La Luna "Before Silence of Winter Comes"
When I met him, I was looking at a scarlet moon. Midnight was still mere fiction.
| At its utterance, his name seemed
to become tangible
and hang within the few inches of air that separated us: Jason Yardley.
Virgin moons are swathed in blood. They first appear suffused in red, the longest wave light emanating from the spectrum of the sun as it sinks beneath the horizon. As night matures and the moon reaches for the stars, la luna whitens. Since I preferred the radiance of a ruby to the self-effacement of a pearl, I considered the moon's nightly cycle as emblematic of time's dangerous potential for diluting the spirit. After all, life is not easy.
"You don't know what you're doing but you will. You've got great guts," he said as I looked at "La Luna Naranja," the largest work in the front room of the 7th Boulevard Gallery. The red-orange moon was a circle whose edges touched four sides of the 68" X 68" canvas. I was communing with my paintings as the show was scheduled to end the following day. I turned towards the confident voice, mentally leaving Mojacar, Spain where I first saw an infant moon.
I was insulted, having memorized The Weekly Villager's brief but rave review of my first solo show. I held back from flagellating him with my eyes only because he immediately introduced himself. At its utterance, his name seemed to become tangible and hang within the few inches of air that separated us: Jason Yardley. He had cut his hair since he posed for last month's ART EXPOSED. But his eyes remained as green as they were on the cover of the country's leading art magazine: a dark green like the dimness of underbrush, a green like a lament, a green like a sonata.
I also noticed his height. I felt my chin lift as I tried to see what else lurked within his eyes besides the color green. But the gesture made me lean towards his lips and, awkwardly, I stepped back. He noticed, but the star of 57th Street's most prestigious gallery cast his eyes at the moon behind me. Still, he disconcerted me more with the courtesy of his act so that I could recover equilibrium without the press from his eyes.
His gallery MB Inc. was managed by Mindy "Witch" Babson. She attained her nickname for trying to emulate the critic Clement Greenberg by telling artists what and how to paint. She also busily promoted something she called "Formal Gesturalism," diligently searching for painters she could include in this "innovative school" whether or not her targeted artists had thought at all about her premise of "flat color fields depicted by elongated brushstrokes that logically extended art into the next century by breaking down borders between passion and dispassion."
| Unintentionally, I had referenced the recent controversy over his worksthat he was turning out too many paintings of the same type rather than continuing to develop.
As the Witch frequently touted to those in the art media with whom she long enjoyed an incestuous relationship borne of free paintings and the generous use of her bed, Jason's works exemplified Formal Gesturalism in the same way Andy Warhol's exemplified Pop Art. But as Jason told ART EXPOSED's interviewer, he just painted what he wished and how others interpreted his paintings was not his concern. In the next paragraph, the interviewer described Jason as "possessing a delectable sense of humor." This, the interviewer attributed to Jason grinning while he noted, "Besides, Mindy's got the kind of clientele that quickly pushes artists' prices to six figures and, hey, I'm not one to complain. She can call my works whatever she wants as long as she sells them."
I wanted to show I wasn't impressed by THE Jason Yardley and blurted, "Oh? You still know what 'guts' are?"
We looked at each other as the significance of my statement surfaced like a nose-crunching stench. Unintentionally, I had referenced the recent controversy over his worksthat he was turning out too many paintings of the same type rather than continuing to develop. One wag even joked that Jason Yardley was no longer painting but just managing an assembly line from his studio in Galisteo, New Mexico. Since his works were sized no larger than 36" X 36" and offered images of single lines curving across single-color backgrounds, it was easy for the joke to spread. It was particularly popular with those mindful of Mindy Babson's growing power, a potential that seemed poised to rival Mary Boone's influence on the 1980s New York art scene.
Flustered, I offered, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you."
"No, don't apologize. I'll just choose to be flattered you've even thought of me," he said, after a quizzical look.
Then, clearly deciding to bear no grudge, he grinnedbut the lightening of his countenance only made me realize he was just a few years older. It was a depressing revelation, highlighting how long it had taken me to have my first solo show. Unlike MB Inc., my small gallery was patronized mostly by other emerging artists who were too poor to acquire works even though they were priced at a fraction of the cost of their materials.
The 7th Boulevard Gallery was managed on a cooperative basis by twelve painters whose "day jobs" allowed them to split its operating costs. For all of us, it was the only space where we could show our works beyond the occasional representation in some group show sponsored by galleries who were usually as obscure as ours. The 7th Boulevard Gallery's artists even took turns playing "Vassar Girl"what we called the art world's black-clad women and men who sat behind a desk with brochures and price lists to answer questions that visitors might pose about the exhibits.
| ...my paintings were like adorable infants, extending their flailing arms for hugs as they babbled words that enchanted but had no meaning.
"You've got great guts," Jason repeated. "Come to MB Inc. this evening. I'm opening a show."
He looked at "La Luna Naranja" once more, then left.
Larry, that month's Vassar Girl, was entering as Jason was leaving. He did a double-take, caught my eye and gestured, "Wasn't that . . .?"
"Yes," I interrupted. "The big kahuna himself, in town for his latest and much-anticipated show at MB Inc. He said I didn't know what I'm doing."
Larry dashed over and began fussing over my unique use of foreground, the colors only I could mix, and so on. I quickly shushed him and motioned towards a couple across the room who were perusing the price list. As this implied they could be interested in purchasing a painting, Larry reluctantly left me for them. I couldn't be bothered to explain that Jason Yardley didn't mean to insult me. I was already looking at my paintings with fresh eyes. That's when I realized that my colors were too lush, too brilliant. Visually, their robustness made them instantly accessible to the viewer who could marvel over the colors which I concocted with pride. But they seemed two-dimensional, failing my desire to offer a way for intriguing the intellect: my paintings were like adorable infants, extending their flailing arms for hugs as they babbled words that enchanted but had no meaning.
"Atom-size objects move in jerky leaps from one place to another without signs of the travel betweenso-called 'quantum jumps'meaning no one can predict just where an object is going to be," the Witch was proclaiming to an enraptured audience as I stepped through her gallery's doors. As I walked past the group dotted with fur-clad collectors, her eyes cut sideways at my scuffed workman's boots.
Because her glance dismissed me, I walked past them even though Jason stood in their midst. I could feel his eyes track me as the Witch continued, "The second idea is that tiny objects cannot exist, independent of its observers. In the act of observation these tiny objects take on characteristics that would not have been present before they were observed. By looking for one feature of an object, one completely alters the object's other features in unpredictable ways. Thus, what one chooses to examine alters what exists."
I was stopped by a waiter who offered me a tray with glasses of wine and water. I opted for water con gas as I heard Jason add, "The third idea is that there has to be a new order in the universe, despite the apparent disorder presented by the first two ideas. This order is not the order expected based on classical physicsinstead it's an order that involves us. It involves our minds in a way that we couldn't have expected using the old physics. This order suggests that we are in control of possibilities but not actualities."
| But as I stared at him, the black and white contrast dislodged another memory: a thin waterfall deeply recessed into a cliff
Geeezz! People actually talk like that to each other? I thought. Then I looked around the room but saw no one I recognized. I began pacing along the walls, looking at his paintings. The first thing I noticed was that he had expanded his scale. All were at least as large as my "La Luna Naranja." Each work featured a luminous field of yellow crossed by inch-wide lines of black curving from one edge to another adjacent edge. Each also had a tiny red dot pasted on the wall beside them indicating the Witch had sold out another show.
"You look great," he whispered into my hair. I hadn't noticed him come toward me. I immediately tore into myself for wearing my red velvet dress. I thought it would look cool to pair it with my work boots. But, just then, I felt like a modern-day version of Miss Kitty from "Gunsmoke."
"I'm sure you look better," I said, then hated myself for attempting to be flippant.
"How would you know if you don't look?" he teased. I could feel sunlit days lurking beneath his light tone. He placed a palm on each shoulder and turned me around to look at him. I could feel the laughter he stored behind his impassive face. He was dressed in a black suit over a shirt so white it seemed like a lightning bolt against a night sky. But as I stared at him, the black and white contrast dislodged another memory: a thin waterfall deeply recessed into a cliffa sight I once saw from a lake in Hawai'i and which so tempted me that I had paddled my canoe towards it. I remembered resting behind the waterfall, watching it glisten in front of me, its white light occasionally interrupted by fragments of a rainbowI remembered just sitting there, grinning foolishly. For years afterwards, I had felt that afternoon to have been the peak of happiness until the moment I stepped back from "La Luna Naranja" and considered my painting done.
I swallowed as I dropped my eyes and kept them fixed on his shirt collar. My eyes ached to travel to a pulse beating near where his top button laid unfastened. But I tried to avoid looking where his collar separated, inexplicably certain that the sight of his vein pulsing there would leave me undonemake me press my tongue to trace the pale blue line etched against his skin. Still, to my horror, I said, "You smell good."
Jason raised my chin until I met his eyes. I could feel his gaze track the blush that began from the nape of my neck.
"Amazing, how pink you get," he said softly, as if to himself. Then he immediately circled me until I felt him standing behind me as we both looked out toward where Empress Mindy continued to hold court.
| Panicked, without saying another word,
I began to walk away, towards the grey mist
of the gallery's smoked glass doors.
"What do you think of the show?" he asked, the heat beginning to simmer in the sliver of air that separated our bodies.
"Mirrors," I said, struggling for something intelligent to say. "An attempt for depersonalization. No gestures. But you failed . . . only that 'failure,' if you will, is what makes the works succeed. You're painting spaces for the viewer to fill with whatever emotion they wish."
"What else?" he asked. I had to fight not to press back against him.
I gambled and mumbled, "'Overwhelming is the generation's decline,/ At this hour the eyes of him who gazes/ Fill with the gold of his stars . . . .// Softly yellowed moons roll/ Over the fever sheets of the young man,/ Before silence of winter comes'."
"Ah, you understand my yellow," he replied. I thought, but was unsure, that I felt him lightly kiss the back of my head. "I also love George Trakl's poems. Thank you."
I shivered as he recognized the poet I quoted. And I felt that moment to be when I fell in love with Jason Yardley. Panicked, without saying another word, I began to walk away, towards the grey mist of the gallery's smoked glass doors.
But he followed me. I aborted my exit when I heard his voice whisper "Please." He continued to walk, stepping around me so that we faced each other. His voice was a song as he asked, "Mindy and a few collectors are forcing me to dinner afterwards. Will you join us?"
I sighed as I replied, "Did you think there was a possibility I'd say 'No'?"
As I heard myself, I realized I also caught a hint of what sounded like resentment. That surprised me as much as it surprised him.
He looked at me, his smile fading. He said, "Don't ever hate me. I couldn't stand that."
To support myself, I worked as a packer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over time, the staff had come to depend on me for packing ancient Roman glass. The other packers, mostly other struggling artists, usually came to work in a fog that scared off the curators of the museum's extensive glass collection. I knew, however, that their dazes were induced by works-in-progress which kept them in their thrall. I frequently defended them to the museum's staff, honoring the artists' bemusement with the constraints of reality.
| It seemed the only thing to do against what Sheila and I understood to be the futility of desiring certainty in the making of art.
I also wondered why I was so able, psychologically, to leave behind my own works once I shut the door to my studio. Why couldn't I be haunted by my paintings? I once asked my best friend Sheila whether she thought I had less commitment to my art than my obsessive co-workers. I didn't actually think so but had just spent a month of feeling like everything I painted was dreck.
"Naaahhhh. Perhaps you just feel them in a different waythat it so hurts to be separated from your paintings that you can't think of them when you're not with them," she soothed.
"Do you do that?" I replied. "Do you stop thinking of your words when you have to temp?"
Sheila was a poet whose day jobs consisted of temporary typing assignments at Manhattan's huge law firms. As we'd gotten into a habit of doing so once a week, we were eating mustard-smothered hot dogs for lunch on the granite steps of the museum. She took her time chewing before swallowing. Then she looked at me from the side of her eyes and said, "Naaahhhh."
I pretended to swat her with my bag. Then we began to laugh for no particular reason at all since I certainly was not happy then with my progress as a painter. But we continued to laugh. And laugh. It seemed the only thing to do against what Sheila and I understood to be the futility of desiring certainty in the making of art. We laughed so hard that the tourists surrounding us began to laugh, too.
Still, even deep within our laughter, I remained unnerved by being able to avoid thinking of my paintings outside my studio, a bedroom that comprised half of my apartment in Brooklyn. I laughed around a pinprick of pain as a question timidly popped its tiny head into my consciousness: "Wouldn't it be glorious to be utterly lost in fog? Nothing to intrude from seeing inwardwhere perhaps gray is silver, and yellow is gold?"
"My paintings were all icing, without cake," I said to Jason over dinner, ignoring the Witch and the other collectors who were deconstructing the restaurant's wine list. "How did you see that so quickly?"
"But pretty icing. Like no one's ever created," he ducked my question, his gaze like a warm, salty surf lapping at my body. I could almost hear the sound of seagulls as his eyes pushed away the others until the universe was comprised only of me and him caught within the sunbeam of his sight.
| It was the way he drew the curve of a woman's breast, as if he could trace that arc forever.
I grappled for self-control and replied, "You're not old enough to be kind to me."
I didn't know what I meant but after I said it, it seemed like the perfect thing to say if I wished not to be enthralled by his eyes.
"Hmmmmmm," he said, then recommended the osso bucco. "They prepare it well here. I'm ordering it, too. If you want, I'll give you my marrow."
"Whatever," I whispered, suddenly deflated and wondering what I was doing amidst these men and women who were all perfumed, tanned and bejeweled. Except for Jason who smelled only of a clean, soapy scent as he leaned towards me.
"Don't be sad," he said, his eyes lingering on the small tattoo of a rose peeking out from beneath my left ear.
"Don't be sad. You have wonderful guts."
Later I learned that he had stumbled into the 7th Boulevard Gallery when he was looking for the Seventh Street Gallery. It wasn't the first time that visitors had confused the two galleries. Jason said he had been interested in the other gallery's show of figurative sketches by Jackson Pollock.
"What interest do you have in Pollock's early drawings?" I asked.
"He had this one gesture I recall from art schoolsomething that's been popping up lately into my dreams. It was the way he drew the curve of a woman's breast, as if he could trace that arc forever. I want to evoke that passion with the lines I use to sunder solid blocks of color. If I must sunder, I must get lost in its movement!"
I was silenced by the fervor of his reply, the physical intensity of how he uttered his words. He looked at me then and whispered, "How far have you chased a dream?"
"I don't, or rarely, dream," I said truthfully.
After a few moments of simply looking at me until I bowed my head to hide from his emerald eyes, he said, "I know. I know you don't dream much. Yet you've already concocted such colors as you have . . ."
His voice trailed off as if he was thinking out loud instead of conversing with me. I could sense him shake his head before continuing, "Tell me of the moon in Mojacar, Spain."
| But I also had been glad to get away from New York whose boundaries contained a man I loved, but who chose not
to love me.
I began to shiver. We were having coffee in a diner. We were seated in a booth encased in thick, red plastic. Under the table, our knees touched. All afternoon, my hands had been conscious of his, often inches away. I began to slide out of the booth but he stopped me. His hands finally came to rest on mine.
"Don't," he whispered. "Tell me of the moon in Mojacar, Spain."
I had witnessed Mojacar's moon when I spent a month five years ago at its Fundacion Valparaiso, an artists' colony. I had been glad of the chance to get away from New York's many distractions in order to focus on my work. But I also had been glad to get away from New York whose boundaries contained a man I loved, but who chose not to love me. He was another artist. He accepted my love. Then he married someone else, a psychoanalyst. I didn't even know Adam was seeing another woman until he announced his engagement to Meredith.
"Honey, you need to understand that there is no future for us unless we want to end up together in an asylum," Adam wrote me. He couldn't even break the news of his departure in person. I felt no consolation from noticing how hard his pen had pressed, so that the paper had torn in some places.
His letter continued, "You make me want to forget my choice to live in the world we've inherited. I made this choice before we met. And, I can see so clearly that you are determined to make your own reality. I don't criticize thatperhaps I even envy this idealism of yours. But it's too much of a responsibility for me. Meredith is a woman who will let me survive my choice. You are the woman who would make me live as a rebel. But, Honey, I am so tired."
I told Jason an abbreviated story about my relationship with Adam and how I went to Mojacar to lick my wounds in private. Attempting to show indifference, I noted that I'd heard that Adam gave up sculpture and moved to Idaho to teach art history at Wayne State University. But I apparently said more than I intended as Jason concluded correctly: "You stopped having dreams after Adam left you."
Jason showed no surprise when I hissed at him, "Don't you dare! Don't you dare feel sorry for me!"
Nor did he try to stop me when I crawled out of the booth and swiftly walked away, determined not to stumble until I no longer felt his searching gaze.
| We sold 'La Luna Naranja.' The buyer didn't even ask for
a discount and he sent payment immediately.
I evaded all of his calls until he stopped calling. But after Jason returned to New Mexico, I began to dream again.
Mostly, I dreamt of tall, butter-ridden cakes oozing with layers of sugar-whipped cream, buried under clouds of more whipped cream and topped with cherries sickly-sweet from their immersion in brandy.
Thereafter, I attempted the logical move of painting these desserts on canvas, over-sized surreal cakes that I wished the viewers to walk into, to dive into until they felt awash in its calories, until they felt the comfort of being returned to their mothers' wombs.
"Yuck!!!! Yucky-yuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkk!!!" Larry said about my efforts when he dropped by my studio. For additional emphasis, he added, "Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!"
He continued further, "Ugh! How monstrous! Ugh!"
Larry articulated exactly how I felt about the paintings.
"It's just that I had spent all my money and four months on these monsters," I sighed. "So I just thought I'd get your opinion, one last opinion, before totally trashing them."
"Well, at least I bring you some good news," Larry said after allowing one last look at the three paintings stacked against the walls. Once more, he shuddered, then dramatically turned his back on them.
"Yep. We sold 'La Luna Naranja.' The buyer didn't even ask for a discount and he sent payment immediately. Which is why I come bearing your share of the proceeds," Larry said, reaching for his wallet from which he drew out a check.
"Who's the buyer?" I said, relieved that at least I found an answer to how I'd pay rent that month.
"I don't know. But he's got an accountant since it was that accountant who purchased it on his behalf," he replied blithely. "Who cares? One of your paintings sold! That's something, right?"
I nodded, but whispered, "It was my favorite. It wasn't perfect but I thought it was the best work I'd done yet."
"Look. We all have our down periods. But I've got faith in you. And the accountant said his client would be interested in whatever else you do in the future. So let's get past these cream cakes, shall we?"
| Indeed, the inevitability of the moon's ascent had compelled me
to paint "La Luna Naranja." I had wished to immortalize the virgin moon's flaming beauty through oil on canvas.
I pulled myself up from the slump I'd fallen into against the wall. I always found Larry insufferable when he got into his paternalistic mode which I could sense was forthcoming unless I aborted it right then.
"Too right!" I said determinedly. "Let's get on with Art! Let's get on with Life!"
"Too right!" Larry echoed. He opened the door to Brooklyn, but looked back once more before leaving. "Besides, how can these cakes work when you didn't even paint your favorite? Chocolate cake? Dark, dense, flourless, chocolate cake!"
Chocolate cake. That night, I dreamt of this dessert I loved but haven't touched for what seemed like years. I no longer ate dessert, and have forgotten when I stopped. I woke up from my dream, my heart pounding as I swore I could taste the aftermath from swallowing a bite of dark, dense, flourless, chocolate cake.
Chocolate cake! Of course! I thought. It was still too early for anyonelike art supply storesto be awake and ready for business. So I descended into a corner of my closet until I found what I suddenly felt in the mood for: an old recording by Glenn Gould. As the piano sounds started bringing the day into the apartment, I began to dance. Of course! I thought again. Of course!
As soon as the art supply store unlocked its doors, I was in and pushing a shopping cart. The rent be hanged! I thought as I tossed in wooden boards and cans of black and white paint. Specifically, I looked for Utrecht's non-yellowing white, the only white that doesn't yellow with age, that remains pure over time. I wanted to create works that would freeze time, unlike the moon's cycle. Indeed, the inevitability of the moon's ascent had compelled me to paint "La Luna Naranja." I had wished to immortalize the virgin moon's flaming beauty through oil on canvas. I paused when I caught my reflection in a mirror. She smiled at me as I thought: You are an idealist!
I knew I was imagining it but I could hear Glenn Gould's rendition of Bach's "Italian Concerto/III" spilling out from the store's stereo system. When the piece ended in my mind, I stood still for a moment, paying homage to the composer who so loved his music that he became a recluse in his early 30s to devote his life to it. Then I went home to my studio.
My black-and-white paintings borne that day were showcased during my last show at 7th Boulevard Gallery. Over two years had passed since my other show dominated by "La Luna Naranja." I still missed that painting so much that I was hoping to sell enough of my new works to offer to buy back my painting of Mojacar's orange moon.
| Sheila said the paintings' parallel stripes reminded her of ancient Chinese scrolls of poems whose text she couldn't read but whose Chinese characters she found visually affecting.
I didn't think I could paint anything similar to "La Luna Naranja" again. With hindsight, I realized that it was a painting made possible only in the period of transition which began with Adam's departure and ended with my series of black-and-white paintings.
Comprised of a series of jagged vertical lines against a white background, my latest works signified a radical departure for me. The lines were as dark as my favorite dessert, and were laid closely to each other so that the white background only rarely peeped through. The paintings were all sized at 20" X 20"a scale that allowed me more intimacy than did my previous pieces. They were painted on board instead of canvasspecifically board which I'd first laid with gesso and then rigorously smoothened. After painting the surface white, I laid the board vertically against a wall. Using thin brushes dipped into black paint, I then dripped black paint from the top edge and allowed gravity to control how paint would flow down and create the linear pattern. Sheila said the paintings' parallel stripes reminded her of ancient Chinese scrolls of poems whose text she couldn't read but whose Chinese characters she found visually affecting.
The paintings signified another departure as, during the year that I painted them, I couldn't block them from my mind. I so breathed, ate and felt them throughout my days that I was fired by the Met after breaking one of their rarer specimens of antique glass.
Not only was I not surprised when Jason Yardley showed up at my opening but I was delighted. I knew he had arrived when I felt the room temperature heat up, as if the sun had entered the 7th Boulevard Gallery. Of course, it was only Jason's eyes. His eyes grabbed me as soon as he walked through the door. But before coming to me, he first walked along the walls looking closely at each painting.
Then he walked up to me and said, "Doesn't it feel great?"
"Yes," I said simply. And we stood there for a long time, just smiling at each other until others noticed the strange tableau we began to present. But we just kept smiling at each other until others started smiling, too. Then, began by Sheila and Larry, the others started chuckling and then laughing. And we started laughing, too.
| I was heartened as I felt I finally achieved my goal of manifesting what I long held to be
as good a definition
of a successful painting as I could ever articulate: that organic combination of what engages visual, emotional and intellectual faculties.
After that show, I left the 7th Boulevard Gallery for a prestigious gallery on 57th Street. My last show received critical acclaim even though I and the others at my gallery didn't have any connections with critics or editors of art magazines. Word just spread and the critics, then collectors, attended. ART EXPOSED's reviewer called my works "a cool yet lyrical evocation of transformation, a handsome manifestation of engaging with art history so that the viewer is moved to become intimate with what nevertheless is a rather austere surface." I was heartened as I felt I finally achieved my goal of manifesting what I long held to be as good a definition of a successful painting as I could ever articulate: that organic combination of what engages visual, emotional and intellectual faculties. (I think this is what ART EXPOSED's reviewer also meant, but I'm never sure I fully understand what critics mean.)
With the black-and-white paintings, I and the 7th Boulevard Gallery experienced our first sold-out show. The Witch offered representation but I opted for the George Adams Gallery because I trusted George. I considered him a person and dealer with much integrity.
I've also left New York to join Jason in New Mexico. In fact, we are preparing for our wedding next month. He insistsand I believethat he would have proposed marriage even if I hadn't become pregnant with what we hope to be the first of many children. Today, we are installing a crib in the room that will become a nursery. Hanging on its wall is "La Luna Naranja." We agree that it belongs in the nurserya room that pays homage to transition and then birth.
We realize we have no control over our children's fates. But, to the best of our abilities, we plan to teach them courageto have the guts to dream. In "La Luna Naranja," Jason says he saw the period in which he was scared of new dreams after achieving immense successthat period when, he now admits, he kept replicating his successful works, scared to dream anew because there was no guarantee that new directions would offer him similar success. In fact, the Witch since has replaced him with a younger artist to highlight as MB Inc.'s star, even though Jason continues to be represented there. But Jason genuinely loves his latest works and that suffices for us to define his success.
Meanwhile, as I adjusted my diet to my pregnancy, I've rediscovered desserts. Dark, dense, flourless, chocolate cake is still my favorite. But, facilitated by the temptations at the French Bakery in downtown Santa Fe, I also now eat leche flan, pumpkin pie, strawberry tarts, lemon mousse and even vanilla cream cakes. How much there is in life to relish!
I've discovered something else in New Mexicothe light. A light that begins each moon with an orange glow. In my dreams, however, the moon is lustrous amber because the colors in my dreams always transcend reality. In my dreams, grey becomes silver and yellow becomes gold.
Jason puts it another way: in dreams, the "silence of winter" never arrives. For silence has no color.
"The Ekphrastic Inspirations to La Luna As Short Story"
I love paintings. Paintings not only speak to me but are positively garrulous. Often, in looking at a painting, I am helpless against the urge to take a notepad from my purse and start taking dictation. My story "La Luna 'Before Silence Of Winter Comes'" is a tale with parts that were dictated to me by the works of four artists: James Westwater, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Theresa Chong.
One of the characters, Jason Yardley, is described as a painter of works that "offered images of single lines curving across single-color backgrounds." These are the images I associate with a British artist I first met in New Mexico, James Westwater (not to be confused with a photographer of the same name). The first reference to Yardley's works refer to some public criticism of his works, a reference that may seem negative towards the underlying inspiration: Westwater. But any implied criticism is purely fictional; I love Westwater's paintings, as evidenced partly by how I welcomed five of his works into my home.
Indeed, I reference Yardley's/Westwater's images more positively later in the story when I mention how various line gestures on paintings are inspired by Jackson Pollock's figurative sketches, the other inspiration of the images I ascribe to Yardley. I offer Yardley saying, "He [Pollock] had this one gesture I recall from art school-something that's been popping up lately into my dreams. It was the way he drew the curve of a woman's breast, as if he could trace that arc forever. I want to evoke that passion with the lines I use to sunder solid blocks of color. If I must sunder, I must get lost in its movement!"
The painting referenced in the title"La Luna Naranja" is a work by the story's primary (unnamed) character. "La Luna Naranja" is described as containing an image of "the red-orange moon
a circle whose edges touched four sides of the 68" X 68" canvas." The fictional painting was inspired by the large paintings of the masterful and lyrical colorist, Mark Rothko. In Rothko's 1949 "Untitled" painting whose image is available online at the National Gallery of Art website
[http://www.nga.gov/feature/rothko/classic1.html] you can see a dark color block of color similarly pushing/expanding toward the edges of Rothko's canvas.
Towards the end of the story, the primary character is described as having painted a wonderful series of black-and-white paintings. These fictional works were inspired by Theresa Chong (whose works may be seen at http://www.danesegallery.com/chong/). As I had benefited from once doing an interview with her, I was able to incorporate from that interview into the story various technical details: the material (e.g. not just generally paint but the specificity of Utrecht's non-yellowing white since it is the only white that doesn't yellow with age), that remains "pure over time."
I also integrated what I'd learned about Chong's painting process: "The paintings were all sized at 20" X 20"a scale that allowed me more intimacy than did my previous pieces. They were painted on board instead of canvas-specifically board which I'd first laid with gesso and then rigorously smoothened. After painting the surface white, I laid the board vertically against a wall. Using thin brushes dipped into black paint, I then dripped black paint from the top edge and allowed gravity to control how paint would flow down and create the linear pattern."
Last but not least, in addition to paintings inspiring this story, part of it as well as the title was inspired by the work of another poet: George Trakl. Thus, at one point in the story, the primary character is featured "mumbling" the lines from Trakl's poem "Helian":
Overwhelming is the generation's decline,
At this hour the eyes of him who gazes
Fill with the gold of his stars . . . .
Softly yellowed moons roll
Over the fever sheets of the young man,
Before silence of winter comes."
Much of my creative writing work derives inspiration from the works of others. This reflects my reliance on "ekphrasis" (art inspired by other forms of art) for partly transcending the limits of my imagination. But perhaps more significantly, ekphrasis allows me to walk the path of realizing that Poetry is not something I need to fictionalize; Poetry already exists around us, if we can only become open enough to see.
[Editor's Note: "La Luna 'Before Silence of Winter Comes'" is one of the stories in Eileen Tabios's first and forthcoming short story collection entitled "Behind The Blue Canvas" to be published by Giraffe Books.]
© Eileen R. Tabios
top | about the author