Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Secret

 “I want to be inside your darkest everything.” -Frida Kahlo

The idea for making a painting of Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 6 July 1907 Р13 July 1954) came to me after I watched the movie of her life; simply called Frida. Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek played Frida and the movie is brisk, engaging and colorful. I watched it at home with my wife Amy Córdova.

Amy and I recently visited Mexico City and went to places that Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera left an indelible mark upon. Rivera has immense murals in various places in the city. Kahlo’s family home is now a museum.

One of the highlights for us was visiting Museo De Arte Moderno, and seeing a seminal work by Kahlo, called The Two Fridas. It is a big painting—almost six feet square. To stand in front of it is almost breathtaking. Kahlo’s fame grew rapidly after the 1960’s and now this artwork is iconic.

I researched Frida’s work and chose a painting she made early in her life, just before her terrible accident that left her crippled and in pain. It is called Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. She made it in 1926 when nineteen years old. I copied it exactly and then put in the skeleton, as if embracing her and whispering in her ear, or about to kiss her cheek. It symbolizes death that speaks to her.

Just before she died at the age of 47, she wrote “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”

At the top:
 "The Secret" oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, by Steven Boone
Limited edition print available. Click here: Frida

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Good Luck Trolls on St. Paddy's Day

Recently Amy finished a round painting that included an extra-terrestrial riding a unicorn, surrounded by “lucky” symbols. Near the bottom are two trolls, also known to be good luck charms, (see: Troll Doll).

Trolls remind me of an episode from my youth that has always stayed with me. In the early 1960’s our family of seven were becoming upwardly mobile and lived in a lovely neighborhood in Washington DC. I was almost a teenager. Not quite. My father, Richard W. Boone,  worked in the field of social reform and was quite active leading an organization called Citizens Crusade Against Poverty. Mother had begun working as an independent insurance broker. It was decided to hire a live-in domestic helper. Mother nixed any applicants that were young and pretty. The choice was Mrs. Smith; a homely middle aged black woman who came to live with us and took a bus home to a black neighborhood on weekends. Mrs. Smith was treated with deference and became part of our family. She ate at the table and if any child talked back to her they would hear it from father. Her duties were cooking, keeping the home clean and tending to piles of laundry—everything my mother would be doing if she had not begun working as an insurance agent.

In the early 1960’s troll dolls became one of America’s biggest toy fads. Boys as well as girls collected them. I had several. I liked the broad round face, the hair that stood straight up, the glass eyes with the half-wild stare and the gooey feeling body that would bend and spring back. When I started keeping them in a private place in my clothes drawer, the trouble began.

One afternoon I was in my room and Mrs. Smith came in. She made me open my drawer, revealing my trolls. Two dolls were resting gently on their backs looking up at us. They smiled mischievously with their big eyes, resting contentedly upon a pile of clean, folded white t-shirts.

“What are these?” she demanded. I could not explain exactly what they were . . . “Well, take them out of the drawer. I don’t want to see them again! And I am serious!” I was flabbergasted but removed and hid them somewhere else.
A week or so later, after the storm had passed, my little trolls went back to their home in my drawer. Mrs. Smith took clean undershirts and pants to my room, opened my dresser and got a shock. This time she was almost furious with me. “I told you not to put those in your drawer!” I knew this time she meant it and my dolls absolutely gave her the creeps. Secretly, I was happy my trolls had such huge hidden voodoo powers—after all, I had thought them to be harmless pet toys.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Full Of Opportunities

“This world is so full of opportunities that one can hardly keep up with them all. Life is so beautiful; I cherish it and want to be able to see every part of it.”

My daughter Naomi wrote these words in her journal when she was seventeen.  This was at the beginning of her intense, two year struggle with cancer that ended with her death.
As with so many of her thoughts she wrote during that period, they hold wisdom, especially since life turned cruel and painful for her but did not dim her love.

Now, nineteen years since Naomi’s passing, I find it useful and transformative to use the word “opportunity” as a mental concept during activities. Especially in situations that might be annoying or perhaps I don’t relish.

Here are recent examples:

I am sitting at the wheel of my car, stuck in traffic or at a red light that seems too long: Thanks for the opportunity to wait peacefully.
Cleaning debris and trash out of the back of my van: Thanks for the opportunity to do something simple and use my body to make the environment better.
Obey the Baha’i fast, abstaining from food or water from sunrise to sunset for nineteen days: Thanks for the opportunity to strengthen my will and offer my body joyfully to my Lord during these special hours.
Doing the paperwork to file my taxes: Thanks for the opportunity to be organized and see my transactions spanning the last year.
This practice can be used for everything—from doing dishes, to cleaning a yard, being in a crowd, lost, at the doctor—anything.

Almost any occasion can be turned to advantage when we see it as opportunity.  Naomi did. Even her end was an opportunity. Having lost her battle to win the “acres and acres” of life she so longed to have, then suffocating as her lungs failed, she said to a friend who stood behind her wheelchair massaging her shoulders, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.” Naomi took her last moments as an opportunity to give thanks before leaving her physical frame forever.