Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tucson Artist, Melinda: Travelin' Bug

Well, I've been all over the country this summer (sort of). I'm ready to hunker down for awhile in the studio.

Grand Central--New York (Thanks, Mr. Artyfice) They are beautiful people, n'est-ce pas?
What beautiful people (virtually there)
Boston, MA (Thanks, friendly stranger who took this one. I can almost taste the ice cream!
Going out for ice cream in Boston.
And, of course, my favorite destination, the Grand Canyon (really there).

Standing on the roof of Verkamp's with Ell
One place I haven't been to recently--Facebook. I've been meaning to ask you, do you see a change in the way people spend their time online this year? I mean, have you noticed, as I have, that it appears that most bloggers have headed over to FB and nearly disappeared from Blogger? What do you think is up? I do miss friends there, but I was rarely seeing them as organizations bumped them from my view. I also miss some of the best pet videos.

Are the ex-bloggers power hungry professors now, working on Quantum theories, and too busy to post?

For me, I noticed that I would turn into a small mouse who clicked and clicked the lever (fb) for a tasty 'food pellet,' only to find that I remained hungry, without many finished paintings after all that clicking. Now that I'm off, I'm pushing the lever that really gives me a payoff: PAINTING! Yum.

In the Night, Spirits II (30" x 30," oil on Canvas, Oct. 2012, © Melinda Esparza)

Here is the painting I finished this week, a 30" x 30" oil painting on canvas--a large iteration of, In the Night, Spirits. It was challenging and fun to paint this image on the bigger canvas.

I hope whatever you are doing, that you are getting just the right 'payoff' for you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gather 'Round the Campfire, Kids: A Scary Story

After Sunset from Verkamp's July 2012 © 2012 Melinda S. Esparza

It was not a dark and stormy night. It was merely an evening--when Ell and I were alone upstairs at Verkamp's settling in for the night. As Ell walked toward the kitchen, and I stood next to the living room sofa, there was a very, very, loud CLAP. He looked at me. I looked at him. Both of us had queries, "Did you hear that?! Was that your laptop?" "No!" Neither of us had made the sound and the laptop didn't have that kind of capability. I, like the good and safe mom posited," It was prolly the fireplace flue, er, something," and we carried on (The fireplace had not been operable for many years, I later learned.) Ell says he totally bought my explanation, even though there was no reason to assume it. I'll take that as a good thing.

The house was extremely noisy, until it wasn't. There were some nights when I would smile listening to the sweet laughter of children and adult voices accompanied by faraway music wafting up from the downstairs gift shop. Then, I'd realize it was 10:30 pm at night! The gift shop closes at 8 pm. Sometimes it sounded like a dinner party, and all this with an evaporative cooler fan running. There were other nights when the house walls seemed alive with strange noises and knocks, when it wasn't windy, but never a large clap, even when the monsoon winds arrived. (An aside: wolf spiders and other strange insects seemed drawn to my bedroom and to my pillow during these days! Okay, old houses have these things, but why, oh why, were they on my pillow and on no one else's?!)

In the Night, Spirits (8" x 8" oil on artists' board© 2012 Melinda S. Esparza

I heard that there were spirits (legends from Native American culture, too) that spent a lot of time around the mule barn and some of the employee housing nearby. They were not the cheerful sort.  Here's one employee's story.  And, there is a book on the subject: Grand Canyon Ghost Stories Spooky Tales About Grand Canyon National Park.

After Ell left, and I was all alone at the Canyon, I became increasingly uneasy--prickly really, with an intuitive sense of energies curious about who was hanging out at Verkamp's old place. And, they were mischievous. I mean, I'd had three roller blinds fall on my head and one window fall out of its frame while I was standing next to it! But, there might have been a slight breeze...On the other hand, the window had been open for days and I'd recently checked to make sure it was in its track.

Okay. I was getting nervous. There. I wrote it. I don't know about you, but I do sense things that sight and ears don't fully account for. Color me crazy, that's just the way I've been all my life. I'll bet you've had some radar for this kind of thing, too.

The intensity of my anxiety continued to roil, until I was so freaked by sounds and sensations each night that I became fed up--and annoyed, and with all the good synchronicity happening, I didn't want things to get ugly. So, near midnight one particularly goose-bumpy night (like being watched and troubled and ready to run from the building screaming and freaking out), I had a conversation--out loud and for a few minutes, in the living room and the balcony under the stars. As I spoke about how I was living there now without malice and that I expected the same, I felt a dissipation of energy (curious spirits?) Peace and quiet filled the house. Even the darkness of the Canyon seemed friendlier.

I was so at peace after this loud conversation that I never felt concerned about being alone in the building for the rest of my stay. A couple days later, there was an unexpected knock at the door. This never happens! Two local, Native American men in worker's garb wanted to check all of the fire alarms. They went through the place, chatted cordially with me, asking questions about my art and my stay with curiosity and studied, thoughtful looks. Finally, they said they'd be back later to replace an alarm. They never returned. I was in no way concerned about the unexpected strangers. I felt I'd past some sort of test.

You could say that I met my own fears and conquered them. I agree. Yet, I think we are visited sometimes, that there are residues of human energy that can cling to an environment (and what an environment it is!), and that these two possibilities can be hard to untangle, especially when all things must be measured against current scientific studies.

This painting might be in response to my remembering that part of my stay. It was another spontaneous painting that I painted a few days ago.

Have you had similar experiences?

"Now about those ghosts. I'm sure they're here and I'm not half so alarmed at meeting up with any of them as I am at having to meet the live nuts I have to see every day. "
Bess Truman

Monday, August 6, 2012

Artist in Residence: Melinda as Minor Vessel of Good

There was another workshop I facilitated while at the Grand Canyon. This one moved me so deeply I cried and rejoiced, as I was used as a vessel to speak art to young people.

The program Grand Inspiration offers high school students time to become "immersed in the beauty of Grand Canyon and record ...their unique perspectives."

After some days rafting the Colorado through a segment of Grand Canyon, the kids return to the Rim and put on an art exhibit, reflecting on their journey together.

Grand Kids after the workshop

They gathered at the residence with me for a couple of hours. When an adult guide asked how I came to be an artist, I told them this: I was in my mid-twenties and lost. I had experienced too much tragedy. In despair, I lay down for a week--not eating--waiting for some answer to go on living with purpose. Nothing happened until a week had passed, I heard (almost audibly) two words:
s t a i n e d   g l a s s!

This startled the students. They thought I would have gotten some kind of transformative wisdom from God, not two unfamiliar words. I have to admit, I was a perplexed! Yet, those words were lightning bolts to my soul. 

I went on: I had $60 to my name and no car. I borrowed one and drove to Oakland to buy a book (How to Work in Stained Glass, by Anita Isenberg, Seymour Isenberg) and some tools. I returned to cut glass, bleed, get flux in my cuts, and to make a few small pieces before moving back to Tucson. Four years later, I was supporting myself doing commission stained glass work and had been in two newspaper articles about stained glass artists in Tucson (along with other artisans of the day). I also had completed two large restaurant commissions, one at Macayo Restaurant and one at El Parador. 

My point for them was this: Each of us can find a way to be artists in this culture, despite tragedy, bias, and a host of other obstacles. The way is not straight, nor easily explained in a textbook. 

Grand Kids with their work

That evening the kids had an art exhibit and were so full of life. The Canyon seemed to inhabit their eyes with renewed purpose and strength. As I looked at the large artwork they'd created at the workshop and the fabulous poetry and drawings and photographs they'd worked on, I was humbled to be a part of it. 

Then, a gifted student walked up to me and told me that he'd had an epiphany. Art is saving HIS life. He, too, he had suffered too much tragedy recently. He shared such a horrible loss with me that I was speechless. But we encouraged each other, hugged, and I left overwhelmed with emotion. 

© 2012 Melinda S. Esparza