above- the creek did rise 24 x 24″ oil
Some recent COVID developments landed on me heavy; I took to my overstuffed studio/office chair and stared at the five months’ mess I haven’t been able to tackle.
I sat and couldn’t imagine painting, photographing work, organizing my work space, building a box to ship a piece, following up on inquiries… basically there was no part of my job (or my life really) that I could feel it to do, because I had a big old COVID hopeless.
So I sat and felt hopeless. Lacking other options, I settled in.
Whatever amount of time later, it changed. Who knew that would happen? I was witness to a mysterious rally; I didn’t overthink it. No grim bad news became less so. But the things right in front of my face became more important because they were right in front of my face.
So I fished my big 2020 day planner/organizer out of my bag where it has languished since retail shut down earlier this year, and I grabbed a pen. I began a list.
All day I added to the list as I got things done rather than listing anything I wanted to get done. It was a list of the done things, things done with and alongside grim bad news hopelessness. It was a defiant list of done things.
Today I think I will do much the same. I have a 4 item to do list, have crossed one thing off, and I look forward to adding all kinds of done things to it. Defiant done things. There is a grim enthusiasm. Should I lack capacity to do official yay worky things, here are things I may list: made it to bathroom on time! Scratched my nose- well done, me! Cleaned my glasses. Browsed facebook, and email.
Glad for now to be out of that chair, but it is still there if I need it again. I may even put it on my defiant list: sat in hopeless chair.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
― Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography
The painting above is about Occupy Ice/Camp Compasion of 2018 Louisville. I painted the camp on a coal barge, wishing it could just keep moving in advance of the city tearing it down. My thinking somehow shifted from resistance in the form of occupation of a place to resistance in (mobile) existence.
As part of this summer’s intense racial justice offerings pushed out so many ways, I tuned into a talk about climate justice. It made the point that climate change is not screwing people equally but is an urgent issue for the Movement for Black Lives; spaces, properties, neighborhoods are profoundly racialized for reasons beyond the accomplishment of segregation per se… reasons like rising water levels. And people are organizing around this in some coastal cities… but here in Louisville we have this big old river. Should we be organizing too?
So I took a look at the 1937 flood map of Louisville, and the redlining map. Another “hundred year flood” like 1937 is, I don’t know, potentially happening this very summer? Because of climate change.
Here is the heat island map… heat island impacts are experienced already right now, though not so severe as what we can expect with climate change.
So I asked someone who knows about floodwater and they said Louisville direly needs the Army Corps of Engineers to come assess our flood basin and find out just how ready we are/n’t for this 1937 level of flood (or worse) that could be here who knows but this summer or next.
I’m thinking about what it will cost to update those flood protections, and the scale of reparations that may be needed to resettle Black people in Louisville to safer ground.
I had a more developed narrative in mind, I wanted to paint about what I was sitting with. But I posted a progress shot of this one on fb and a couple people including my mother pretty much told me to leave it as is. Which I did.
I mean, I painted the underpainting so there would be a more stable + durable paint layer, but added no more content.
It’s unusual that people ask me to stop on a piece and it also makes perfect sense; we are all sitting with different things in our lives. The painting above makes room for what’s before you and what’s before me too, and is also more about sitting than what one might be sitting with.
There is another taller underpainted canvas sitting and waiting for me that better suits that more explicit narrative anyway, it’s red-orange so a more high-keyed starting place. And that explicit narrative is still nagging at me so I imagine it will indeed get painted next. I bought some canvases right before local art supply stores had to shut down for COVID.
The tree is a water oak, with some resurrection ferns. It looks like it got beat up pretty hard during one of our power outage wind and hailstorms, but it rallied.
The chair is a classic “Kentucky chair”— my mother collects them and they show up in her paintings, though she paints all kinds of chairs and does not play favorites.
I love looking at them, both the chairs and her paintings. In use, Kentucky chairs tend to creak like an old tree or an wood house in the wind, which can alarm folks not familiar with the chair type. In general people don’t want their chairs to squeak and flex underneath them.
Here is one of my mother’s paintings with Kentucky chairs, called “pinky swear” – it is 4 x 5′
Thank you for being here for me after so long!
On the wall is a piece I borrowed from my brother Will. You can buy it and I will borrow another one. See more of his stuff here.
My work in progress:
Really this post has been about learning to blog from my phone, as in can I even do it. The answer is yes but posts will be image-heavy as my thumbs are stiff and slow.
I went looking for words 28 x 22″ oil
Know for a fact that mountains are fond of wise people and sages.
I am learning trees have grown in stranger situations than mine, and to trust what I know, which is that trees want to grow. It’s just what they do. The growing tree is itself 100% on my side in my project of growing a tree.
Who knew the tree could grow so big, in that little pot.