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.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Horse with Spots 2011

I take a shower just about everyday.  This piece is hanging above our towel rack, across from the bath, so as I climb out, shower finished and reach for my towel,  I look at it.  It has a translucent quality because of the transparency of the horse and the orange and yellow ocher spots glow on the pale blue ground. Simple, elegant, vibrant. Looking at it, I experience a feeling of deep pleasure and quiet gratitude.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Woman with Blue Arms 2019

As an artist, I'm always walking the fine line between control and letting things happen.  It's a fine, razor edge kind of a deal. Too much letting things happen and I get a chaotic mess, too much control and I get lifeless.  The first part of losing control happens with my painting:  I push, pull, and throw the paint, completely turning over to whatever properties the paint or surface has--  drippy, stiff, runny, bright, dull or vibrant.  I let whatever feelings I'm feeling take over: angry, sad, happy, bored, indifferent, excited, frustrated, proud. Paint is everywhere, my shoes taking the biggest hit. The next part is building the image--not as wild a ride, but still a delicate balance of finding what works with what might not work; guessing, hunching, thinking, and going back and forth from my collection of photos on paper to the ones on my computer or camera, or to my collection of painted papers, printed pages, insides of envelopes, or scrapbook pads from Michael's Stores. There's a lot.  And if I've been good, and if the Art Gods know that I've really and truly abandoned any ideas that I may have started with, I may just end up with a wonderfully strange and unexpectedly beautiful image.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Nick and Bob Laughing 1983

Aside from my innate drive to draw horses, one of the biggest influences I had as a young artist was my mother's marriage to Nick, a Greek man who worked as a waiter at night and painted during the day.  He and my mother married when I was 9 years old.  https://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2016/07/nick-teasing-1981.html

He was fun, he was a great cook, and he lived life to the fullest. He learned to drive not long after meeting my mother and would drive us cross county in our old pickup truck, recklessly bouncing over arroyos and sagebrush, always stuck in whatever gear he happened to last use, us kids shrieking in the back with delight and fear,  We had dogs and a sheep, huge vegetable gardens, and he was always working (not so expertly it turns out) on our house or properties they had bought. But after 17 years of marriage, it all fell apart.  It was a hateful breakup, full of acrimony and spite.  All that was petty and small in both my mother and in Nick emerged and they would never be friends again.  However, Nick stayed in our lives, more my father than my biological father ever had been. He retired from his job with the state(no longer the bohemian artist)and traveled the world with a backpack full of vitamins and a change of underwear, making friends wherever he went.

Unfortunately, his bad relationship with my mother would come back to haunt me.  In the last ten years of his life, he began to be cold, rude  and abrupt with me.  It seemed that he was confusing me with my mother, and now, with hindsight, we realized that it signaled the beginning of his dementia. He died at the age of 91, peacefully--if death is ever peaceful.  He couldn't see, could barely hear, and his memory was mostly gone, yet one of the last things he told my sister was that he wanted to live to be 100.