Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nick Teasing 1981

In the fuzzy reaches of my memory, sometime around the age of 8-9, I can remember my mother and father getting a divorce. My next memories are of Nick appearing in our lives.  An artist, Greek, emotional, a great cook, and just generally fun to be with, he took our little family's stilted identity and shook it hard.  There were emotional outbursts, there were wild rides in our 49 chevy pickup truck through the pinon trees, and there were dinners filled with good food and many different friends, and lots and lots of laughter.  He and my mother married and he remained my stepfather for the next 20 years until he and my mother divorced, bitterly.

Nick is now 88 and living in assisted living.  His mind is going fast, on a faster downhill slide than his body, which is still fairly healthy.  We had great hopes for him in assisted living, a lovely place full of activities and active, interesting older people.  But this has not happened.  He is constantly in hot water with the establishment:  sunbathing in his underpants in the large central courtyard, letting his little dog Koukla loose to poop and go after other dogs(that are on leashes), then forgetting and leaving her outside to roam and upset people.  He gets lost on a regular basis, forgets his walker, and has alienated many of the female residents by his liberal use of  the word  "fuck".  Koukla has been banned, and he is heartbroken.  Cracks are beginning to appear between family members working to figure out what is best as we inch toward the possibility of Nick being booted out of his current home. 

I emailed a friend whose ex-husband, a victim of Alzheimer's,  died recently to ask her about his last accommodations, a place called the Retreat, here in Albuquerque.  Her response was positive, but what she said at the end of her email is what stayed with me the most , "This whole process is so hard and so sad".  And she is so right.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Black Eye 1998 and 2016


                                                                                             *photo by Andrea Wallace
In 1998, while playing soccer, my face got in the way of the ball. The result was a black eye that lingered for about two weeks, going from black to purple to red, and finally fading away. Two weeks ago, our youngest daughter was mugged in a smash and grab by a young woman.  The bruise is just now starting to fade away.

We are discovering that people are reacting very differently to Teal's black eye than they did to mine. While my eye was healing, I found that people wouldn't look at me, assuming that my black eye was the result of some kind of domestic abuse.  This was not just in stores, but even at parties, and other places where I knew people.  It seemed that if someone made eye contact with me then they would have to ask, very simply, "What happened to you?" and they just didn't want to go there.   When I asked Teal how people were reacting to her black eye, and her story was quite different,  "I'm getting tired of telling people what happened.  I wish they wouldn't ask". She works as a server at a very nice restaurant and she said that about half of her customers ask what happened, the other half don't.  I don't know if this difference is because she is younger than I was when I got my black eye(I was in my 40's), or if it's a sign that now, 18 years later, we are just more aware and sympathetic--less afraid to go to those dark places. I hope it's the latter.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

After the Flood 2016

 On March 16, of this year, after a morning bike ride with my friend Susan Zimmerman, I trotted out to the studio in my bike garb(cleated shoes, Lycra pants and top)to gather the trash to be picked up that day.  With a "what's wrong with this picture" feeling, I saw that water was pouring out of the front door.  Inside I could hear a roaring noise, which turned out to be the inlet valve to the hot water heater. Water was gushing out and had been for some 12-14 hours.

In a panic, I had to figure out how to turn the water off( it turns out to be not such an easy task)and then call the plumber.  The plumber, a neighbor and a friend, made it from the other side of the city in 20 minutes.  Once there, he directed me to call our insurance company, saying that they would get the ball rolling, and they did.
The insurance company called Steamatic, and they came within the hour.  Within a few hours we had emptied the studio of water, repaired the faulty pipe, and set up ten huge electric fans and two large dehumidifiers, which were to run for about a week, drying things out as best they could.
The next step was to cut the drywall on the exterior walls about a foot and 1/2 up from the floor and remove the insulation which supposedly wicks the moisture and can cause mold. I had my doubts about this happening, but, at the same time, didn't want to take any chances.
The drywall was then replaced and taped.  The dry wall mudders were next in line, and they arrived and made a huge mess.  When they finished, there was dried white mud everywhere, and white footprints all around the studio floor.  They used my utility sink to empty their dirty water, which backed up and wouldn't drain.  Adding insult to injury, they smoked inside the studio, their empty food wrappers(mostly candy)and cigarette butts everywhere.  The job had to be redone and then cleaned up.
As terrible as the mudders were, the painters were just that wonderful.  Perhaps because we all spoke the language of paint, I felt an immediate affinity with them, a family business of brothers, uncles and nephews.  They were good spirited, funny, and able to do things with their brushes that I can only dream of.
And then there were the Steamatic guys:  Albert(on the right) was with me from the very first hour of getting everything back.  Warm, kind, and sympathetic, they were extremely careful in everything they did, especially in the handling of my art.  My husband and I had removed it all from the studio so that the workers could do their work, and the Steamatic guys helped me put it all back, no mean feat(think four truckloads to the garage and back, all having to go back in a systematic order).
Since I had to keep working through all of this, I set up in our living room.  It worked fine, and I liked the close proximity to the refrigerator, but I had to be careful about not making a mess.

My studio, on the left, pre-flood, on the right, post.  Leaner, cleaner, stripped down of 22 years of accumulated artist type hoarding.




None of my art was damaged.  I had everything in storage units that rest about four inches off the floor.  What was damaged was replaceable, and insurance covered most of it.  We had a $1000 deductible, and except for a minor skirmish with the insurance company they paid for everything above the deductible, probably between 6-7000 dollars.  It was six weeks almost to the day from the event to me moving back in. I've spent the time since organizing and eliminating as much as I can, all the while being absolutely certain that I'm tossing something irreplaceable.  The flood wasn't something I would wish on anyone, however, it certainly wasn't the worst thing that could have happened. In the big scale of bad stuff that happens, this was only a tiny tiny blip on the cosmic meter.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Snake Truck 2016

According to folklorists and other narrative scholars, the hero's journey forms the basic template for all great stories. Described at length in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the hero's journey serves as the tale every culture tells. The journey's path is described variously, but in general it includes the call to adventure, a supernatural aide or mentor, initiation by trials and adventures, victory, and return.   Chegg Tutors, Hero's Journey

My own Hero's Journey would be as follows:  the call to adventure would be the dedication of my life to being an artist, to making images that reflect what isn't known to me.  My supernatural aid would be the animals that have inhabited my life, providing me with the smallest glimpse into another world that runs parallel to mine but that I can know only slightly.  My trials and adventures are numerous, but most of my trials have originated in self-doubt and fear, and the adventures in a courage I'm always surprised to look back on and realize I posses.  The victory is in my continuing the journey, ignoring my fears and following the adventures my unconscious proposes. Although  I'm on the downhill side of my journey, I haven't yet returned.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Guard Dog(with Open Window)2016

Cash was another throw away dog.  Roaming near the farm of my older daughter's then boyfriend's parents, he was afraid to come near us, but continued to stay close to the highway where he must have been dumped.  This was in the spring of 2009, so it may have been that he was just too large a dog for someone to have to pay to feed.  He was finally lured in with bits of pork loin from dinner from the night before.  My youngest daughter, a sophomore in college in Kansas City, claimed him, and he became her best and closest friend for the next six years.

Huge, with a head the size of a platter, and deep booming bark, we figured Cash to be mostly Mastiff.  In the spring of 2015, our youngest daughter's life took a turn  where dogs weren't allowed, and Cash came to live with us.  For the first few weeks he was depressed, and ate just barely enough to keep going, but gradually, he began to adjust to life without his Goddess.  It wasn't so bad--two little dogs to play with, a huge back yard to protect, dirt to roll in, and best of all, a fairly constant desert sun to warm his aging bones. This winter, on a daily basis, a murder of crows filled the branches of the elm trees in our yard, keeping the air alive with their continual cawing, co-existing with Cash in his new life.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Blue House 2016


Here's what I can tell you about the painting:  it's about trying to do what's best, but still living with the fears and anxieties of both the known and the unknown. There is faith, but there is also doubt about doing the right thing, about being the best parent or spouse or partner or friend.  It's about what happens inside that house: good, bad or indifferent, we don't know, but can only guess.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Angry Mother 2016


I'm  a child of the 50's, as is my husband, and we are both products of Angry Mothers.  To this day, my husband gets nervous when someone starts vacuuming, PTSD from having his mother yank the Hoover around as she furiously cleaned house.  My Angry Mother memories are of slamming drawers and smoldering silences, her anger flaring up when I would become sad or angry myself.  50's mothers weren't supposed to show anger or be angry or even have negative thoughts.  But of course they did, and because they had to appear to be fine, all went inward and then projected back out when least expected--fires that, once they received  oxygen, couldn't stop burning.