Showing posts with label Smile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smile. Show all posts

Sunday, April 23, 2023


To be honest, the skeleton motif took me by surprise here in Mexico and then I stayed with itcreating about a dozen paintings so far. Certainly there are those who have followed and collected my artwork over the decades who are bewildered and perplexed by my departure from landscape painting. All I can say is this is Oaxaca, Mexico and I have been influenced and like it. People ask when I will go back to landscapes. I don’t know.

My latest is called Venice Vanitas. It shows that even in one of the most desirable places, Venice, Italy, amidst youth, luxury, pomp, √©lan, gaiety and romance, death is a commanding presence. 

Everyone is always aware of death on an unconscious level. It is omnipresent. We are born with our days numbered. A germ can take over the body and cause it to fail. Sudden accidents occur. People can even die of melancholy. In the 18th century, death certificates signed by the British clergy listed as many as 41 different causes of death, including 'suffocated by wet nurse or mother'. 

Not that we dwell on all this and live fearfully. That is perhaps why I am bringing death to the fore. As if to say, “I see you, and I am okay with you being always around.”

In the painting Venice Vanitas, a lovely young woman is enjoying a gondola ride on the grand canal. She holds red flowers, symbolizing life. A mask is nearby, symbolizing deceptionlife can be deceiving. The water is flowing life force; bringing us from birth to death and always onward. The bridge is passage from one world to the next. The skeleton gondoleer is death, determining when life will eventually end.

A story:

Once upon a time in Venice, there was a young woman named Venetia. She was known throughout the city for her beauty and her love of life. One sunny day, she decided to take a gondola ride on the grand canal, the main artery of Venice.

As she drifted along the canal, Venetia held in her hand a bouquet of red flowers, symbolizing the beauty and vitality of life. But nearby, a mask lay on the seat, a reminder that life can be deceiving, that appearances can be false.

The water flowed around her, a reminder of the life force that carries us all from birth through death. A bridge she passed often spanned the canal, a symbol of the progress from one world to the next, from the living to the dead.

Guiding the gondola stood the Grim Reaper, a reminder that death is always with us, determining when our time on earth will come to an end.

Despite the reminder of death, Venetia was not afraid. She knew that life was meant to be lived to the fullest, and she was determined to enjoy every moment of it. She smiled at the skeleton behind her, knowing that one day they would meet again, but for now, she was content to enjoy the beauty of Venice and the joy of being alive.

As the gondola glided along the canal, Venetia breathed in the salty sea air and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. She knew that life was fleeting, but she also knew that it was beautiful, and that she would always cherish the memories of this moment. And so she continued to smile, holding her bouquet of red flowers, enjoying the ride, and living her life to the fullest.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Kaleidoscope of Sensual Surprises

Life is a kaleidoscope of sensual surprises.  During travel, I leave familiar surroundings to engage in the unknown and see with fresh eyes, hear with new ears, and think new thoughts. All the while being mesmerized and awed by little revelations. Yet even without going anywhere, the kaleidoscope of patterns, sights, sounds, tastes and smells is always turning; a bite of cold wind across the face, coming indoors to fragrant aromas of cooking foods, hearing the song of a strange bird for the first time, a fabulous sunset or sunrise.

A surprise can be simple and appear like a gift from an unseen hand. I have deep windowsills at home. In my bedroom I placed a model of a sailing ship on a window ledge. Recently, before taking a nap after lunch, I pulled the curtains closed. After rising, I went to the curtains and saw the ships shadows cast upon the fabric. It captured my imagination and I went and got my camera. The rippling folds of cloth were like ocean waves that took my vessel into an etheric sea. Why did I notice it? The winter light and angle of the sun made the picture come to life. Also, I was willing to see . . . because if my emotions and thoughts had been obscuring my perceptions, the little shadow theater would have had no attraction. I had seen it before. Now the elements lined up to capture my senses and I was ready.
I like happy accidents and am open to experiencing them during my creative process. Recently, during my month sojourn in Venice, Italy, I fell into a hobby of making photographs of people taking “selfies.” World famous Rialto Bridge was just minutes from my flat. Everyday, thousands of selfies are made there. So whenever I was passing over the bridge, 2 or 3 times a day, I would linger to photograph. Once, I spotted two fellows making a portrait, and surreptitiously became involved with my camera. Just as they were composing, I shot my picture from behind, capturing the subject’s face through the triangle of arm, shoulder and head of the picture taker.

Because I am creative, poems arise from what is garbage to others. One day I was walking on the stone sidewalks of Cuenca, Ecuador. I often look down at the patterns and crevices of the walkways as I sojourn. Something stopped me. A picture had fallen face up onto the grimy patterned  stonework. It was a family portrait of a boy. I noticed how the smiling, lovely face was vulnerable on the dirty sidewalk where it would be stepped on. Why did the scene attract me to take a photograph? Most people would ignore it. I found the incongruity evoked pathos in me. I reflected upon what happens to people in life. The purity of their beginnings fall to earth. At early stages innocence suffers degradation, injury, abandonment, death. Yet the smile and light is in the picture.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Smile In Return For A Smile

The poor jungle nations of Asia never appealed to me. Cambodia fell further in my opinion after learning of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge regime during the civil war, 1991-1997, when millions were ruthlessly massacred. So I arrived in Cambodia after a sojourn in Thailand with trepidation, and have been pleasantly surprised. The people are gracious, more fluent in English, and smiling too. Cambodia is the country cousin to Thailand, without an ultra modern city like Bangkok.

My journey to Siem Reap from Bangkok went smooth enough, and when I arrived at my hotel after 10 in the evening, I found my room spacious and comfortable. The next morning complimentary breakfast satisfied my taste, especially with a cook in the room making custom omelets to order, and after walking around the neighborhood visiting a nearby grand temple and old town with bustling market full of foods, fabrics, and arts & crafts, my previous attitude melted away.

If there were any doubts of the value of being in Cambodia, they have been completely erased by Angkor Wat and the cheerful beauty of Cambodians. I had seen photos of the largest temple complex in the world and was not impressed by the drab colors and jungle scenery. I did not know that it is the most visited sacred site in the world, and if I did, that would have discouraged me further.

I set out this morning before dawn with Francesca, an Italian I met on the flight from Bangkok and became friends with, and Dara, our trusted and smiling tuktuk driver. Even before we got on the road to the temple, tuktuks with passengers were everywhere going in the same direction through the darkness. Fifteen minutes and we were pulling up to Angkor Wat and joining a throng of people walking toward the featureless dark temple. A crowd was already massed at a lake, unable to go further until opening time. As the sun rose the sky brightened behind the spiraling domes and slowly the temple features became visible in bluish tinges with a rosy sky above, embellished by fluffy clouds of purple. We were a bit in awe and simultaneously disappointed to be at the back of a crowd, unable to get the pictures we wanted. Surprisingly, a charming little girl arrived by our side in the half-light and took an order for coffee, then dutifully arrived back in minutes with tasty hot drinks. When we continued forward my impressions steadily rose at the base of the complex while I looked up at the massive scale of the carved rock and orderly beauty of the temple. As we strolled, it became apparent we were in no ordinary place. The crowds quickly thinned so we were actually quite alone. The place is so huge, people set out in all directions by foot and tuktuk. Our wandering excursion took seven hours and there is far more to see, but we were overwhelmed, hot, and growing tired. I bought a ticket that allows for two more visits.
At various times Dara would find us and drive us from temple to temple. Always, the beauty was great along with the dimensions, especially in grandness of design and the ubiquitous stone carvings adorning every facade and corner. Angkor Wat is more interesting for the fact that it began Hindu and later shifted to Buddhist, so the two influences are mingled. The jungle through the ages has entwined with structures, so that huge trees are often seen growing out of temples and snake-like roots wrap around carved block. Many stone faces appear, sphinx like and huge in improbable places high above, adorning towers. Often, monks in orange saffron robes are seen making an accent amid the monotone structures, and I loved taking their picture. Always a smile in return for a smile. And that is the way it has been in Cambodia so far.