March 17, 2010

Media Luna Rocks
8" x 10" oil/canvas

Vieques Wall
12" x 12" oil/gessoed paper

The Paradise Trap

It's been a difficult winter here on the island of Vieques, my home away from home. Sure, I know better than to try to garner sympathy from anyone who hasn't had their shot at the tropics this season. But, still, life in Paradise has its ups and downs:

1. Ripoffs. This year has seen the island community rocked by the news that a well-loved member had embezzled half a million dollars from a local charity and "borrowed" a similar amount from friends. In other news ... Local break-ins upset the mango cart over at my siblings house around the corner. Also, the battery was taken from my car ten feet was where I was eating dinner. One friend has had the gas siphoned from her car repeatedly. Major robbery in my house in Atlanta, described in a previous post, has contributed to my personal weird winter.

2. Weather. The usual reason for being here, the weather this winter has been terrible. First, a lot more rain than usual. (We woke up Christmas morning to an inch of water in my studio -- Santa's meager offerings all swamped.) Now it's about 10 degrees hotter than normal and very humid. The typically everpresent Tradewinds seem to be holding their breath. Great weather if you're a mosquito! (P.S. There's no A/C.)

3. Grumpiness. Everyone is struggling with negativity. Perhaps due to #s 1 and 2, and also helped along by a potent bug (not a mosquito) that's laid up in bed a good percentage of us, it's hard to be positive when you're snorting and snuffling and really hot, due to fever and weather.

I've been here for months now. I could definitely go on. And on.

Job's tribulations come to mind. "Why me, Lord?" My friend Eileen and I both found ourselves comparing this place to a concentration camp, calling upon the spirit of Viktor Frankl to help make sense of it all. Really -- the winter's felt that weird!

Of course, the island's hardships seem more unfair because they're set in the context of the vacationers' expectation that "Life's a beach." If you're here for more than a couple of weeks, or own property here, you're more likely to be grumbling that "Life's a ----- (the other "b" word)," regardless of how much you loved the place when you first set foot upon it.

In reality, Vieques is just a place on earth. A place to live. A place to be. A place to paint. Is it perfect? No! Is it Paradise? Definitely not! Should it be? Only in a world of wishful thinking or gringo romance fiction. To believe otherwise is to struggle in a trap of disappointment and discouragement.

But wait, there's more:

As I write this, it's about to rain again. In tune with the way of things this winter, I just washed my sheets and hung them out to dry. Nevertheless, I've posted a few images of paintings done in the midst of the weirdness. Painting gets me out of small whiny self; it's one way to spring the Paradise Trap and find true freedom.

March 3, 2010

"The Long View"
12" x 16"
oil/linen panel

The Long View

The house we're leaving in the Atlanta area was robbed in a major way this weekend. A car, lawn tractor, our computers, papers, a cherished heirloom cuckoo clock, even the realtor's lock box -- all gone. There's a sense of violation, for sure; no one wants other people to take their stuff without permission. Yet, I have a strong sense that what's no longer in our possession is just that -- stuff. What matters most to me -- my loved ones and my artwork -- were essentially untouched.

When the reports of what was stolen started heading my way, I was most relieved to hear that the thieves were not art appreciators. For once I'm happy my paintings didn't fly off the walls. But, you know, even if they had, I would still retain the benefit of having painted them. Art is not stuff, it's a process and a way of life. There's always more art to be created, a new way to see familiar things.

This winter I've loved painting at Red Beach out on the old Navy base here in Vieques. They closed the road there in the middle of January, much to my dismay. I so wanted to bring my new painting students to this lovely and comfortable spot. Last week the paving project was completed and the road reopened; I was there in a flash, painting "The Long View." Elsewhere, professionals were plotting their plunder of our home. But while they might have gotten some good loot, I've no doubt the payoff for my work is a great deal more satisfying.

I've composed many of this winter's Red Beach to show the strip of the land on the western side of the crescent that forms the beach. It's a fair distance from the shore; you could swim to it but then you'd be too close to appreciate it properly. In my opinion, it's a vista best viewed from a distance. Kind of like life. Close up there are many snags and crags; in the long view, however, you see that there's much light in unexpected places.