Monday, September 29, 2008

Mona Lisa Smile

We borrowed the DVD and watched it for the second time. I didn't know we'd seen it until part way through and I said, "This is the one with the paint-by-numbers."

I had to wonder why that detail, of all things, stuck in the brain that couldn't remember seeing the movie in the first place. The PBN (paint by number) scenes turned out to reveal the thesis of the movie, to wit, that an artist is popularized by the masses and never by the critics. (I wanted to add that popularity rarely comes in time to put supper on the table, a table in the house, or the house around the artist. But that isn't true, nor is it the premise of the movie.)

So, the idea is that if we are going to remain true to ourselves, that will make sense later in life. I'm thinking that what I'm doing might not make sense until later in someone else's life... if ever.

Today is my painting day. I'm writing this blog between canvases. I could hardly get started again after the poison of judgments that have flown about my head lately. So, I set aside my head and let my heart paint. I was afraid to paint. I got some greys on the canvas. Some delicious sweet and savory greys. I made some marks. I was about to freeze on marking the next canvas when I saw drips from the first splotching the surface. That freed me to make whatever mistakes I will proceed to make. So, I'm on with it then.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My dad decided to buy the abstract painting that he has been baby-sitting for me. It is titled "The Space Between" and is full of computer components and painted entirely in 0's and 1's. I was thinking of our techno-busy lives and how it is such a breath of fresh air when the computer goes down, the electricity off, and all our conveniences let go of us. Then there's just space.

When dad first saw it, not knowing the title, he said, "I see that you painted my brain." I laughed, told him the title, and said maybe I was thinking of the space between his ears. He has since re-named it "My Brain Headache" as a play on words for migraine headache.

Dad's purchase of the painting is very strange because of my receiving from him two emails saying that Picasso was an abomination. The last one said that Picasso should have been stoned to death. Then I got dad's opinion that I was smart to sign my abstracts with a nom de plume (Kala Kale: Sarah Charles in Hawaiian) in order to hide my real identity on that sort of work. The painting that dad purchased was one of my first abstracts, and I was embarrassed to think at the time of creation that he might ever see it and know I did it.

I have some things figured out about all of this. First, the purchase is a mercy mission. Dad knows that the shop is slow, and it's his way of giving us some money. Second, a part of dad actually likes the painting, although he hasn't said that and probably never will. Just by sitting with it for these weeks, it started to have a conversation with him and asked him some questions he hadn't previously entertained. Third, I did a good job protecting my developing abstract-artist self from a mean man. I am now more immune to his scathing opinions, but not entirely. If he had hit me with "this is trash but I'll buy it from you" when I was starting out, I wouldn't have painted again.

I don't know how to help my dad to creative freedom. But I can see now that his criticisms are much more painful for his life than they could ever be for me. My job, if I choose to accept it, is to keep from holding my opinions and beliefs so solidly that they become my prison.

It's my blessing to dad that the painting will continue to converse with him, and give him permission to open the non-existent barriers.