women & things

I have a new exhibit of paintings going up at Images Cinema next week. If you are local, stop by and see them during the month of August, anytime the cinema is open. There will be an opening reception on Friday August 4, 5:00-6:30pm.

Women & Things
(acrylics on canvas board)
We are here and we hold things in our hands. Those things are tools or coffee or other types of items that we use for making and doing. 
I am a woman, mom, wife– but I am more than these things. I make stuff. Mostly comics, but also portraits, paintings, still lifes, written stories, plays, dances. I also made a human. I love movies. I teach a comics workshop. 
This is a tough time. I do not know all the right things to do and there is a lot I don’t know. I try. I’m raising my little baby with all the feminist gusto I can muster: teaching him kindness, love, understanding, how to listen and ask questions. 
My mom is dead. She was also an artist, a painter. Making these paintings is a kind of calling out to her. 
art bitch

Art Bitch, NFS

 

romance.jpg

Romance, $250

woman in kitchen.jpg

Woman in Kitchen, $250

 

typewriter & books.jpg

Typewriter & Books, $250

 

phoebe in red.jpg

Phoebe in Red Sweatshirt with Red Mug, NFS

 

phoebe painting.jpg

Phoebe Painting, NFS

yellow dress.jpg

Yellow Dress, $250

 

self-portrait at taco place.jpg

Self-Portrait at Taco Place, NFS

 

coffee and tools.jpg

Coffee & Tools, $150

 

iced coffee & arm.jpg

Iced Coffee & Arm, $150

 

pencil sharpener,coffee, pens.jpg

Pencil Sharpener, Coffee, Pens, $150

 

jar & norebook.jpg

Jar & Notebook, $150

 

 

 

 

 

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my love affair with coffee

coffee

It started when I was seven years old. My parents drank Taster’s Choice Instant Coffee back then and kept a green jar of decaf just for me. Lots of milk and sugar. Then when I got older Mama and I would make lattes together, heating the milk and frothing it with a whisk, making Cafe Bustelo espresso on the stove in the Italian espresso pot. Cafes in New York, diners, all my favorite little spots to sit and drink and write and draw. Coffee on trains across the country. Coffee in San Francisco, and New York again. Coffee back at home with  Mama, whisking the milk, sprinkling cinnamon on top. Coffee by myself. For the year between my engagement and marriage I saved all those yellow and red Cafe Bustelo cans and used them as flower vases on the tables at the wedding.

Now Greg makes coffee, setting it up the night before in our new coffee maker so it will be ready at the right time in the morning. He brings me a cup in bed before he leaves for work.

laptop, cat, and coffee

laptop, cat, and coffee When I’m working at home, the kittens’ favorite spot is on my desk, basking in the light from the window. Today, Ingrid has been right there, sleeping on and off, only getting up to follow me to the kitchen or the bathroom. Galactus is on top of the climbing tower, occasionally jumping down and trotting over to check on me.

As I write this, Ingrid has jumped down, and Galactus waited only a moment to take her place in the exact same sunny spot.

My mom’s 56th birthday

It’s unfair that my mom is not turning 56 today. It’s stupid and sad and dumb. I hate that she will never be more than 54. She would have been really good at being old– the coolest, most kickass, cowgirl boot wearing old lady on the planet.

I don’t really know what else to say about it, but here I am drinking a big latte (“Give me the biggest latte you have,” is how my mom often ordered at coffee shops) and I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of the day. I will probably do some drawing. Maybe see a movie. Have a really good dinner.

My mom was really good at birthdays. In our family we have the tradition of waking up the birthday person really early by singing happy birthday and bringing them breakfast in bed. I used to lie awake on my birthday morning, pretending to still be asleep, listening for that soft singing coming from down the hall..

Mama’s favorite breakfast was bacon (extra crispy), orange juice, and coffee.

My sister was born three days after my mom’s birthday in 1987. I was two and have vague shadow memories of the day which could just be impressions left by people telling me the story so many times. But I was there, running around the hospital room in my pink converse sneakers, holding the doll they gave me (Linda Lou) so that I had a baby too. “Mommy, let’s leave our babies here and go home now,” I have been reported as saying. Mama always called Phoebe the best birthday present she ever got.

I wish I could take my sister out for wine and chocolate today. I wish we could play cards and laugh and cry together and listen to the mountain sounds and watch our mom paint the sunset. But since we’re on opposite sides of the world right now, I’ll reach my arms out and we’ll hold the whole world and Mama will be the sky and all the people that love her will be part of it and we’ll all eat green chile and homemade tortillas and sing Long Black Veil. We’ll ask, “Do you want to have something or do something,” and she’ll reply “do something” so we’ll go to the movies or climb a mountain and dance all night drinking red wine (dry and cheap) or tequila (never waste good tequila) wearing skeleton dresses and long earrings and cowgirl boots (of course). We’ll wear straw hats and paint outside (en plein air). We’ll pop popcorn and each have our own bowls and paint our toenails and watch the Alice Neel documentary.

We’ll keep living and keep having birthdays and it’ll never be as good without her but we go on anyway. We’ll do the things we love. We’ll make our lives what we want them to be and use our own brains.

I love you Mama. Happy birthday.

working at home

I love Wednesdays. They’re usually my work-at-home day, when I get to spend the whole day writing, drawing, making things…doing my own work. When I lived in San Francisco for a couple months after college, I lived this kind of life: Wake up, breakfast, go for a walk/explore the city, write, draw comics, dinner, watch a movie. Every day was my own. I wanted to see if I could live this life of a professional writer/artist, and if I would enjoy it. I did.

I enjoy my cinema work, too. It gives me a place to get out of my own head, be part of the movie world that I love, have a role in the community. And I’m so grateful to have a “money job” doing something I truly believe in. But I still yearn for the day that I can support myself and my family using my own work.

I’ve worked very hard to get here, to this point of being able to work part-time at a job I like, and have time to do my art work at home. There have been many “money jobs” in my life that I did not believe in so strongly, jobs I dreaded going to. Many morning on the NYC subway I fantasized about not getting off at the right stop, I’d just keep going, have a different day than going into Midtown offices to work as a temp doing things like data entry, refilling coffee in the break room, filling out someone’s Weight Watchers booklet for them, getting yelled at on the phone, getting hit on by older men with photos of their wives right there on their desks. One day, in one particularly depressing office, a man said to me, “I always wanted to be a fashion designer. Then I got a job here and it was just so easy. So I stayed. It’s been twenty years.”

So here I am, living a lovely life, able to pay my portion of the rent and utilities with the money I get paid working at a non-profit art house cinema. And I have time to write stories, make comics and drawings, and even earn a little money from that. I have health insurance. I get enough to eat. I did this, I got myself here. (Of course with the help and support of people who love me, like my parents, who have helped me when I was barely scraping by, and have always supported me emotionally– I know how lucky I am to have this.)

I also know how lucky I am to have a partner who values my work as much as I do. I know this is rare and special. But I’m also saying that I helped make this happen. It didn’t just fall into my lap. This kind of life is totally possible, but you have to make it happen. I make decisions about what is most important to me. I work every day.

When my mom became an artist (well, she was always an artist, but I mean deciding to live a professional artist life), she and I would have conversations about this often. She in her forties and fifties, me in my twenties, both of us at the beginning of our art careers, figuring out how to live, work, love, and be ourselves in the world. Hanging shows together, giving feedback, going to museums, seeing movies, sitting at the table together drinking coffee and drawing.

working at home

Every day, making coffee in Mama’s espresso pot, doing my work, she’s with me. Even when I forget, even when I don’t know it, she’s there.

thinking about my mom today

IMG_9536 This is my mom in Chicago, at a cafe, in March 2012. I was asked to do a reading at AWP, so Mama and I took the train and stayed in a hostel and explored the city together. We bought knitted hats with knitted flowers– she’s wearing hers in this photo, mind is red with a grey flower.

IMG_0054 This is my mom working on her final painting in late December 2012. She painted and drew a little after this, but this was her last finished painting. I have so many pictures in my head just like this, Mama in her overalls, a fuzzy hat, paint all over her clothes and the furniture moved out of the way, drop cloths on the floor. She had a “working face” that was serious and funny all at once. She would squint her eyes, purse her mouth, looking at the person or thing she was painting but also looking through it to the other world, the one she saw with light and shadows. Colors are just made of light.

When Mama started snow-painting (her winter sport) she talked about the specific “winter light.” There are so many colors in those greys and whites. I’m looking out the window here by my desk and I can see all these greys in the sky, and the blues, greens, peaches mixed in, so faintly. The dark branches with thin twisty twigs against the glowing light of this winter sky. Now, on these long winter days which seem like they will never end, I can see how beautiful they really are. I know Mama’s up there painting that sky for us.