Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Memory Creating the Self: Genetic Memory and my Maternal Ancestors


Without memory, there is no culture.
Without memory,
there would be no civilization, 
no society, no future.
~Elie Weisel



Memory Creating the Self:
Genetic Memory Series

My last post was a few of the patrilineal paintings, and these are from my matrilineal side. (A few from each side were in my post about the reception.)


Here's some music from my reception playlist


The first two portraits I painted for the show, were of these gals. I'm not even sure how many times I went back into them. I started with sanguine color conté pencils to sketch in the portraits.

Normally, if I were working on canvas I would start with just a wash (thin layer of oil paint) of burnt sienna, over the whole thing, then draw the figures in with a brush and paint. On this project, however, because I wanted to let some of the wood show, I had to be more specific and carful not to stain the wood. 

Sedalia and Nancy


I was not even sure where the gold leaf was going to go on the paintings, until they were done. That was the case with most of pieces. Once they were done, I could tell where the gold "wanted to be."

Here, below, the brushstrokes on my great great grandmother Sedalia are very loose, as I am just finding my way around her face and trying to find some structure. The photo was very blown out and pale, with so little detail that I had to imagine it by looking at the shape of her cheekbone, in profile. (She's my maternal grandmother's paternal grandmother. Got that?!)


I must have gone into her portrait dozens of times, moving the ear, the earring, adding layers and layers to her face and softening her skin and then going in adding to the velvet jacket ... I just kept talking to her and trying to get the feel of her.  By the way, I would love to have her jacket! 

Lots of earth colors!


For those of you who missed my last few posts, here is my artist's statement for my solo show:

We are made of memory; genetic, experimental and body memory. We embody that which has come before us, as well as what we have experienced on our journey here. How much do we hold from our own past that we do not remember?

There are places and people we are linked with forever because they have left their mark on us. What is it that we will imprint on others and what will we leave behind?

My work integrates gold metal leafing, which incorporates memories of Thai temples and Italian altarpieces, from my own experience, as well as some deeper sense memory, that cannot be explained. There is a connection to history and tradition that I feel, as if I have been doing it for centuries.

And here is the finished painting ...

1890  
10 x 8"  
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing


You're never alone, 
even during what you think are your weakest moments.
You have thousands of years of powerful Ancestors within you,
the blood of the Divine Great Ones in you,
supreme intellect and royalty in you.
Infinite strength is always on tap for you.
Know that.
~Author Unknown


There are different kinds of gold leafing. This package I used for these ladies was "gold" on some kind of wax paper you rub on the backside of and hope it's actually sticking from the front side to whatever you are working on. I personally prefer the loose leaf.


Then you have to burnish and rub it down into the adhesive size (glue) because there are little "bubbles."


Nancy Jane, came out a little extra intense but I decided to just go with it.  (She was Sedalia's Mother- My great great great grandmother!) 

I did have to go back into a few spots where the gold didn't stick, add more adhesive size, wait for it to become tacky (It can't be wet) and then put more gold on those spots. Then I would wait a few hours and then put a layer of sealer over it so that it doesn't tarnish too much. If you use the real 24 carat gold leaf, it doesn't tarnish at all but the squares are tiny and much more costly.


Nancy Jane's maiden name was Pattie and her paternal grandfather was Sylvester Pattie, who I was told, was the first European-American to be buried in Califonia. He was born in Craig, Kentucky in 1782 and died in San Diego in 1828. 

There is a memorial by the Mission down in San Diego that reads "Sylvester Pattie: Pathfinder. Leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern Trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1826. An officer in the war of 1812." Then it gives his birth, death and commemorates his son and others on the expedition. 

1837-1914
10 x 10" 
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing


A man finds room in the few square inches of the face
for the traits of all his ancestors;
for the expression of all his history,
and his wants.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This painting, below was of my grandpa Milton's family. You will see that he's the little guy on the runner of the car. This one became the postcard of the show. 

The portraits of the kids faces are the size of my pinky nails. (And mine are very small!) I went through a LOT of 000 brushes. They had to have a perfect point and there was a lot of squinting involved (as well as new frown lines!)


The gold on this piece was the loose leaf type and I put it on in a more textured way, letting it crinkle and then filling in the spaces like a patchwork quilt. 

I loved the photo.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it had to be a painting but I though, Am I out of my mind? All the tiny figures ... and a car! Well, you never know what you are capable of until you give it a shot.  



The photograph was taken in Los Angeles, in 1924, but it reminded me so much of Dorthea Lang and the Dustbowl photos and it really was fun to paint!

1924
9 x 12"
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing



We all grow up with the weight of history on us.
Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains
as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden
in every cell of our bodies. 
~~Shirley Abbott

This tiny painting of an old wedding photo, is the mother and father of lady in the previous painting, with the car. They are my Great great grandparents and they came up from Chile, just after they were married. They had their wedding reception at Olvera Street in the oldest part of Los Angeles. (I've done a lot of Olvera Street Posts on this blog!) At one point he owned a saloon! 

1877
8 x 6" 
Oil on wood panel 
with gold metal leafing


After doing our DNA through ancestry.com (and making my great aunt spit in a vial) we figured out that my great-great grandma must have been 3/4 indigenous South American. It comes up just as "Native American" and it can mean North or South America. 

Our DNA also shows Iberian Peninsula so that makes sense with his surname being De La Barca, that his family would have come to Chile from Spain. (By the way Frida Kahlo was a De la Barca, as well!)

On my front stoop, before they were all loaded into the car  ...


And here are all 13 of the genetic memory paintings on the wall, at my show! 


There is so much going on in my head right now, it's been hard to sit still and focus on posting. The world is a crazy place, and our country is a crazy place, but for now I'll still be posting about the show, at least until I'm a little more grounded. Not sure when that will be but after "mysteriously" dropping 5 pounds, today my doctor prescribed "Taking a break from the news, and eating something!" (Not that I mind fitting into my old pants.)

Anyway ....
To see the post of the Solo Show Reception with more of the art, click here
To see the Body Memory Series from the show, click here
To see the Patrilineal Works, click here

Walking, 
I am listening to a deeper way.
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.
Be still they say,
Watch and listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands.

~Linda Hogan

Blessings and light!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Memory Creating the Self ~ Genetic Memory, and my Paternal Ancestors


We all carry, inside us, 
people who came before us.
~Liam Callanan


Memory Creating the Self:
The Paternal


For anyone who missed my previous posts, or are coming upon this in confusion or unfamiliarity, I have a solo show up in Los Feliz right now, called Memory Creating the Self. 

Here is my artist's statement for the show, if you missed it previously:

We are made of memory; genetic, experimental and body memory. We embody that which has come before us, as well as what we have experienced on our journey here. How much do we hold from our own past that we do not remember?

There are places and people we are linked with forever because they have left their mark on us. What is it that we will imprint on others and what will we leave behind?

My work integrates gold metal leafing, which incorporates memories of Thai temples and Italian altarpieces, from my own experience, as well as some deeper sense memory, that cannot be explained. There is a connection to history and tradition that I feel, as if I have been doing it for centuries.

My dad's parents' portraits are the two on the far left, of the wall photo above (The close up shots of the paintings are in the post of the reception here.)

I hand picked music to play at the reception, and this was one of the songs: 


These first two portraits, here, are wedding photos of my great grandparents, on my dad's side. His  (mostly) German/English paternal side on the left, and his maternal Swedes on the right. They were two of my most challenging paintings, technically, but since I love detail they were also a lot of fun to work on.


While painting my ancestors, I found myself talking to them a lot, as I stared into their faces. What do you think about this, me painting you? Who were you? Oh, I changed that tiny thing and now you look my sister! Or, You look just like my dad! And when I couldn't get the likeness, Ugh! Who are you? Help me out here! 

So I guess, in a way, I was talking to ghosts, or their spirits, occasionally wondering if they were watching over my shoulder.

1896   10 x 10"
Oil on wood panel with gold metal leafing
(sold)


1905  12 x 9"
Oil on wood with gold metal leafing


See the detail? I destroyed a lot of 000 (the tiniest) brushes working with so much detail, and on the wood. Loved doing the clothes, glasses, glove and the little flowers.


The small 6 x 6" portraits below are of father of the woman in the top portrait, and the Swedish mother of the woman in the bottom wedding portrait. I think I have that right. My sister is the family expert.


If we tried to sink the past beneath our feet, 
be sure the future would not stand.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning 


1851-1919  6 x 6"


When I begin a painting it's loose and rough, just getting in shapes and some of the values (darks and lights.)


The photograph of Henry Alfred Bray, below, was found by a woman whose hobby it is, to go into antique shops and find old photos. If they have a name and a place and even a date, she goes online and tries to find the family. In this case, she found my sister, who is on Ancestry.com. 

The dates, the place and name all matched our Ancestor and my sister framed the original for my dad last year for his birthday. What's also incredible was that this man, as it turns out, is buried in the cemetery less than a mile from my sister in Ojai. 


We spent so much time driving up to Ojai when I was a kid, to picnics or just to get out of the fog in Ventura. We never knew he was buried there, or that he had a general store, nor that his wife, my great great grandmother was said to have a millinery shop up there in the little town of Ojai.

Was that the pull we all felt, or why I like to collect hats?

What are the things within us that we carry, perhaps gifted by our DNA, by our ancestors? Is it simply biology or do they pass bits of their experiences, in ways we'll never understand?

Everything you do,
every thought you have,
every word you say 
creates a memory that you will hold in your body.
It's imprinted on you and affects you in subtle ways-
ways you are not always aware of. 
With that in mind, be very conscious and selective.
~Phylicia Rashad

1900   6 x 6" 


My wall of "Ancestral Memory" paintings ...



The past is not dead.
It isn't even past.
~William Faulkner

Blessings and light


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Memory Creating the Self ~ Body Memory


The wound is the place where the light enters you.
~Jalaluddin Rumi


Memory Creating the Self:
Body Memory

12/2008
Oil and gold metal leafing on wood panel
20 x 16"   (sold)


The body remembers, 
the bones remember, the joints remember,
even the little finger remembers.
Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves.
Like a sponge filled with water,
anywhere the flees is pressed, wrung, 
even touched lightly,
a memory may flow out in a stream.
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

These were some of my most personal paintings, not only of this solo show but of any work I've done. There were only 5 of these pieces, among the 33 in my solo show, but I think they are some of the most intimate and effective. I did them because they were important for me to do, on a personal level, but I really needed them to make the concept of the show feel complete.  


Here is my artist's statement, if you missed it in the previous post. That post also included photographs of the opening reception, some of the works, as well as a description of how the show was set up.

We are made of memory; genetic, experimental and body memory. We embody that which has come before us, as well as what we have experienced on our journey here. How much do we hold from our own past that we do not remember?

There are places and people we are linked with forever because they have left their mark on us. What is it that we will imprint on others and what will we leave behind?

My work integrates gold metal leafing, which incorporates memories of Thai temples and Italian altarpieces, from my own experience, as well as some deeper sense memory, that cannot be explained. There is a connection to history and tradition that I feel, as if I have been doing it for centuries.

2/2/2009
Oil and gold metal leafing on wood panel
"5 x 5" 



For this group of works, some of the subject matter was of a moment in time, like a CT scan or a surgeon saying "We took a planet out of you," but for others, the memories happened over time, like damage to vocal chords and not being about to sing or find my voice. 

The following piece represents multiple memories and multiple meanings. My arms became thin, poked and prodded, but they also hold and embrace ... my hands hold and create, my palms read in my childhood by my great grandmother ...  

And, just as the gold has it's own meaning (see artist's statement) the fabric color holds a spiritual symbolism and significance.



The words emerge from her body 
without her realizing it,
as if she were being visited by the memory of 
a language long forsaken.
~Margherite Duras



2003/2009
Oil and gold metal leafing on wood panel
20 x 10"  (sold)


1985  
Oil and gold metal leafing on wood panel
8 x 8"  


2/21/2009
Oil and gold metal leafing on wood
14 x 11"  (sold)



Return often and take me, 
beloved sensation, return and take me-
When memory of the body awakens,
and old desire again runs through the blood;
when the lips and skin remember,
and the hands feel as if they touch again.
~ C.P. Cavafy


If you missed the first post on my solo show, and would like to check it out, please click here
The show runs through October 30, 2016



Blessings and light!