I thought I’d use this recovery time to catch up on a few contacts which have not, until now, actually made it into the blog. Sometimes we just get brief, one-time visits from people on the other side, sometimes they just want to chime in, sometimes they heard about us and were curious, sometimes Sweetie is curious about them and seeks them out.
A month or two ago, Sweetie made contact with Mark Rothko, a well-known painter who died in 1970, or as I call him, “The guy who paints rectangles.” I used to work at a store that sold mass-produced reproductions of popular works of art from Klimt, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Monet, with the odd, token female artist like Emily Carr or deLempicka tossed into the mix for good measure. Of these artists, we sold maybe five different prints, kind of like selling the same few singles over and over and over. Consequently, I started to categorize Klimt as “The Kiss Guy”, Van Gogh as “The Sad Sunflowers” Salvador Dali as “Melting Clocks dude” and Kandinsky as “Triangle Guy”.
The guy who paints rectangles was one of those artists I just didn’t understand why he was popular. I mean, check it out:
I could do that. Right?
Well, Sweetie started talking about / to him and we struck up a conversation with Rothko while walking on the beach one sunny afternoon. Here’s how he explained his work to me:
Shows me an empty room. The walls, furniture, lamps all trappings of comfort are in neutral colour. Fades out of focus and shows me the colour of greenish grey over the whole space, gives me the complete feeling of boredom, but also tension, waiting for something.
Shows me the light change. It’s getting later in the day. The grey aura in the room is edged in brown, expectation.
Jumps ahead – the room is full of people. It’s a party for artists. All the famous people are there. Mark is holding a drink that looks like scotch with ice, and he’s observing the room. He sees an animated woman talking passionately about politics, shows me the excitement, conflict, energy, enthusiasm in the room, this push-pull desire to leave but wanting to stay. The energy of the people in the room is an excited red-orange. It hangs in a cloud, overlapping the original energy of the room from earlier in the day. It’s the colours representing the feelings of the room.
This is why people liked my work, and they never understood it.
I thought that was really cool, and I have such a respect for Mark’s work now that I understand what he was showing. It was irreverent, like his paintings were simply mirrors of the atmosphere of rooms, situations, dynamics, history, and the future. The future was always dark, he adds. Until I had children. He shows me he struggled to paint the future brighter for his children, but the underlying pessimism of his personality always came through.
Another artist Sweetie contacted was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. She started talking about him on another beach walk, saying he was a writer. Before she could say anything else, I got this strong image in my head of a guy in brown formal, old-fashioned clothing, a white collar, thick eyebrows and longish brown hair. And a moustache. My brain put all these elements together and to me, he reminded me of Charlie Chaplin. The next thing he was showing me was the “drinky-drinky” motion, and I asked, “He’s showing me that he drank a lot, and there’s this feeling of addiction. Was he an alcoholic?” Sweetie thought that sounded right, but it’d been a long time since art school for her so she wasn’t sure.
Meanwhile, Sam was shaking his head “no” to alcohol, but kept making the “drinky drinky” motion. It wasn’t alcohol, it was something else. It turns out, it was laudanum, tincture of opium – a medication which was given to him for childhood ailments and resulted in a lifelong opium addiction. A medication that was supposed to be doled out a teaspoon at a time, Samuel was going through four cups per week of the stuff by the end of his life (he died in 1820).
Samuel talked about his addiction and health isses more than he did about his work. He talked about transforming pain and sadness into beauty, that this was a sacred contribution of an artist to the world. We haven’t had long, in-depth conversations with Samuel, but he does come up randomly and pretty frequently, particularly when Sweetie is reading about dreams; some of Samuel’s famous works were inspired by his own dreams. We do feel him hanging out sometimes, but he’s more of a watcher than a talker.
(Monet’s painting “Chef Pere Paul”)
Finally, there’s been this french chef hanging out with Sweetie in the kitchen, criticizing and influencing her cooking. This guy is hilarious, and we have no idea who he is. Sweetie was reading about the French town of Perigeux, which is famous for a particular brown sauce to be served with meat. It’s made with Portuguese wine and truffles. “Oh,” Sweetie surmised. “It’s like brown mushroom sauce.”
Non! NON! Sacre Bleu, NON!!!
Brown mushroom sauce in a can, which Sweetie was mentally picturing and compating to this gorgeous french truffle sauce, is so offensive on prinicple to this french chef that his revulsion echoed in our kitchen for hours. He’s been hanging out, commenting on the strangeness of the sauces we tend to make, like mixing Helman’s mayonnaise (pre-made from a plastic jar) with canned chipolte peppers to make chilpolte mayo as a dip for baked sweet potato fries. He shakes his head, with the message, You (people), you do not know how to eat! Don’t get this guy started on Kraft Dinner.
He has been quietly influencing Sweetie’s cooking, as she’s started to incorporate more wine, richer ingredients, and utilizing french cooking techniques like “deglazing” and making dishes like “mushroom stroganoff” – not a french dish to be sure, but certainly a fancier undertaking than our usual beans and rice, and it involved a respectable amount of red wine. Today she brought home the ingredients for chocolate truffles, her second attempt this month.
So there it is, my version of an “outtakes” entry for our blog.