Monday, November 21, 2011

When Death Comes: Mary Oliver, oak leaf shapes, oil paint, red leaves

Oak Leaf Shapes, oil on canvas, © 2011, Sukie Curtis (unfinished?)
Yesterday, on a very mild November day, with a gang of tufted titmice scolding us and nuthatches chattering from the overhanging branches of evergreens, we buried the ashes of my mother-in-law in a cemetery in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. This recent painting, inspired by an oak branch in a bottle, seems somehow appropriate to the occasion.

At the graveside, our prayers were accompanied by a psalm and Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes."

"When Death Comes"  by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daily, and as singular;

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my lie something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Painting Radishes 1

Small Square Radishes, oil on canvas, © 2011 Sukie Curtis

I paint radishes more than I eat them. That's just the way it is! 

I can hardly resist buying new bunches of them at the farmers market, even when I have an older bunch at home. But I've learned that they keep an impressively long time in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and can be my painting models and muses many times over, though their greens go limp and eventually rot. 

Even then, the life force and the "urge" to live and create new life is so strong in them that in the dark and cold of the refrigerator drawer, old radishes will sprout vigorous new root hairs and even pale, spindly greens. They are built to live and flourish.

And to ravish the eyes: such lovely round, though not perfectly round, shapes! such whimsical, quirky tails! and such colors! 

These days radishes come in more than just shades of red, crimson, and pink; there's deep blue-violet, wild magenta, pale pink, and a blush creamy white. And if that's not enough, you can always make up other colors as you paint them! Why not?

Which reminds me: the collage artist and children's book author and illustrator Eric Carle has a new book out, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. Carle calls it "an homage to the Expressionist painter Franz Marc." Carle was inspired at a young age by Marc's work when a teacher showed him his painting of a blue horse.