Friday, September 21, 2012

The Charcoal Paintings, in-process

When you don't know where to begin, begin where you are.

The Charcoal Paintings, in-process, 5' x 5', willow charcoal on double primed canvas. (Photo taken at night with two daylight bulbs in clamp lamps.)

Some lines from Paul Celan's, 'In Prague':

The half death,
suckled plump on our life,
lay ash-image-true all around us -

we too
went on drinking, soul-crossed, two daggers,
sewn onto heavenstones, wornblood-born


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Early Poem Painting like a Frank Stella

Continuing with my remembrance of my years doing a degree in Fine Arts in the 1970s, and finding myself in the middle of a Conceptual Art era in which I did not belong, I suddenly made the connection with an old painting of mine and Frank Stella's famous stripes

Now I like Frank Stella as a person, - what I have heard of him in interviews (a recent Frank Stella interview with Eleanor Wachtel is brilliant), and his views as espoused in articles I've read over the years. His stripes paintings (what I knew as an art student), however, leave me on the cold side. They are certainly outstanding for their time. It's self-confident work, sure of itself. All the stripes are hand-painted (pencil lines but no tape) too. But do these works of Stella's inspire me, inspire the poetry in me? No, rather, these paintings remind me of good geometry, bordering on an Op Art. Fun, a little play with the way the eye reads its optical images.

I understand that for Stella, abstract art is a type of landscape, this is its European roots, and that his aim was to create art that removed realism, all traces of Renaissance perspective, the way art up to the modern era normally represents the world, and so on. He was enormously successful in his endeavours - at 35 he was the youngest man ever to have a solo retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. His current work, which moves into sculptural paintings, is composed of a complexity of constructions, and is bright and busy as it approaches the rhythms of music, still doesn't make me want to rush to the easel.

Yet, yet. By my fourth year with my very avante guarde art teacher (who did huge 'shit-brown canvases' out of house paint, or made rooms of white sheets), I was very clearly doing 'a Frank Stella.' Why it has taken me this long to realize it, I have no idea.

I don't have a photo of my 'art school' painting - and the colour in these old snapshots does not convey the vibrance of the pure acrylic paint. I never personally liked this painting, though I got a top grade for it, and other people seemed to like it - and have no idea what the poem that I wrote for it was. Also, other than finding it mysteriously resting on the back of a couch in a photo with my Dad in his condo years later, I have no idea what happened to it.

I include some Frank Stellas so you can see what I mean. Mine, of course, a poor derivative, though this was never conscious till now (though I had studied Stella in university, of course I had).

The man in the first two photos with the roundish face and black moustache is my first husband, an Irishman from Dublin - a short early marriage that lasted 2 years. I'm in the 2nd photo (with straightened hair, oh the craziness of youth), you'll figure out which one. My Dad in the last. And then some paintings that are part of the masterpieces of Abstract Expressionism by Frank Stella.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another Photo of My Mother

Still not ready to write of this past week, her death, her cremation, the ways in which it was a blessing and the ways in which it was a trauma. But I've been thinking of this photo, and, piling through dusty photo albums on bookshelves and then in the basement, finally found it. Taken on Adderley Street in Cape Town. I was 23 months old.

Bread for the Birds

I fed the birds out back this morning for my mother. With a half bread-bag of collected bread, it seemed a simple enough offering to one of the good memories. Keesha, my dog, was on a leash, and while she wanted to eat all the crusts, easily accepted being pulled away from the pile. Our kitten always accompanies us on the dog stops by riding on my shoulder, held gently but firmly under my hand, but she was only looking for whatever moves, people, squirrels, birds, falling leaves. Later I watched from the window as the pigeons came, feasted.

Monday, September 17, 2012

My mother died last Thursday, September 13th; the funeral is tomorrow, though it hardly that, she was 89, and outlived all of her siblings and friends, so we will only have an immediate family gathering around her casket before it goes into the crematory fires. I seem to have been in deep meditation since she passed away. It was a good death, coming as a release after years of gradual decline and being fully bedridden after her stroke 6 months ago. She passed away peacefully.

Florence Clews, 1923-2012
Christmas, 2011
Photo by Tara Clews

(Sept 18th. I am still too raw to write. Her funeral was this morning. 
Many blessings, Mom. Love you. xoxo)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My mother just died

My mother just died. 

I wrote this in a Facebook post at 12:28pm on my way to the nursing home where she had lived out her  last months of life.

She died before noon; I was the first family member that the nursing home was able to get in touch with. It was a 10 minute walk through beautiful Annex streets in Toronto. I met my younger brother, Allan, outside the nursing home, and we went in together.

10:41am The Next Day: When a loved one first passes away, there is a feeling of peace, the pain and suffering are gone, and my mother's death was the most peaceful I've seen, she was ready, and a sense of unreality, like they haven't really gone. As the cycles of grief begin their descent through the months ahead, there are painful moments of recognition that the loved one is gone, truly gone, and comforting moments when you still feel them close. Death is a beautiful mystery. She has returned to the Ground of Being. The last time I saw her alive, on Monday, she absolutely glowed, for an hour or so, her skin luminous, her eyes with such depth, she looked very beautiful. I carry this precious image in my heart.

Yesterday, the nursing home allowed us to keep her there for 7 hours after her passing. Family members congregated around her bed. We each mourned and cried and some of us kissed her and we sat talking in the room. This is unusual in our high tech world where death is covered immediately.

I am grateful for these hours in ways I cannot yet articulate.

It will be a very simple funeral, a cremation, with only immediate family early next week. I have become mother-less, but at this moment, it feels as if the whole universe has become my mother.


(ps. I added this post to my blog a month after she died. It was too hard at the time. I also tried to publish the condolences below as a comment, but it exceeds Blogger's comment box word length. )

From Facebook. I wanted to keep these words of condolence which meant so very much to me.

Brenda Clews
September 13 at 12:28pm via mobile · 

My mother just died.


Jennifer Wöhrle -I'm so sorry. Light and love to you.
September 13 at 12:30pm 

Dale Favier -Oh, I'm sorry, dear. xo
September 13 at 12:35pm 

Mawr Gorshin -I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I hope it's a comfort for you to hear that she's surely in a much better place now.
September 13 at 12:37pm · 

Uma Gowrishankar -I am so sorry, dear Brenda Clews.
September 13 at 12:39pm · 

Deb Scott -Oh, my Brenda. I am so sorry. Sending you love and hugs. Oh, Brenda.
September 13 at 12:40pm · 

Kathleen Dowling Singh -I am so sorry, Brenda. May she rest in great peace. Prayers for you.
September 13 at 12:48pm via mobile · 

Bent Lorentzen -Namaste!
September 13 at 12:52pm · 

Patsy Priebe -oh no! Brenda! it took my breath away to see those words! I hope you at least can feel the love and concern of all of your friends. a big hug!
September 13 at 1:06pm · 

Minakshi Watts -Oh my god ! 

I remember you told us some time back that she wasn't keeping too well. 

Sending you a big hug, Brenda.
September 13 at 1:10pm · 

Brandon Pitts -Brenda, I'm so sorry to hear this. My prayers go out to you and your family.
September 13 at 1:19pm · 

Maude McDonald -Brenda, I am so sorry, hun. Having lost my mother, I empathize with your loss. 
You are in my thoughts.
September 13 at 1:24pm · 

Bent Lorentzen -Having this year lost my Ma, the closest person ever to my heart... and just last week lost my beloved little daughter,Shivie, I know nothing anyone says can console the griefs entangled by the loss of your mother, Brenda. Memories of different types, meshed with different senses and emotions, will constantly percolate from out of nowhere or simply by a spoken word or smell.

One thing that interestingly popped into my head a little while ago, while thinking about "death," is what Murray Gell-Mann stated about the reality of being. He was perhaps the greatest physicist of the past half century, one of the very few in the world who might have understand beyond all the mathematics what really sits beneath the everyday time and space reality of physical being. He came up with a ground-breaking theory which he called the Eightfold Way, partly due to the Buddhist tradition. But it was to help explain in physics that the everyday laws that permeate human consciousness to ask any question, well, at the level of atoms and up, that those laws don't apply as you go deeper into core beneath all those particles within particles. That there is a symmetry there which can never be explained even by the paradox of "Is the cat in the box alive or not."

For me it is a process of continuously letting go, for the ego that feels and reacts to the stuff of life is not the true reality, but can, by choice, be the stepping stones to there. Everything your mom evokes for you now can be considered her offerings of those stepping stones, for she's free of all their entanglements now.
September 13 at 1:39pm · 

Brenda Clews T-hank you, beautiful friends, here in Toronto, and on-line around the world. Your condolences are making me weep. With gratitude for you all. Many thanks. I'll write when I can. Blessings. xoxoxoxo
September 13 at 1:52pm · 

Marc Neys -Sorry to hear that. Hope you find a way to grief... Condolences...
September 13 at 1:52pm · 

Steven McCabe -I'm sorry Brenda.
September 13 at 1:54pm · 

Claudia French -My condolences! Big hugs and prayers your way!
September 13 at 1:56pm via mobile · 

Kauser Noorani -My condolences!
September 13 at 1:59pm · 

Miguel Arboleda -Oh Brenda, I'm terribly sorry. My deep condolences.
September 13 at 2:03pm · 

Dick Jones -Peace to her, comfort to you.
September 13 at 2:09pm · 

Christine Cantow Smith -My thoughts and I prayers are with you. I SO UNDERSTAND as dad died a few months ago and mom died 7 years ago. I wish you peace & comfort.
September 13 at 2:22pm via mobile · 

Michelle Shell Rummel -So very sorry to hear, Brenda...
September 13 at 2:27pm · 

William Yong -My condolences to you and your family! Stay strong! Take care!
September 13 at 2:34pm via mobile · 

ParisK Black So very sorry Brenda . My thoughts and Prayers are with you and your family
September 13 at 2:35pm via mobile · 

Caroline McGillion -Very sorry to hear that dear Brenda x
September 13 at 2:43pm · 

Kathryn Esplin -Oh I am so very sorry to hear this, Brenda. I was just reading your comment to Bent on his thread. I agree with what you said about starvation. so so sad.
September 13 at 2:49pm · 

David E. Gallaher -Our thoughts are with you. Thanks for sharing this.
September 13 at 2:54pm · 

Dana Helmig -I am so very sorry Brenda
September 13 at 3:01pm · 

Jamie Rumley -My thoughts and prayers are with you.
September 13 at 3:07pm · 

Rachel Shaw -Oh, Brenda. *big squeezy hug*
September 13 at 3:13pm · 

Svetlana Goryacheva -I can relate to your feeling of loss so well, dear Brenda, since I've lost both of my parents... my warm, comforting hugs and condolences... just hang on there.
September 13 at 3:18pm · 

Ramina Bayzad -So Sorry ,my Players........she is now flying like a Angel and Feeling Good.
September 13 at 3:21pm · 

Caro Cloutier -i am so sorry for your lost dear! Blessings to your heart! May she find peace and the Light! <3 p="p">
September 13 at 3:33pm · 

Juan Gallego -So sorry , my thoughts and prayers are with you.
September 13 at 3:34pm via mobile · 

T Daphne Vasquez · May she visit you in your dreams soon! Safe journey Momma!
September 13 at 3:36pm · 

Saumya Agrawal -Brenda all I will say is mother's and father's never die there love is sooo pure and profound they love thru it with us all our lives.......hugs and prayers for you......lots of love
September 13 at 3:41pm · 

Umar Hassan -My deepest sympathy.
September 13 at 4:03pm · 

Hélène Valentin -I am sorry for you Brenda. All my thoughts go towards you this painful moment. I kiss you friendly.
September 13 at 4:05pm · 

Charanjeet Sehmi -Brenda,AM so sorry to hear about your loss,and am sure I know how you feel.I lost my MUM just three months ago,and am still not the same.It takes time BUT you will always have the best memories of her for your entire life time.We all have to face this...Take care and If I can be of any help.....JUST say
September 13 at 4:20pm · 

Stephen James -Dear Brenda, from my own experience of last year losing my partner, and my mother, I know there is nothing I can say that will make it any better. Just know you are in my thoughts and your friends share your grief! Love and light Steve.
September 13 at 4:29pm · 

Jaime Melian -Oh my, so sad to hear of her passing, may she rest in peace.
September 13 at 5:17pm · 

Julia Ray -oh brenda - i am offering you a virtual hug right now ... death is final in this physical form and that is what hurts so bad ... but love transcends time and space and you will always be in touch with your mom through love and your art, i know it.
September 13 at 5:19pm · 

Jo Ammons -my condolences to you and your family
September 13 at 5:27pm · 

Liz Sosne Brenda Clews Patsy Priebe's words were so perfect that I am going to plagiarize them with the hope she does not mind: "oh no! Brenda! it took my breath away to see those words! I hope you at least can feel the love and concern of all of your friends. a big hug!"
September 13 at 5:28pm · 

Wolfsong ThePoet -I am so sorry, Brenda . . . lots of love to you and your family and remember to take care of yourself!
September 13 at 6:57pm · 

Fran Freeman so sorry Brenda
September 13 at 6:57pm · 

Layla Morgan Wilde -Brenda Clews your brief sentence said it all so poignantly. Big hug. You are not alone.
September 13 at 7:07pm · 

Tammy Bird -I am so sorry. May you find moments of peace in your pain. Much love.
September 13 at 7:13pm via mobile · 

Richard Paul Geer -may your relationship grow even deeper, as mine did
September 13 at 7:17pm · 

Austin Cox -I am sorry.
September 13 at 7:22pm · 

Donna Marie Martin -Dearest that i am older, and having had many friends pass on, including my husband of 43 years, I realize that no matter who or what the age,of those we love and are close to, we are never ready to say good I have found that I prefer not to...I prefer to continue conversations and share thoughts in what I call my minds I believe they are never really are part of their spirit...and they are part of yours....I have found a certain peace in my not saying goodby....I hope you find the peace you need to comfort your loss...
September 13 at 7:31pm · 

Tanya Phillips-I am so sorry for your loss, Brenda.
September 13 at 7:41pm · 

Alison Pearce -Brenda, my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family. My thoughts are with you.
September 13 at 8:53pm · 

Connie Marie · I'm so very sorry
September 13 at 9:54pm via mobile · 

Faizan Fiz -oh :(
September 14 at 12:16am · 

Soumitra Dasgupta -rip take care , mother never die she is with u will b
September 14 at 1:19am · 

Dasha F. Bogdanova -Love and healing prayers to you dear one during this transitional time. I will keep you in my prayers and heart.
September 14 at 2:04am · 

Bent Lorentzen - 
Mama - Celine Dion
September 14 at 3:31am · 

Daisylis Officiel -My heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.. RIP
September 14 at 4:03am · 

Nataliya Vidonia Fedoseev -i can't imagine how difficult this is for you and your family, i was both devastated and relieved when my father's suffering was ended in 1999 from a terminal illness. if it helps any, i still hear him making wise cracks and offering guidance from time to time in my mind, like part of what made him unique stayed behind imbedded in my consciousness like a seed thought. i hope you find consolation in the good memories and can feel the continued connection of souls long after the physical ties have faded. i'm going to dedicate my meditations to you and your mom for as long as it feels needed.
September 14 at 6:26am · 

Pierre-Marie Cœdès -Oh my dear Brenda, was is not expected somehow, since your Brother's post. I hope the passage went smoothly. Now she's at peace in the love light of God. I suppose her life has been a great adventure from what I read of yours, many moments to remember. I know the physical separation is what hurts more, and regarding my own mother who has been with me ever since she left, helping me in beautiful ways, knowing she he's happy, still walking on the beautiful path, making new experiences, it's her physical presence I miss the most. All my love to you and you family Brenda, my thoughts are with you.
September 14 at 7:13am · 

Brenda Clews -When a loved one first passes away, there is a feeling of peace, the pain and suffering are gone, and my mother's death was the most peaceful I've seen, she was ready, and a sense of unreality, like they haven't really gone. As the cycles of grief begin their descent through the months ahead, there are painful moments of recognition that the loved one is gone, truly gone, and comforting moments when you still feel them close. Death is a beautiful mystery. She has returned to the Ground of Being. The last time I saw her alive, on Monday, she absolutely glowed, for an hour or so, her skin luminous, her eyes with such depth, she looked very beautiful. I carry this precious image in my heart.

Yesterday, the nursing home allowed us to keep her there for 7 hours after her passing. Family members congregated around her bed. We each mourned and cried and some of us kissed her and we sat talking in the room. This is unusual in our high tech world where death is covered immediately. I am grateful for these hours in ways I cannot yet articulate.

It will be a very simple funeral, a cremation, with only immediate family early next week.

I have become mother-less, but at this moment, it feels as if the whole universe has become my mother.

Many, many thanks to you all, your words of condolence and understanding and love and sweetness are incredible and so beautiful.

Much love, Brenda xo
September 14 at 10:41am via mobile · 

Bill Sprague -I'm so sorry to hear that, Brenda. My mother passed in 1995, so my warmest thoughts, deepest prayers of comfort and my most consoling hug go out to you.
September 14 at 10:41am · 

Barry Gross -Sorry for your loss- always B
September 14 at 10:54am · 

Max Springer -condolences dear one, be strong
September 14 at 11:28am · 

Barbara Adach -(((((Brenda))))) <3 p="p">
September 14 at 4:55pm · 

Mary Cornelius -I'm sorry ..
September 14 at 5:21pm via mobile · 

Rod Noble -So sorry Brenda!
September 14 at 9:05pm · 

Barbara H. Horter - I am so sorry for the loss of your mother...that special bond between mother and daughter carried in our hearts will sustain you through time as your grief takes its own steps to the day when all the hurt and sadness of your loss will metomorphosis as the butterfly and lift you with each lovely memory. The missing NEVER goes away but the pain subsides and is replaced with visions repainted with new color. My heart goes out to you Brenda may your creativity soar with pictures and words about your mother....
September 14 at 10:14pm · 

Mano Antarang -so sorry.may god comfort u dear.
September 15 at 3:27am · 

Huzaifa Pandit -oh My condolences and sympathies Brenda. May the Lord give you strength and patience to bear the shock.
September 15 at 8:32am · 

Beryl Singleton Bissell -I'm so dreadfully sorry Brenda!
September 15 at 2:36pm · 

Brenda Clews -Thank you so much, each and every comment, condolence gives me comfort, hope, encouragement. Love you all.
September 15 at 3:29pm · 

Santu Brahma -Dear Friend My condolences to you and your family....
September 15 at 3:35pm · 

Vivek Patel Your writing of your experience is so deep and moving.
You are a true daughter of the universe!
You are a beautiful and profound soul!
September 15 at 3:38pm · 

Arnold Srecords · Je suis avec vous dans ce moment si douloureux...My condolences. Arnold
See Translation
September 15 at 3:47pm · 

James Strickland Art -Im sorry. My sympathies for you and your family.
September 15 at 3:49pm · 

Soumitra Dasgupta -so sorry , RIP
September 15 at 3:50pm · 

Penny Ann Thompson -Oh my sorry to hear this and just kind of takes a person's breath away when you read prayers and thoughts are with all of you....and sending hugs as well.
September 15 at 4:17pm · 

Erica Ross -I am with you, Brenda. May you feel held in the Great Bliss Queen Mother you know and love. She, and your community, will hold you as you transition, and breathe, and feel, and be. May we help be the ground beneath your feet, and comfort in your heart.
September 15 at 5:53pm · 

Erica Ross -Sorry for your loss.
September 15 at 5:53pm · 

Elsie Duggan -So very sorry Brenda, Prayers for you, love, Elsie
September 15 at 6:43pm · 

Thomas Curl -I'm so sorry to hear this, Brenda. Know that all my love is being channeled your way as you go through this difficult time.
September 15 at 9:48pm · 

Darlene Gisele Lambert · Deepest Sympathies
September 16 at 4:23am · 

Stirling Davenport -Sending you big sisterly hug and soothing prayers for your big heart.
September 16 at 2:57pm · 

Laura Rock -OMG! I just saw this! "In box"
September 17 at 7:47pm ·

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Keyhole Sessions: 'Envy'

A Keyhole Life Drawing Session last night. The Keyhole is still working through the Seven Deadly Sins, and last night was Envy. These are all charcoal on 18" x 24" sheets of 90lb archival paper, or, in the last of the one of three models, pencil on primed canvas.

I put a post up of the ones with a Photoshop filter added to G+ and Facebook (see the end of this post), and the dearth, the silence, it was resounding. So I removed the 'offensive' drawings from both sites, and put this note up instead:
I deleted the Keyhole Session post I put up earlier. I keep forgetting that I shouldn't. Because it's staged performance, and while not my sexuality, I do support the freedom of others to practice 'alternative sexualities' if it's between consenting adults and no-one gets hurt. There is mojo in these life drawing sessions; the poses are great. Everyone at The Keyhole is an artist, all the models, the lady who runs it, those who come to draw. Everyone I've met is sweet in way young people are, and the atmosphere is happy, and everyone, artists and models, work very, very hard. It takes place in a bar. The models are on the stage, lit by stage lights, and we draw in a darkened room with drinks if we wish.

But posting the results of these few hours of drawing isn't fine in a public forum, or even an artist's forum, as those I belong to at G+ and on Facebook. I should know this from the past two times I attended one of these sessions. I even sat next to the art teacher who goes every month and does great drawings but who never posts them on-line. When asked, because he posts lots of other life drawing he does around the city, he says, "No, I never post these." He shrugs. It's not his 'thing,' and yet who would understand? Not posting makes sense. There's nothing inherently wrong with this life-drawing venue, but people make assumptions, and judgements. An embarrassing moment that I witnessed was afterwards, when one of the models came over and asked if he was "-"; he said yes. And she bubbled, "You taught me art in high school." He didn't know what to say; clearly he was trying to place her, this beautiful plump woman with purple hair. He found the drawings he'd done of her - all magnificently beautiful - and she oooh-ed one of them, but was talking to others and didn't pay much attention. I think he was trying to give them to her as a gift. He pulled them back and stuffed them into his portfolio and left. 

That said, below are the drawings I did last night, untouched. My mother is fast fading, and the family is spinning into a vortex. I don't when, or if I'll ever get back to 'finish' these, even to clean up their clumsiest spots.

And here's a slideshow of the drawings with the Photoshop filter I added (that I posted on-line, and also sent to The Keyhole Sessions for their the-morning-after-the-night-before-roundup/drawings):


Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Studio in my Living Room

I have no idea how this is going to work. Still have to put some daylight bulbs in. The carpet is covered in thick plastic mats, taped down. Will my kitten climb that 5' x 5' canvas? - she scampered up and down the panel when it was a room divider. I had set up a portable studio in my daughter's room, but need something more permanent. This corner of the living room is only what we walked through. It wasn't used space. Stuff got stacked there, canvases (now stored behind the large one), dog kennel, etc. It makes my living room look quite junky, but then, I am mostly a recluse, and hardly have visitors, so what am I worrying about? A bit far from the windows, but the late afternoon sun certainly sweeps into those corners.

An office pod divider becomes a stand for canvas

It was hard work with the bung wrist 'n all dragging this office divider around (it formerly hid a corner of junk, like bundle buggies), and who-knows-how clipping the canvas onto it. It's approximately 5' x 5', and will have to do. I still have to clear that corner of the living room out, cover the floor in layers of thick plastic runners, get a kind person to take a lot of stuff downstairs for me, but, it is do-able. I wasn't strong enough to staple the canvas around the back, those clips were hard enough. I am so independent I don't like to ask for help from anyone, but I did call my son, and he wasn't home. The MUSE is a slave driver, honestly.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


It is a bit bizarre, but indulge me. Painted hand, actual hand, x-ray of the bones of that hand. Digitally created image of, uh, real stuff.

Friday, September 07, 2012

An old painting, a stretcher for new paintings

Phoning lumber yards, plywood only comes in 4' x 8' sheets, and I need 5' x 6', so... I remembered this old painting of self-portraits, and dug up the post I wrote on the story behind them at Xanga, where I was blogging at the time. Reading the post brings tears to my eyes (even if I think the painting unsuccessful). Anyway, I can tear the canvas off, and staple new pieces to the frame and thus satisfy my muse (see yesterday's post for clarification). 

Sunday, 01 August 2004

This is a large painting, 4ft by 5ft, and it was many years in the making.

What I went through over it, I can barely look at it. It was my post polar bear painting. Pure soul retrieval. It consists of three actual self portraits, and one psychic self-portrait. It was about finding myself again after my marriage collapsed.

This painting had something to do with that collapse. A bit of paint on canvas, but not as innocent as it looks. After we bought our cottage, I stopped painting. The cottage was really one large room, and my children were small. After almost 7 years, I began to miss painting, which is like a need in me, and which I don't understand because nothing throws me into as much despair as painting, to paint is pure torment, it is where I throw my life on the line, risk everything, and is anything but an enjoyable activity, sort of like giving birth, it's best when it's done.

Anyway, we were having financial difficulties, but I asked my husband if I might have a large canvas for my birthday. He said no. That there was not enough money--he was still going through a case of beer a week and a bottle of wine every other night, but, for me, no.

The next year again I asked him for the same present. Can I have a big canvas for my birthday? Still the same answer. No. No money. He must have felt some remorse though, because maybe a month later he said I could go get a canvas if I wanted, but I didn't because I wanted him to give it to me as a gift, meaning for him to recognize my need to paint, and to support my talent too. He is a poet himself, having published 6 books or so, and always received emotional support from me, as well as time away from the kids to write, not to mention a typist in pre-computer days for his manuscripts.

Shortly after this we separated. It was amicable, we had a Separation Ritual, inviting the same people who had witnessed our wedding at City Hall 15 years earlier, and a party afterwards.

I told a friend at the Waldorf school that my children attended at the time about the canvas. She looked at me incredulously. I'll never forget the look in her eyes, ever. And said, "But why didn't you buy the canvas yourself?"

So I did. I was working, editing, and did have money. It cost around $100. My ex picked it up for me from the discount art store where I ordered it and brought it home on the roof rack. That was supportive, no? Or perhaps it was because I had broken the code of silence between us and told someone else and he was a little embarrassed.

It could have been the relationship, the long hard years of being secondary to my husband, of having my writing, painting, degrees considered not just unimportant but a waste of time, of my ideas, perceptions, learning existing only to catapult him to poetic stardom, and so on. But by the time 1997 rolled around I realized I had developed major creative blocks.

With much will power, I began the painting. It was like learning to walk all over again. Slow, hesitant, painful. The first image in the middle is from a photograph taken when I was 32, in the a few months after my father died. His death signified the loss of many things in my life, and my probable career in academia. She's standing in a yellow rain slicker in the mountains, mountains which I painted in and then painted out. When my father died, something died in me also, and so I painted my younger self as a way to go back and retrieve her drive and enthusiasm for learning, for life, for reaching out. Above her is another me, with antlers growing out of her head, a little older, from a photo taken at the cottage. The angel is from a photo at my daughter's second birthday party. The old woman on the right is an image after one in "Soul Cards," by Deborah Koff-Chapin (Center for Touch Drawing, 1995), and was a card I pulled almost weekly at the small yoga class I taught.

The painting’s a triptych. It's the old Christian tri-level world, hell, earth, heaven, only in New Age spirituality, it's grounding yourself in the earth for renewal, through your Winter, ordinary life in a yellow rain slicker, looking upwards, moments of revelation, nature, with echoes of shamanic spirituality, and the angel is one's higher self, a more wise version of oneself who can guide one through.

All in all, I worked on it from 1997-2002. It's called, "Self Portraits." After I finished it, I realized that I never wanted to paint at an easel with a brush again and began throwing my canvas’ on the floor and finger painting right out of the tube; whenever, that is, that I can work through the creative blocks that I am still struggling with.

That’s the story of the painting that I posted today.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Muse Doesn't Care About Money At All

My muse, oh, Muse! For about a month, when I think of painting, it is always life-sized figures on a large canvas sheet. 'But, Muse, I can't afford that, and have nowhere to staple such canvas, no walls free at all!' Does The Muse care? Not a whit. Never does. Then this and that happened, and today I bought some double-primed canvas, 60" wide and 2 yards long, or 6'. I carried it home in a roll the actor who works part-time at the art store kindly insisted on rolling it in for me ('primed canvas is fragile, it remembers crinkles,' he said). Where I will hang it while the muse has her way with painting, I don't know. I suppose call the lumber yard tomorrow and see how much 5' x 6' thin plywood boards are, and if affordable, see if the truck might happen to be in my area and can drop it off.

I would have bought more - 12' long, enough for two paintings - but had to discipline my muse. 'Enough! I need to eat, too.' And placate. 'We'll get more canvas if this one works out, ok?'

The last thing I need is more canvas piling up in the bottom of the closet. Last year I actually sewed all the strips of unprimed canvas I had lying around and made what is essentially a stage set with it (as you can see in the image I posted).


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Hey, I'm Ariadne's Thread!

clew 1  (kl)
1. A ball of yarn or thread.
2. Greek Mythology The ball of thread used by Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth.
3. clews The cords by which a hammock is suspended.
4. also clue Nautical
a. One of the two lower corners of a square sail.
b. The lower aft corner of a fore-and-aft sail.
c. A metal loop attached to the lower corner of a sail.
tr.v. clewedclew·ingclews
1. To roll or coil into a ball.
2. also clue Nautical To raise the lower corners of (a square sail) by means of clew lines. Used withup.

[Middle English clewe, from Old English cliwen.]

clew 2  (kl)
n. & v. Chiefly British
Variant ofclue1.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Definition found at The Free Dictionary.

Monday, September 03, 2012

My last three paintings

My latest paintings. Mandate: sit, paint. Without preconception, or any idea of what I will paint. It has to be fast, because that is how these paintings are. Not overworked, this so very important. Fresh, the brush of inspiration.

"Untitled", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", oils, India and acrylic inks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

"A Palmistry, a Psalm", 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", charcoal, oils, oil pastels, oil sticks on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet. I am working on a videopoem of this poem and painting.

She Rests on Pillows in the Grass, 2012, Brenda Clews, 24" x 18", 60cm x 45cm, oil paint on 90lb archival paper.


An untitled painting of a man

Untitled, as of yet. I just painted this. An iPhone photo taken with a daylight bulb. 18" x 24", oil on canvas sheet.

I have been deeply troubled, as ever, by Syria, the refugee camps, the deaths, the conflagrations. And the miners in South Africa, their horrendous treatment, not just the shooting deaths, but the survivors being charged with murder (withdrawn as of today, but it influences). This is a -just-sit-down-and-paint-woman-whatever-fucking-emerges-let-it-be- painting. From the inner self, where the cauldron burns.