September 17th – 19th, 2021 – Ashcroft, CO Ghost Town
The Lilac Hour is an exhibition of two dimensional works (paintings, textiles and works on paper) as well as an unfinished poetic essay. The writing will be read by me on site on Saturday, September 18th around 3pm.
With encouragement from my husband, Matt Tripodi, and Leon Gallery, I enrolled in a writing course at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in early 2021. The intention was to capture the remaining memories I have of my father, who passed away ten years ago. I constructed a slightly abstract piece of writing that also interlaced current observations. Those observations seemed to highlight or put my memories into a new perspective, leading me to think about time,
and the non-linear journey of life. (For a beautiful example of this, please look up a favorite book of mine, Ava, by Carole Maso).
Instead of following a curated path, I allowed myself to take the next step that presented itself to me, believing that each impulse was something to explore whether or not I could see it’s greater connection to a whole. I began to work concurrently on two dimensional works. After many months I could see that I had given myself space to explore in a naive way. I could see the difference in the freedom I had working in a medium that I couldn’t judge myself in vs. visual art I have been immersed in for over twenty years. I would return to my paintings after writing, finding that same feeling, freeing myself in marks and abstractions even within a representational work and letting go of the consideration of the outside world and how it might be perceived or whether or not it “fit”. I find through all of this I am rejecting even more the sense of a “brand” or a single identity. My writing practice has illuminated the deep feelings and motivations I have in creating works that describe how I think something feels, rather than how it looks. It has also confirmed my belief that my process and my works are an ongoing conversation and discovery.
I share this body of work with you, but I am also sharing it with myself. I hope to reflect on what I have created so far in the hopes that I can look upon the works in this place and let them back into me. Then I can start to consider how to conclude this particular piece of writing.
You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting..
Whenever you get there, there is no there there.
The LIlac Hour:
I am not a poet. I am a painter.
I am a poet. I am a painter.
I am a poet.
Give it back to the weight of the earth.
Perhaps we could release the heaviness. We could walk out into the clearing or to the wet edge of the shore. We could kneel and pretend to pray, we could breathe it out like a lion’s breath, shooting forward. First from our lungs, then deeper, retching it from our bellies- caving into the space before us, arching to get it, every last bit of it, out of us.
And then we’d brush off our knees, little pebbles and sticky shells glued to our skin. All that remain are deep pink dents on my knees where those seashells dug in. The pressure, once there, only a memory.
to carry you
into the sun.
Fingertips fingers palms up outstretched
out the window
Pointing, but, to nothing
Just to fight
Pressure of the wind
Pushing the hand up, Pushing against
keeping it afloat
keeping the momentum – keeping – up
I hold on, you Hold on
To you me
I held on- tight, loose, hands, bodies
Touching fingertips, in my mind, touching light
And I strap you to my core, my middle.
Like the baby I held in my womb
I hold on for my ever forever
Until we meet the Sun.
I have a memory, and that is a lot for me. It starts with a trip to West Virginia. My dad asks me to accompany him somewhere, a minor errand in his red truck. I get in and allow the open window and bright sun to envelop me. I close my eyes occasionally. I was allowed to be quiet with him, peaceful. I wasn’t prodded.
He pulled over and entered the drive of an old colonial with a large presence and wrapped porch. Southern, uncovered by trees, drenched in the sun in the open space. Brick. I didn’t ask what we were doing, I followed.
I don’t remember much more now except the flowers. As we moved to the back of the house there was (or at least, I think there was) an enormous span of foxgloves. The whole yard. Stunning colors, bees and flies and petals everywhere. They towered over me. I moved in and out of them. I loved it so much. I lost myself among the pink and white and violet and blue jewels. And I know it was all on purpose, just to see me so pleased.
I love that memory.
I spent the last twenty minutes googling crawfish boil shipments. The task, the one I was assigned, was to look at two tarot cards and respond to them. These cards make me nervous, and therefore I prefer to think about and peruse celebratory food and food related items.
What even is a pentacle? Why is it so ominous looking? In all of my studies of symbols the pentacle has not been a popular one. I recall that creepy old movie with Johnny Depp I am pretty sure is titled Ninth Gate. I prefer to look at the crawfish in their freezer tubs.
I googled the five-of-pentacles. I needed to know. “One of Minor Arcana’s toughest cards”. Great. I learn that this card raises more questions than gives us answers. Two impoverished individuals out in the cold with possible salvation nearby. Do they see it? Do they want it?
I go back to thinking about my seafood party. We will spread the crawfish (or crayfish, or crawdads to some) on a proper newspaper covered table. The seasoning and corn and potatoes just like Mark used to do in Brooklyn years ago. Beer (and champagne, because I am older now and more concerned with my waistline) and wet napkins and music.
I plan on ordering East Coast oysters for this as well since they are the most interesting thing to me currently. In fairness, they’ve always been interesting to me. Also, Sarah had her very first one at Clay Club the other day and now I must crusade to make sure everyone knows how great oysters are.
What makes the seafood party so exceptionally celebratory? It gets me ridiculously excited. I can see friends using their messy hands, reaching for the same shellfish. I dream of the heaps of heavily seasoned shellfish and those beautiful slices of yellow lemons strewn about. The hot red of that shell. The way the oysters, wet and sloppy, glisten in their beds of quickly melting ice. Doesn’t it all seem so simple and yet so decadent? I want to suck down the taste of a low tide on Long Island or crunch the shell knowing we’ve got thirty pounds of Louisiana laying bare and ready in front of us. I want the sun to set and strawberry painted glasses to be emptied. I want to watch everyone lean back and close their eyes, content and bellies full. I want to hold onto these moments, maybe the moments that make us feel at home. I want to be home. I want to feel home.
A List of Oysters
Blue Point (this choice is rather obvious, considering its ubiquity)
The chargrilled oysters from Felix’s in New Orleans
anything coming out of the Great South Bay or the Long Island Sound.
and anything you can get sitting at the counter at the oyster bar in Grand Central.
And I suppose I can appreciate the Pacific NW oysters such as the kumamoto, for their ability to sway non-oyster people into becoming novice oyster people.
They track the heavens.
I finished a book recently. It had the word cosmos in the title. In it, the author talks about living creatures and their relationships with the moon, the sun, and the stars. One story stood out to me.
In 1954, biologist Frank Brown discovered a wonderful thing about oysters. In February of that year, Brown transplanted oysters from Connecticut to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They were placed in a lab where they were shielded from any major environmental changes or light. In their briny tubs, the oysters continued to open and feed around the time of their New Haven high tide. But within weeks, the oysters, having settled into their new environment, adjusted their feeding activity to match the tide according to the local moon. That is, if Evanston Illinois were to have a high tide, those oysters could feel the gravitational pull of the moon above them and obediently open their shells for food.
I like to think that he illuminated the oysters’ relationship with the universe.
My father had an unusual and vast knowledge of plants. You pointed, he named it. He didn’t like cutting down trees. He planted hundreds of tulips and lilies in our front yard under the dogwoods. He had a stunning vegetable garden. He knew what it meant. He made you love it too. You point, and I name it.
Growing up, the lilacs were some of the first to bloom. My dad maintained them, and my mother cut them and placed them on our nightstands every year. The comforting scent of a fresh lilac gives me home.
After a week in New York, I started to have heavy thoughts about my own memories of home. Had I created these memories from only small fantasies? Was this place, that I wear like armor, that I consider my rock, was this ever what I remember it as? Could a person’s memory of home, could it actually be a person- a person that manifests those things, that creates the place in their simple existence in that place? Memories of a person are really memories of the things they loved. Could my father have loved Long Island so much that he became Long Island to me, in my memory?
So I long for home. I’ve spent months aching to walk beaches, to feel breezes and cloudy skies, to find peace,
only to find it doesn’t exist?
Have I imagined this? That place that knew what time it was?
It never existed. I made it up. Or he made it up? And I lived and grew within his creation of the place. So those memories aren’t real.
So what is home? Especially when he’s gone. Home is nowhere. Home is heartbreakingly gone. There is no home. And I’ll spend the rest of my life only in the memory of home. Always searching for things that satiate me. Crooked cakes made by hands I long to hold.
I had to go home, I had to lift the veil and see the wizard.
Or, see that I was the wizard and I had sewn and lifted my own curtain. I admit I cannot transcend my personal anguish as Newman and Motherwell would want me to. But I want to express the moments where we cross the void. I want to express the moments where we’ve experienced our own sublime, our own totality.
All space is reflective considering we must bring ourselves into it.
Oysters and the creation of the pearl. I am the oyster.
Glistening in my quickly melting bed of ice.
Wisdom for composing my poetic memoir:
See the Sky.
Consequence of Vagrancy
In the opening stanza of her poem.
Jubilance knows, and longing acquiesces.
In the shops all along money acts like home.
Not to be deciphered from her position
In the tasting delicately raised
Close eyes and see myself home.
And so what of Colorado?
I see the sky, I think about it constantly. It welcomed me first. It presented that October as dreary and cold. It fooled me and made me question what I had done. Why did I come here? When people ask, how was it when you first moved here, how did you feel having never visited?
I tell them about the sky. The sky was grey, it was wet and heavy and small. I thought I had made a mistake. I waited a few days and drank away my worry at a bar with a kind tender. I woke to a new sky, huge. Enormous! It was the biggest sky I had ever witnessed. How could this sky be so much bigger than where I had come from?
The sky has been generous to me over time.
List of things I have been gifted from the sky:
Magpies (my absolute favorite and by far the most shocking of bird sightings upon arrival)
Red tail hawks
Doves (A pair, of course, they often hang out on the electrical wires before coming to visit the space under the birdfeeder. One usually follows the other)
Red Winged Blackbirds (admittedly, I most often see these low in the sky and travelling from high grasses, back and forth near the creek).
It is some kind of adventure to run out to your budding June garden with your at-the-ready tarps trying to shield little plants from the quick and immediate terror of the hail. When I say terror, I mean anxiety-inducing spontaneous, terrifying hail that will pummel those baby plants and destroy the month-long effort you made towards a plentiful late summer feast of vegetables.
Food is at the core of my existence. Not because of its nourishment. Currently my family is gathering around an extra (albeit, excessively) long dining table. I imagine my sister has the table dressed in a spring themed decor, probably with a touch of tackiness, but also, totally comforting. Everyone will yell and chatter, most of the time interrupting and talking over one another. It’s the way we do things. Over my lifetime, I have been frustrated by this, proud of this, then ashamed or in a place trying to overcome, and now I have circled back to pride. Fuck it. Be free, be open. Don’t play with etiquette rules, get excited when you talk and discuss. Get in arguments, raise your voice. We do it in love. We do it because we feel safe and loved. Judgement is light and somewhat forgotten, overpowered by the longing for each other’s company.
And there is Matt, my love, unexpectedly in Tennessee, sitting on a couch in the dark, no sunlight coming through those windows. Still without a morning boost of caffeine. Every man for himself down there.
I can look out the window and see for hundreds of miles. I see small foothills speckled with stubborn snow. I see wispy clouds and every now and again, a large hawk gliding.
When you see the hawk, the space compresses. As if miles and miles of land become just a number of yards in the sky above it. What must it feel like to own so much territory so easily? If I were to traverse the same amount of space, I would have to navigate man-made roads and barriers, I would have to wind around the hills. It would take me much longer and I would need a destination. I couldn’t swing around, looping and improvising. It sometimes stops for a moment on the top of a tall pine. Maybe a blue spruce? We have a lot of those nearby, the one in our backyard must be at least sixty feet tall.
I sit here now, leaving the doors open to the back. I can see the spruce. I can hear so many bird calls. A layering of the morning sparrows and towhees. I don’t really know what they are, but I like to pretend. But I do know I didn’t hear any of them back in Brooklyn. I don’t even remember seeing them. I don’t really know if they weren’t there.. Maybe? But I know I didn’t notice.
the lilac hour
I have two homes.
Two that hold me in their arms.
Two that claim me, two that
I have two homes
Two that tell me I am safe, I am here, my feet can attach to this ground.
Two that take me off that ground.
Two that set me free.
I have two homes.
One that rises with majesty.
One that sweeps the horizon with silver.
Two that wrap me in their beauty. Two that tell me they are bigger than me.
Two that tell me
in breezes, in space, in smells, in taste, in being, in memories, in suns, in moons, in breathing,
I have two homes.
I think most people think of the sea as something vast, uncontrollable, angry.
I know that holds true.
I just don’t think of it that way. I think of it as calming, all encompassing. It stands to remind me that I am small, I am insignificant. That’s a good feeling after all. As much as I try to control and manage and conduct and construct,
It doesn’t matter.
and that helps.
I fell in love with Matt on the beach. It was his first time on Fire Island. We had separated from the group on my sister’s boat, walked over the stile toward the dunes to the horizon-spreading-buff-colored sandy beach. The water, as always, was silver and sparkling. We sat down on a long piece of driftwood and I will never remember what we talked about. I can recall the way my chest filled up. I was overcome. I remember this feeling, sort of like soft air filling my body, slowly making its way up toward my eyes. I looked at him and I just fell in love. It was just like that. Who knew it could be so simple?
People love to talk about aqua or turquoise colored water, but have you seen the New York beaches? That silver sparkle.
It’s something you didn’t know you were looking for.
(And in the best and least mature way possible, I write the word space and hear Conan O’Brien sing “In the year 2000…” )
The sensation of touching a blank, newly stretched canvas is a phenomenon. I tingle. The amount of space ready to be filled (or not) is tremendous, no matter the size of the canvas. In each step of the process, no matter my concept or however in love I am with my own marks, I ache to keep the negative space. The untouched.
It isn’t just that the space is negative, “empty”, or innocent. The space is saddled against life. It’s edge to edge with human expression. The broad stroke of a rough oil slick brush against a dry, matte and vast piece of raw canvas. That action, that juxtaposition compresses the space. And by compressing it, it activates and energizes it, giving it tension, making it just as powerful as the positive, figure-filled space.
I continue to contemplate the irony in the feeling of totality achieved by immersing yourself in a large expanse of space.
Somehow, and for some unknown reason, at seventeen I made my way down to DC to see a top tiered show at the time, Elton John and BIlly Joel. Why I didn’t see Billy in NY is beyond me, but typical of my increasingly bad memory, I have no idea why I was in DC for this show and I am just guessing at who I was with. I think John? But then sometimes I can see my mom. I can’t make sense of it.
I can see, however, quite vividly, this ridiculously hot wave of light. The show was just days after George Harrison had passed, and in a breathtaking tribute, Elton and Billy played Here Comes The Sun.
I can see them on that enormous stage, dueling pianos, (post Billy gyrating and humping his), gently singing and swaying with a respectful heartache. Each time they would reach the chorus, a massive bright yellow light would pass over the entire venue, a sun rising in a fast forward. It was spectacular. Somehow it felt warm. It enveloped me even in the bad seats. All while little piano notes played the soft and melancholic melody only George could write.
This morning, on my way back from dropping Nico at school, a standards and stories spot came through the speakers. The DJ said that, interestingly, the most streamed Beatles songs since their portfolio appeared on streaming platforms about ten years ago, was not what you’d expect. Instead of the ever loved Yesterday by Paul or the beloved songs like Hey Jude by John, it was George’s songs that have received the most play. Here Comes the Sun is so needed by people that it prevails as the most listened to above all others.
I drive and think about my paintings. I see Mateo’s face soaked by sunlight streaming through a large old window. Surrounded by plants, face comforted by two soft hands under the chin. His eyes are closed, still and peaceful, safe even. The brightness covering his eyes and nose and the tops of his lips are a terrific hansa yellow.
I can feel that hot soaking sun. It stops me, I gain energy and stillness from it. I crave hours sitting in the grass, eyes closed, letting that hot burning sun onto and into my body, scorching me a deep pink like a grapefruit until I just can’t bear it any more.
They promised you heaven, but hear me, see it, it’s been here the whole time. You’ve been here the whole time.
It’s been here,
It isn’t easy to speak of the stars
It isn’t easy to comprehend
Dark sky spots,
I see it and I float. I float off my feet and into my mind. I have no grounding. I have no place.
I am one.
I am a part of something. I am the
I struggle to find hues bright enough to express the radiant light of the humans I paint. As vibrant and delicious as I can get them, it still isn’t enough.
The lilac hour
The words hold more pigment than the sight of it
Newman’s concept of the sublime: Something that gives one the feeling of being where one is, of the here and now, courageously confronting the human fate.
Sublime is an absolute emotion, sublime as exaltation, boundlessness and divinity.
I think I live in a state of the sublime, if it means I stare into human fate. It’s my constant and persisting existence. Sometimes, it allows me to live in gratitude, looking around me, savoring. Sometimes, it creates a pit of dread in the depth of my chest. I ache thinking of the possibility of death. This is not a selfish feeling, I dread everyone’s death. Most of all, my children. I think of how beautiful life is and how absolutely false each breath and step is that we take.
I don’t want death. I don’t want any more of it.
The most brutal part is that I couldn’t be more out of control of this certainty.
He used to laugh as the piss clams would squirt up and get ya.
I researched piss clams today. I haven’t read it all through but so far it’s very entertaining. Also, what a delight to find my fathers name for them was fairly common New England speak. Piss clams. Otherwise known as steamers. They are incredibly phallic, to the point that no one would want to be photographed unassuming with this in their palm. They are also, apparently, delicious. I can’t recall ever catching them to bring them home in the lot. We would poke at them so they would spit their little defense juice at you. They would then sink down again into the silt. We didn’t feast on them.
I can see Stony Brook harbor. This remains the most clam friendly little marsh in my childhood memory. I can imagine the clam rakes and the way my toes felt in the muck. What a word, muck. That mineral rich silky mud. Filled with creatures. Clams and crabs and little bugs. And enough birds to eat them all. To be honest, I don’t know if we ever clammed there. My parents partied there. I got many a bagel with an excessive amount of cream cheese there. But, did we clam? I don’t know.
Friends of my parents had a beach house in Stony Brook. Right on West Meadow Beach. The sunsets were memorable. The strip was a straight line of little houses, all the decks spilling out onto the best little private beach in the area. So many of my childhood photos are from Rody and Donald’s house. One of me on the floor with a vodka bottle in my hands. I was probably a year old. One of me on the deck in someone’s captain hat, a stinker of a face. My hair was sun streaked blonde and my bathing suit frilled at the shoulders. I visited again when I was a teenager. I had my first drinks there. Christy, Rody and Donald’s daughter, gave me some Malibu rum and pineapples and we walked up and down the strip of sandy pavement, wobbling and sugared up.
Those houses are all gone now. The town took them back. The tenants had a hundred year lease (or something like that) and it was up. The beach belongs to itself again. Sunsets for the birds to sing to.
MEMORY – MEMENTO
As I put this little measuring wheel in my hand, I sense a small chill. Goosebumps roll over my skin. It stays here now. It has a new home on my dresser. A home not deserving of it. My mom really surprised me this time, bringing me so many little things when previously I was told there was nothing to give.
But what did he use it for exactly? Was he just keeping it, like a little treasure, like he did with so many things he found admirable? Did he ever take it out, scroll it along a map with his silly glasses on, making measurements? The numbers look so tiny on it’s measuring face. The little roller still works great.
I can see him now, sitting at the table, a large map splayed out under his nose, the sound of the paper crinkling. Maybe he’s deciding on a new route down the coast.
My father must have planned many drives in his life. He was familiar with corners of my neighborhood in Brooklyn I didn’t know about. I had definitely spent more time there, but he knew the shortcuts. He knew where to find the magic.
List of odd things my dad collected:
An antique Native American bow and Arrow that was taller than me
A brass lamp I was told was worth hundreds
A perfect pencil sharpener
Old bottles (various glass colors, I remember a lot of blue)
Furniture. All kinds of “to-be-restored-beautiful-wood” furniture.
Wood planers –
This includes all kinds of incredible woodworking tools. I thought these were just the most wonderful things when I was small. My fathers czech family came from bohemia as cabinetmakers, woodworkers, furniture makers. They continued that when they arrived in NY in the late nineteenth century and my father himself was brilliant at restoring old furniture. He loved to save things and bring them back to their original glory. He took on too many projects and didn’t finish many of them.
I miss his grumpy face. I miss him unexpectedly showing up at my door at the crack of dawn. I miss the from-the-early-morning cold Handy Pantry coffee cup still sipped at 4pm in that little red truck.
I once had a dream. It wasn’t long after he passed. My father walked into a room, and the crowd of people parted, knowing he was meant for me. They created an avenue and he slowly moved through it. I remember standing up, making only a few steps happen but somehow reaching him. And there it was. The warmest and most powerful embrace. My head reaching only his chest, tucked under his chin. He felt fuzzy. I could feel it. I can feel it. This fuzzy sweater, knitting him and I together, his arms wrapped around me. He held me, and I let go. Not of him, but of the pain. I know he said something to me, he said something comforting and quiet just to me. But I can’t remember it now. It’s gone like so many things about him. But that feeling stays with me. I have that. I can still feel it when I want to, that warm fuzzy sweater and that safe place.
My Father loved.
drinking (in fairness he might have hated this too)
cooking. My dad should have been a chef.
his pets, especially Sylvester.
At my first opening, I stood in the front hall of the gallery as the director spoke to the crowd. I could see my dad crying in the very back of the room.
The sun, in all its splendor,
that hot soaking sun.
That sun, with dappled light
freckling my hand my face my neck
That sun, pulling us near it,
the fundamental ticking clock
The dandelions have started to arrive. In the last week, both children (separately) have come to me, clutching hands around their burst of yellow petals, eyes bright staring at their treasure. Both of my babies called that little yellow flower a daffodil. Both let me know that bees love yellow and that this flower will be crucial to their existence. Of course, they ignored the fact that the flower was no longer attached to its roots outside.
When I corrected Rowan, she confused the name I gave it and the little flower will now forever be known to me as a lion dandy.
I have another memory.
I am on a boat. It might have been the last time we went fishing. I liked to sit on the bow of the boat and taste the salt in the air. Daddy and Jr. were driving fast. We had just passed through the Shinnecock Canal. I didn’t catch anything that day. I was now a college student. I was hungover. I am pretty sure we came home with a bucket of lobsters that day, like so many other days.
I told Marsha today that sometimes I cry when I run. She said that sounded nice actually.
Love spun into gold
The lilac hour
A frequently googled question: What determines the sky’s colors at sunset and sunrise?
Scattering. Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of the light rays, causing them to scatter. The difference in the sun’s location, against the horizon in the case of sunrise and sunset, means more room or a longer path for the colors to separate. The blue and the violet move and allow the other colors to reach your eyes, such as yellow and orange and of course, red.
home is there where over here there
is home there