My parents were both artists. I loved my dad’s bronze, emotive sculptures. My mom’s artwork, however I didn’t appreciate.
Oh, I appreciated that my mom was a passionate, creative woman who welded, sculpted, designed one of a kind jewelry and painted into the wee hours.
I loved having a studio in the house with access to all sorts of materials, learning and creative expression.
What I didn’t appreciate was my mom’s outrageous concepts, compositions and color combinations.
My mom and I shared art – both as writers and as visual artists. It was where we met most most joyously and easily.
I didn’t tell her, but I think she gathered – that I didn’t care for or appreciate her art. It was so….unpretty, out-of-the-box and disturbing.
I remember when she proudly hung her latest painting next to the piano where I practiced daily. It was a large square painting with black spray paint covering the outer third of the canvas, petering out with cloudlike edges, revealing a grayish white background in the central portion. Then, in precise hard lines was painted a scarlet red set of lips – mouth or vagina – I’m not sure. And coming out through these labia, a torn white lace hankie.
Between songs, I studied this anomaly on the wall next my piano bench. I didn’t get it. And I didn’t like it. The painting wasn’t pretty. It was strange.
My mom’s latest work of art didn’t make sense to me. I thought it was silly. Funny, even. So I decided to play with it, to interact.
Next time I had a dried, wrinkled used piece of Kleenex, I tore part of it, elongating the stiff white tissue. I then carefully threaded one end of the Kleenex through the hole in the torn hankie, chuckling gleefully. I didn’t mean to be cruel, I was responding honestly to what the piece was to me: ridiculous.
My mom was upset and surely felt disrespected, because I got a talking to that drilled into me the absolute requirement to treat other’s art with respect.
In the last years of my mother’s life we were sitting together discussing art, or maybe the way I dressed, and she told me I was a colorist.
I had never heard the term before, but I took it as a compliment and inherently understood the term to describe me appropriately.
Growing up amid my mom’s large car parts sculptures and paintings, I inwardly grimaced at her color combinations.
I described my mom’s use of color as dissonant. She juxtaposed sharp-colored forms with oddly contrasting strong tones. Every time I looked at my mom’s paintings I grimaced inwardly. Why so unpleasant? Did she realize what she was doing? And why was she using such colors that created in me a sensation of unrest?
Now I Understand
Then, tonight, I was weaving a Huichol “Ojo de Dios” (eye of God). The basket filled with pretty balls of yarn on my lap, I stared, aware that I had color decisions to make.
In winding the yarn around the crossed wooden sticks in a spiral fashion, every so often I’d feel the urge to switch to a new color.
Normally, my way has been to juxtapose colors as I would ingredients in cooking, especially when I’m preparing authentic Indian cuisine: what will create a harmonious, pleasing affect? What will bring upliftment and depth to the spirit?
Tonight though, as I gazed inside the basket waiting for the tone and theme of this Ojo de Dios to reveal itself to me as inspiration, I made a new type of color decision:
I decided to wind whichever color I felt like, regardless of how it would look, next to the previous color. So whatif convention or my normal sensibilities would not be soothed or touched warmly. In fact, GOOD if that does happen! I don’t needto please anyone or make anything pretty or conventionally pleasing. I don’t have to be smart. I can be without control. Wild and without order; the only order being my acceptance, admission and proclamation of the non-sensical, seemingly random, misfitting, unpretty, displeasing aspect of life.
Fuck, life is like this and so I can be too. There is no one to please, no one to impress. I’m winding yarn around sticks in the form of a cross and it’s okay not to be the best or even to be “right” in terms of my divine colorist knowing.
This time, I’m letting it go. I’m choosing dissonance, like my mom. Because at this point – coming to terms with and even compassion for my hag-like qualities – I’m allowing a different and other sensibility to enter the creative process: this is how it is. It’s like this. And if you don’t like it, fine. And if you don’t get it, I don’t need you to. But maybe someday, sometime in your advanced years, you will get it too. And we will meet in our outrageousness. Like the Garuda, we will fly by one another on our endless flights, soaring in well-deserved and time-earned freedom.
Robin Rainbow Gate
I help midlife people and beyond to find their inner power, health and well being through slow living
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