Our Lady of July

Our Lady of July – Oil on canvas – 23 x 33 inches.

We could read everything literally: a quiet room, leaves and tangled branches in a garden outside, a sculpture of a woman on a mantlepiece, a table with a plate and a glass of wine, a hanging lamp, two empty chairs, a landscape painting, an armoire with mirrors, a woman on a bench, sunlight pouring through stained-glass windows over floor tiles and walls, saturating the room, like colored air.

When I painted this scene as realistically as I was able to, I hoped that the literal might open a bridge into the imaginal: Are birds singing in the garden? Why are there chairs for two people when the table is set for only one? Is the plate as empty as it seems? Is the hidden woman a young girl? Perhaps she’s old and her hair is white. Is the wine poured for her, or for someone else? Does the sculpture of the woman on the mantlepiece see anything we cannot? If she could speak, what would she tell us?

The Edge of Spring

The Edge of Spring – Oil on paper – 21 x 29 inches.

For those not paying attention, Winter passed into Spring a couple of days ago. Or so sayeth the Gregorian Calendar. (As we well know, Nature often has other plans.)

I was going to try to write something profound about blossoming lilacs, longer and warmer days, chattering birds, et cetera, but it likely would have turned into a lot of blarney.

Maybe it’s better to just look at an image of water and light and to paraphrase a poem by David Ignatow:

We should be content
to look at a river
for what it is
and not as a comment on our lives.

Ripley Morning

Ripley Morning – Watercolor – 21 x 29 inches.

A few months ago, there were no boats in this water, no piers stretching out their wooden arms, no canoe, only bare trees shuddering under the weight of winds from the North. A thick slab of gray ice covered this water, and a foot of snow covered the ice.

A long time ago — in the months of summer, at least — I thought this lake was the center of the World. School and teachers did not exist, homework and my paper route did not exist. Parents existed, but only on the periphery of the lake and trees and sunlight and thunderstorms. My fishing rod existed, and a canoe, and a few brothers, sisters and cousins. A girl existed too, but only in my hometown, which during summer months did not exist.

This watercolor is only a fragment of a memory. The sun has scarcely risen and we can hear waves slap against the shore and the murmur of crickets and frogs, but we can’t hear the crows in the cornfields on the far side of the trees. Children are still sleeping in the cottages nearby, but not for long. We’ll hear their cries and laughter throughout the rest of the day. Quiet will return at twilight when mosquitoes and fireflies emerge out of the dark and bats dart and swoop over the lake. Soon the children will be asleep again.

Tomorrow the sun will rise above the trees in this little corner of this little lake. Slowly July will pass into August and then into September. We’ll return to our hometown to find that it’s still there, just as we left it. Except perhaps for the girl.
Eventually we’ll learn that Summer has a twin who’s dressed in ice and snow, but still as beautiful as our imaginations can imagine.