An Introduction, a Departure, and a Unicorn

This is the announcement for my upcoming show, my first solo show in Santa Barbara. Big news! If you are nearby, COME! If you are not nearby, hold your breath for a leetle bit here because once the show goes up, you’ll be able to see photos of it on…my website.

Yes, it’s true. I’ve become a fully-formed being of the digital age. I now exist as a domain in the world wide web in addition to my corporeal form. Hello world. Please meet…

The Red Bull Seeks Amalthea, 12″ x 16″, ink and acrylic on canvas

Apologies if I seem a bit, as my mother puts it, punchy. I’m running on two hours of sleep. I spent last night finishing paintings and matching lipstick colors to summer dresses. You see, I’m heading off for ten days to a wedding in New York and a short jaunt to Montreal. My show opens three days after I get back and the invitational to which this piece belongs shortly thereafter, so it’s been a bit of a time crunch and sleep (and some modicum of sanity) went by the wayside.

I’m not sure what internet and free time will be like while I’m gallivanting, so you may have radio silence for the next week and a half or so. Consider the above painting my offering. Here’s the context (less punchy as I wrote it earlier); I hope you enjoy musing over it for the next little while here:

The Red Bull Seeks Amalthea is based on a fantasy story I grew up with called The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle (spoiler alert!). Unicorns have mysteriously vanished from the world. The last remaining one sets out to find her fellows and discovers that they have been kidnapped by an avaricious king, driven into the ocean by a powerful beast called the Red Bull, an animal made of fire. A blundering but compassionate magician transforms the unicorn into a woman, Amalthea, in an attempt to hide her from the bull. When the bull realizes that the woman is the unicorn, Amalthea must face her pursuer and choose between her own kind and her love for a human prince. In the end she rescues the unicorns and returns to her original form, the only unicorn to ever feel love and regret. The tale is a beautiful allegory of fear and identity; it can be interpreted as a metaphor for the way our true nature pursues us and the lessons we learn through that venery. The essence of that pursuit is what I aimed for in the painting.

Things to Draw: Jumping Armadillo

Jumping Armadillo, 8 1/2″ x 5 3/8″, ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic on paper

After the fact I wondered if this prompt was intended to signify a multitude of jumping armadillo. I mean, how sure am I of the plural of armadillo? It could be one of those deer/deer situations. Regardless, once I’d been struck by the image of the old nursery rhyme, there was no going back. Hey diddle, diddle!

That to Which We Defer

A fuzzy sketch of Gemmy watching TV.

My grandmother’s visiting. Her presence leaves a trail of TIME magazines, pistachio shells, and the sound of game shows. In the evening, though, when the game shows have mostly gone off to bed, she finds other entertainment. She used to watch A & E Biography, but I think now, as her memory weakens, she looks for shows with shorter plot arcs and punchier narration.

Tonight she was watching The Church Channel. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it. In this house we mostly watch HBO, sports, and crime dramas. But tonight when I came in to bring her pills, I sat on the edge of the bed and listened. And I heard this,

“Who’re you?”

“A child of the most-high God.”

And you know what? I get that. Religion, history, politics; those are other stories. This story is in me.

Neuron Norms, 22″ x 16″, ink, chalk pastel, and acrylic on unprimed canvas and loose-weave cotton, 2010

Whatever we trust most in this world, this universe, this frame of reference…we are that. That which we defer to, that within which we place our own faith. We are nothing less than the progeny of our own inspiration.

Even when I’m grumpy, even when I’m frustrated and failing, I am what I take comfort in.

Krumholz Lodgepole, Spooning Boulder by Carla Roybal, 2012

Lodgepole pines twisting in the krumholz of the High Sierra. The smell of sage in my own mountainsides. The slow seeping of ink into unprimed canvas. The memory of every artist that ever came before me, those concurrent to me, and those who will follow after. The feeling of my family and the ones I have found along the way to add to that collection. My butt on the cushion in meditation while each little neuron explodes in madness and wisdom.

I am a child of the most-high God.

Soda Bread and Sadness like a Pond

This bread, though humble, is symbolically laden. It’s both an ode to the past and an offering to the present. It’s inspired by my memory of a bread I used to bake with my ex-boyfriend, yet distinctly divergent in that it’s laden with dairy, to which he is allergic.

The seventh is his birthday, which I am, for obvious reasons, not celebrating with him, as I was once sure I would. But that awareness brings his memory, and other parts of the past, close by. There was more to my sadness than leaving Ethan, spread out over more time than our break-up and made up of the myriad ways in which one can doubt and hurt oneself, but losing some one I never meant to lose sticks out as a low point in the whole affair. Today I am thinking about how we let go…of people, of certainties, of pain and self-defeat.

From Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh © 2011

The last five months of my life have been my own rendition of (the incredible) Allie’s Adventures in Depression. Instead of doing nothing and mocking myself for doing nothing, I make myself busy and then mock myself for producing nothing that seems worthwhile. It feels about the same, though, I’d wager. Our stories end a bit differently, too. For me, their was no homeless Eskimo aha! moment, no junk food and horror movie defiance. It was more like the surface of a pond’s transition from winter to spring.

Slowly, slowly, the ice thins. Until one day it cracks. And then it fragments. Time passes, and each fragment melts. Until, without a certainty from one moment to the next that it had happened, the barrier has gone. The pond is fluid once more.

I guess the fish are feeling sunshine again over here. I don’t know where sadness goes when it leaves, or heartache either. They never disappear completely, and I anticipate that they’ll come back at some future time, unexpected and unwanted. But at the moment, I’m just grateful that the places I hoped I’d never reach again don’t last forever, and that the edges of the past become less jagged in their own time.

Recipe and further food thoughts after the jump…

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