Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Quarrel 2000


In 2000, after the Gore/Bush fiasco, when we waited for the Florida votes to be recounted, I thought things had hit a new low.  Everyone was anxious and unhappy as we waited for the results of the vote to come in.  I remember walking around for several weeks with a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach  Now, at the end of 2019, I look back almost nostalgically--what a sweet and innocent time it was. A few votes gone astray, a president I didn't much like, but, what the heck, in comparison, now it seems like a chapter right our of Leave it to Beaver-"Not to worry. We'll get it all worked out Beav!"

Currently, all seems terrible, horrible, awful: the climate, the shootings in schools, houses of worship or anywhere people gather, the huge schism between left and right, the courts, the enormous discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots, the persistent racism--all the tough issues we thought could be taken care of are now hopelessly lost in a quagmire of anger and hatred. As we roll forward into 2020 I can only hope that, as the poet Robert Bly liked to say, we have to go deep into our ashes-the misery, the hurt and the anger-before we can rise up and see the world in a different way, and that, hopefully, we are at or near the bottom of those ashes. But I think that’s Pollyanna of me. I think we have further down to go, much further, before we can start back up. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Woman with Red Dress(and Spots) 2017


I find myself making, and then being attracted to, what I see as these extremely ugly pieces. They are something I haven't seen before which is very intriguing for any artist. It's a lonely pursuit because, even though I think they are quite wonderful, not many people do. When I put the actual image or the virtual Jpeg in front of them, people just don't respond. I don't know if they have no reaction, if they just aren't interested in the piece, or just plain old don't like them but are too polite to say. It's always hard to guess what people are thinking when you show them work and their faces stay blank and you are ultra sensitive, neurotic, and paranoid to boot.  This is when you wish you had the stature of a Picasso or an O'Keeffe so that whatever you did would be fawned over and then bought for hundreds of thousands of dollars no matter what people really thought.  But, for now, I'll continue to make these odd portraits and then stash away them in my flat files, taking them out every now and then to marvel at how fantastic I think they are.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Five Birds 2005

I have always believed that when a person first dies, there is a small window where they can still communicate with the living world.  When my father died, it was through a Southwest Airlines Boarding Pass that made me aware of his presence.  It was totally my father: funny, clever, and complicated. And when my mother died earlier this week I had a similar experience. My mother loved birds, and her backyard outside of Santa Fe was constantly full of them coming and going, eating, bathing, chatting, and quarreling.* Even so, when I took our dogs for a walk that next day, I wasn't thinking about Mom's birds, just about all those complicated emotions that happen when someone you love dies.  But as we walked, I noticed a small bird running on the ground in front of us, scuttling through the leaves. Something was wrong with it's wing, so it jutted out to the side as she moved away from us.  I worried for her safety, but knew I couldn't do anything about it.  On the way back, about an hour later, the same little bird, at the same place, began running in front of us again, and I knew it was Mom.  I didn't know for sure what she was trying to tell me, just that it was her.  Was she using the injured little bird to make some kind of a comment or was it just her way of getting my attention, letting me know she was still here?    I felt a deep sadness, both for the little bird, and for the fact that my mother was gone. Perhaps that's what the little bird was for--to help me more clearly see and feel the loss of my mother.

*https://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2012/09/three-birds-resting-2012.html

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Girl with Spotted Horse 2018

At the age of 90, as my mother gets ready to cross the River Styx, I've had lots of time to think about her and our relationship, the most profound and, to this point, the longest of my life.  Like most mothers of those times, she did her best to be a good mother, but without much awareness of herself or of her children(by the age of 8 I had a mouth full of cavities from eating all of the sweets and junk food that were our staples).  My mother was angry much of the time, and for good reason:  a husband who was mostly absent and two kids who constantly fought with each other.  I was alone and lonely, my big brother tormenting me without any adult supervision to keep things from getting out of hand.  But I had something that made things okay, and that is that my mother always made sure I had horses in my life.  I learned to ride when I was four and by the time I was seven we lived on ten acres with 5 horses to care for.  From that time on, I always had a horse that was appropriate to my skill level, until I left home at 16, leaving my old gray quarter horse, Reb, behind.  Because of Reb, Red, Rio Grande and Hondo, I could get on bareback and ride for miles in the undeveloped country outside of Santa Fe.  My horses were my best friends.  In a way, they cared for me. They helped me be whole and gave me what people couldn't.  And now, with my mother mostly not of this world, I can only thank her in my heart, and on this page, for what she gave me.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Family Trouble 2017

Families are so very very complicated.  We all carry, in our DNA, the need to belong, to be loved, and to be part of that very first community--our family. Yet it never seems that simple, and now, as my parents age, and those of most of my friends, and now that we are their care-takers, cracks have begun to appear in the structures of those families.  The cracks may have started years ago with a divorce, sibling rivalry, or some kind of bitter separation, but now, as the oldsters fade and need our help managing in a world they can't really deal with, everything shifts.  Old wounds re-open, new relationships form, resentments fester. Some children end up being the main caretakers while others have little or nothing to do with their aging parent.  One of my friends, lovingly recorded, on facebook the long decline of her mother and father, including curling up in bed with her mother as she lay dying. But that's not the norm.  Other friends talk about how angry they are with a certain sibling for the favoritism shown by the parent, even as they lay dying.  My own grandmother couldn't remember my mother's name  as she declined, but could remember those of her other four children. That had to have been a tough one, although, of course, my mother no longer has a memory of the event.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Coyote Head 2019

Today was a day of finding dead things. As I was filling the my horse tank water-garden this morning, I noticed gold where it shouldn't have been, floating at the edge of the tank surrounded by cattails. Sure enough, it was my largest, oldest goldfish.  Later, while eating lunch, I heard a shrill kind of squeal.  Since we have two small dogs, I'm always worried about coyote abductions, so I rushed out to see what was going on. I found Niko, our rat terrier, doing something to a dying squirrel(sniffing, eating??).  I ruined his day by making him leave his incredible god-given kill/find and then later I came out with a shovel and tossed the corpse over the fence, hoping that that same coyote I'm so nervous about would show up for a good meal.

For years I've used photographs of dead animals to inform my work. The Coyote in "Coyote Head" was from a coyote's body I found, perfectly preserved, by the side of the road while cycling. Snakes, birds, coyotes, and deer are my animals of choice, but I have also photographed dead bugs, dead mice, dead squirrels, and mummified cats. There are two other woman artist/photographers who use animal corpses in their work and are friends of mine--Kate Breakey and S. Gayle Steven.  I think we are of a certain breed of woman artists, perhaps bordering on the bruja, or shamanic. I know both women are fearless in retrieving and using the bodies of the animals they find--much braver than I since I only photograph them in situ. But today I found that I had no interest in photographing my two finds.  I'm not sure why, just that there was no impulse when there would have been five years ago. 

*a friend just told me about another “bruja” artist named Judith Crispin pretty great stuff. https://judithcrispin.com/2019/01/22/2019-lumachrome-glass-prints-for-sale/

 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Child Being Held 1987

This past Saturday, our family placed our 90 year old mother into a care situation.  She had been living alone for the last thirty years, the last ten of those years with increasing dementia. Two weeks ago we realized she needed round the clock care after some kind of set back where she couldn't take care of her basic needs, like going to the bathroom or getting herself a glass of water.

Ironically, the care situation we put her in was the exact same bedroom that her ex-husband(Nick) had died in six weeks ago http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2019/07/nick-and-bob-laughing-1983.html.  Richard and Raymond take fragile people into their home and care for them until they die.  They are kind and capable men so we felt good about the fact that they still had a place open for Mom.  Needless to say, we had dreaded the day.  We had arranged for me to meet various family members and Mom at Richard and Raymond's on my way back from Colorado. My brother and I rolled her into the kitchen where she took a seat and shook hands with R&R as we all swarmed around getting her room ready and giving Richard the information he needed. Expecting some kind of meltdown, we were relieved to find Mom quietly moving into her new bedroom, where she lay down on the bed, and then drifted off, murmuring a quiet agreement and squeezing my hand when I said I thought she was going to really like her new home.