell before going off to college. Secret nourishment inside that I cannot reveal. 

But in mine: There is mesquite meal that always calms my tummy if I've waited too long to eat. Prickly pear fruit that reminds me that I am often hard to get close to, but I do have a colorful center that is not too sweet. A sacred rock that informs me that there are immutable things that cannot be traded for shifting sand. A feather telling me that my spirit soars like an eagle whenever I connect with paint---when I dream. A container of water like my body--changing as it moves through the landscape, yet forever able to erode that which seems to be more powerful than I. Water wins every time. May I always offer you good medicine as a fellow traveler.

Monday, January 12, 2009

P is for Cactus

She dared me. That's it. That's the ticket! I promised Silvina I would attempt a painting that she suggested I make. Mmm, hmm. The gigantic cactus in this painting is here as a result of a short discussion about dreams and our quests for visions...regarding our art endeavors. I thought it would be fun to make a kind of narrative piece that is somewhat like the mailart pieces I've made on paper. It was a hoot! I hope I can make you chuckle. Did some research, too, on the use of hallucinatory medicinal plants in religious ceremonies. Did you know that in Arizona there is a non-native church registered to use such plants (not too far from Tucson)? However, they are in a kind of legal limbo, as Arizona allows religious use, but Federal law does not. Interesting. So, what does it mean? I don't feel we really need these medicinal plants to trigger a vision. We carry in our own hearts and minds the most powerful chemicals for illumination. We can encourage them to gain heaven and healing with our better angels, or we can devolve into darkness (the internal monsters to unleash). The road is...The drive is...a quest toward happiness, if we'll hang on long enough to complete the journey. Sounds perfectly legal to me...Oil on canvas, 22" x 28."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Elegy for the Loss of a Child

Remembering an important day. I'd like to dedicate this poem to all those who have lost children. May they all be visited by angels of comfort, angels of restoration, angels of peace.

The Baptism--2007 (4' x 4,' approximate) © Melinda S. Esparza 

 Solomon Who (10 January 2002) 

 Solomon Rey who

twenty-eight years ago to the day

Died. quietly napping in his baby-sitter's bassinet

while the woman screamed

and an ambulance pierced the winter sky

as cars waited at red lights.

Solomon Rey who left so suddenly right after lunch while the older children played 

while Mama built the missiles Phoenix,

Who loved piano sounds but not riding in cars Who cooed when Mama sang 

Who didn't like to sleep

in his crib maybe afraid to sleep at all

Who can't go to college today or talk of poetry, girls or brothers


Who can make you think twice about having baby

Who gave me long love looks just days before

I buried my flesh today in a powderbluevelvet casket

while the crisp and cheerful chirps of birds 

 and while the puffy shimmering clouds

Above the priest 

Above the people in a day 

in a moment

changed the world

And, Solomon Rey Who, 

through smaller threads of memory is fading from detail--

just couldn't stay

© Melinda S. Esparza

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Kind of Artist are You Anyway?

A visit to the local independent video shop can be the art treat that sets the tone for the work week. Of course, Netflix can provide a similar result, but will lack the visceral enjoyment of the hunt for an art DVD accompanied by fresh popcorn from the in-store popcorn machine. I rented art:21 just because Susan Rothenberg was one of the featured artists. A few weeks ago I made a couple of monotypes of Thimble Peak from a photo I'd taken while on the Mt. Lemmon highway, thirty miles north of home. Today, I worked on the ghost image and played with print ink and oil paint. It occurred to me that I am about to find out what kind of artist I am. Actually. Really. Truly. Without Permission. This is the first monotype straight from the press with only the one pull. The second photo is the first layering and the third photo is the working of the ghost image that I may consider finished. When I took a photo of the second one, the lighting cast a kind of sepia tone on the image and I liked it so much that I went back and changed the sky color and scratched a little into the mountains with the end of a paint brush. (12 1/2" x 16 1/2") Usually, after such a venture, I would announce to myself (and anyone within bellowing distance) that I have no talent, that I have no idea what I'm doing, mostly because it doesn't look like the work of...insert favorite artists' names here. I didn't do that today. I decided that this is okay. Why do I love Grace Hartigan, Joan Brown, and Susan Rothenberg so much? I'm starting to see. Without angst, without fear, without apology.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Static, Non-Static, A Beautiful White Noise

Waking up in this new year brought a wonderful sound: Rain. Made me think of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's song "Rain, rain, rain, rain, beautiful rain." Love rain. Love that this is a new year. I'm missing all of you art bloggers this week. I'm glad to see you're all getting back to work! The white noise of rain is a comforting sound to accompany the static of the banal requirements of life and the anti-static beginnings of an artistic ambulation.

Karen has been very brave in listing her goals and I am inspired to follow her lead. I see that many of you are considering this new year and its possibilities. It reminds me of the book Karen recommended, A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Rebecca Solnit)--with the essay The Blue of Distance. I think about this daily now. And, consider:

Sitting in the middle of desire, peacefully observing two points: the whereas of past and present events, and the wherefore of a future planned with optimism. I like this place and see great value in visiting it often. Sometimes it can appear to be the most comfortable spot to rest, wanting never to leave. But, rest is foundational not the destination. This is what I tell myself. Keep moving, step forward and carry the "Blue of distance" in a daily approach toward paint, friendship and conversation. It's okay if the horizon is always far away.

A big leap, not from the edge, but into the distance. I'm going to finish this painting, this year...oh, yes I am. This is the el gigante painting of the Grand Canyon (4' x 6') that I started more than a year ago. For your consideration, I've got a link that might cause you to dream large. Click Grand Canyon and dream with me. Tell me your dream for this year and let's see how it does come true.

"...The real problems of our culture
Can be deduced from the fact
that we name mountains after men."
--Richard Shelton (from his The last Person to Hear Your Voice, 2007)

May this year bring visions of grandness and nameless wonders to all of you!