Inventing rituals was a game I often played when arranging props in my studio. It began in 1993 after I found a glass daguerreotype at a local flea market. The image in the glass plate captivated me. In it, a solitary figure stands in an empty room with arms upraised as if caught in the act of juggling. Because the daguerreotype is an image in reverse, the juggler appears to wear a white suit which looks brilliant against the umber of the dark wall. The juggler, seeming to perform an arcane ritual, became the foil for my painting entitled – A Court for Owls. In the painting, a small table covered in white is set against a white wall. Three balls sit on the tabletop in front of the daguerreotype which leans against a white card. You can see the image of the juggling figure in the glass plate. I worked to make my arrangement seem of great consequence, as if every part in it existed in an exquisite balance.
Later, when writing about A Court for Owls in an artist’s statement, I realized how the idea for this painting came to me. It came from my childhood fascination with The Random Logic Machine I had seen at a science fair as a girl of seven. I remembered watching, transfixed, as The Random Logic Machine spewed hundreds of balls from a central opening at the top of the large, perplexing device. Once released, the balls then fell in illogical yet repetitive patterns into slots which fanned outward on either side - over and over again. Periodically, far from the maddening cluster of balls falling in chaotic frenzy into slots at the center of The Random Logic Machine, one lone ball made its way to the outermost edge. Every time this happened I would rejoice - the rarity of this seemed auspicious to me, especially because I somehow linked my fate to that lone ball.
My first version of After the Meal, Nestor Lit the King’s Cigar was a large charcoal drawing entitled –A Pocketful of Stars completed in 1994. The composition for both drawing and painting was essentially the same. However, there was one significant difference. In the drawing, the organ top is upright and stable, set firmly against a white wall. In the painting, the organ top tilts - seemingly about to fall -bringing with it everything on the shelf that had been so reverently placed.
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket never let it fade away…
After the Meal, Nestor Lit the King’s Cigar took months to complete. Obsessively, I painted brushstrokes of warm over cool in luminous tones of blue, ochre and pearl grey in an effort to create air as a counterbalance to the heaviness of the falling organ top. I rendered, meticulously, the Victorian decorative scrolls and arrows etched into the dark wood. Porcelain balls – two placed on the left shelf and three on the right – I made bright, white and lustrous. Three gold stars, pasted on a white card, sparkled. A gilded box of white- gold, tied with a thin red ribbon, reflected a quiet and serene interior light. A yellow card with three red stars on the left shelf, balanced the picture in red on the cigar box – Webster/Golden Anniversary - on the right. All was rendered in tribute to the man who taught me everything and loved me unfailingly. Eat, drink, and be merry - the biblical injunction my father lived by and sought to pass on. How many great feasts and bottles of wine have I shared with friends when I do not stop for a moment and think of my father, as big and as merry as Falstaff? How often do I remember my father’s broad smile and imagine seeing it as he opens a bottle of Bloomer Creek wine, and of how proud he would have been to drink wine that we had made, from grapes we had grown. On Christmas Eve, Kim and I walk at dusk across Barrow Vineyard to the cedar tree. Before planting grapes there, the abandoned field needed to be cleared of brush and shrubs. We left one cedar tree to grow amongst the vines. The impracticality of this was why I asked Kim to leave it in the first place. I wanted the tree to be a symbol of tribute to our ancestors - for all that has gone before us and all that would follow. Because it wasn’t practical, the idea of leaving the tree in the row seemed even more special. The very act of establishing a vineyard contains the idea of reverence and continuity. Kim and I want Barrow Vineyard to thrive. We want to rejoice in the thought of wine made from its vines long after we are gone. By coincidence, the tree was left in row 17, the day of my father’s birth. How fitting, since the hillside - filled with vines overlooking dark water – was planted in his honor. Mike/Nestor died before Bloomer Creek Vineyard began. Kim and I know, however, that he had planted the seeds for it long before he died.
My faith is a starless dawn, compared with the depths of the night, Father’s faith, in which the Milky Way spiraled out of God’s mouth as a mist in the frosty cold. -- Josip Novacovich