Monday, December 5, 2011
This piece started with Minnie's head. Minnie was a pinto mare that my friend Colleen had happened upon during the six years that she and her family lived in Albuquerque. Colleen knew next to nothing about horses, and I know a lot, so over the period of time that Colleen's family owned Minnie, I taught Colleen how to ride and much about the care and feeding of a horse. Colleen was head over heels in love with Minnie, and in middle age, had became passionate about horses, something I hadn't felt for years. Minnie was in her 20's when Colleen got her(she was a gift) which is rather old in horse years, but she was in good shape, calm, pretty, and fun to ride. When Colleen's husband found another job in the Midwest, they gave Minnie back to her original owner, sold their house, packed their belongings and moved on. I had no other friend quite like Colleen, and even though I knew we would keep in touch, it wouldn't be the same.
Because of her advanced age, I knew that Minnie might very well not be around anymore. When I came across Minnie's image in my studio, I found myself thinking about a painting that would have to do with dying. As a young adult, I had read the book I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. In the book, Craven used owls to symbolize death, which has evolved into my own world view. I'd photographed some concrete owls at a roadside stand a few years earlier, so I started my image-building with the owls and a photograph of Minnie's head. The painting evolved slowly and painfully-as usual. But gradually, the visual order became clear to me, and I understood where I needed to go. The geese became helpers, who were accompanying, and even lifting Minnie and her rider through the gates. The owls watched quietly over it all, and the Navajo rug in our family room became the portal that Minnie and her rider strode through. I had thought the painting was about Minnie's passing, and about death, going through that portal, whatever that is. However, I realize now that the painting also has to do with the smaller losses that all of us experience, the things we lose that we know we can never have back. In my case, it was losing the day to day closeness of a personal relationship; my friendship with Colleen.