Posts Tagged ‘Walter Anderson’


November 30, 2014

Walter & His Models (fall woods behind) 001 (2)

On this day in 1965

my father breathed his last breath

before departing his body

to become the breath we continue to breathe.

It seems strange but in some way fitting that I should wait to do this post until this day. The pot came out of the kiln weeks ago, days after my time at the annex seemed to run out. It is certainly not the best pot done during my sojourn there, but because of the subject matter – my father’s surprising appearance on the pot – I chose to keep it. The time since has been a struggle to adapt to change, to attempt to live well while dealing with the discomfort of transition. Sadness has been part of it. Don’t we all grieve when something is over?

Truthfully, even during my last few weeks at the annex, I had been feeling the urge to grow beyond what I was doing there. I thought to take what I had learned to a whole new level. I had sculpted clay in the past, now there was the potential for expanding that…bringing incising, painting and glazing to the sculptured form. I dreamt of sculpted vessels that might invite the decorative element. But newness can be as frightening as it can be exciting. Thence the struggle…

I think of my father…

of his choice to go it alone…

his need to create and grow so powerful

that he chose to leave his wife and children…

to forego the sweetness of intimate companionship

for the sake of his quest.

He chose suffering along with art and ecstasy:

his suffering and ours.

Fatherhood seems to be

less compelling a force than motherhood.

My mother was an artist, too.

Walter & His Models (detail) 009 (713x1024) (2)

Yet she relinquished all to serve this man:

as wife available to model for the painter

and to share his bed,

as mother to his children while he looked elsewhere…

for that which waited to be translated by his brush.

Walter & His Models (detail) 007 (1024x736) (2)Walter & His Models (detail) 008 (1024x798) (2)Walter loved animals,

and this I understand with all my heart.

But he loved birds more:

their flight, their freedom, their variety.

My father hovered on the outskirts

of my life with mama and my siblings.

When hovering,

one can be ready in an instant to take flight.

I think I understand.

Walter & His Models 005 (673x1024) (2)


At Home With The Pelicans

February 3, 2013

??????????????????????As I recover from the removal of my second cataract, I find myself drawn to the pelicans that bask on the pier at the Inner Harbor Park. Without the little dogs, I am accepted. The relaxing birds are not threatened by my slow approach. With silent steps I move closer, fascinated by what I can see through the camera’s eye.

I went the first time two days after the surgery, weary of being inside, needing movement and the beauty of nature to remind me of my place in the dance. The left eye was still very sensitive, the pupil not yet adjusting to light. Yet my need to be nourished by the awkward grace of these creatures was greater than my lingering frailty. I needed to focus on something more than my self in order to realize myself.  Besides, nature heals. I know from experience that recognition of my spiritual connection with nature makes me feel more alive.

Why pelicans? Well, I admit to going first to a Japanese Magnolia, knowing that the blooms would not last very long. Their fleeting beauty would be a pleasure to photograph. Then walking back to the place where I had left my car, I thought of the pelicans. I have seen them so many times when walking the dogs…just on the other side of the harbor, tempting me to use my inadequate zoom. Without the dogs to limit my proximity. I could drive around and park near to the place they gather. I was free and they were there.

But now that I have experienced their nearness, and the charm of their inimicable behaviour, it is more than their availability, more even than how priviledged and fortunate I felt to be among these wild beings. In a sense, I could share their sudden and inexplicable urge to soar, to swim, to return, to stretch, to cackle at a neighbor that came too near. The more I lingered, the more patient I was about aiming and taking shots, the more I felt that I belonged. I was almost at home with the pelicans as they went about their simple mode of existence. And they know when to rest, when to huddle down close to the warm boards of the pier, even if they need to keep a watchful eye.

When I finally left them that evening my new eyes seemed to have undergone some sort of initiation or christening. I took home with me a frisson of joy that would spark again when I looked at the photos the next day on my computer screen. Here they were: my friends with their gorgeous feathered raiment, their clumsy stance, their penetrating gaze.  I admired again the strange beauty I had walked amongst, the gestures I had witnessed. I thought of my father, wading amongst them on Horn Island, clipboard and pencil in hand, and felt I understood his long-standing passion for this particular bird. My heart soars with a sense that I may have landed in the strange new land Walter Anderson spoke of in his Horn Island Logs “…where everything I see is new and strange.”


Giving And Receiving

December 22, 2011

Last week, as my cold gently dribbled its way to completion, and I was still opting for solitary and peaceful Christmas preparations, the outer world began to beckon in compelling ways. Important meetings – re/Walter Anderson – were called that I simply had to attend: three in as many days. Then a birthday invitation, and and a very dear friend – not seen in over a year – was in town. My germs excused me from the birthday lunch, but everyone else seemed to want me regardless.  Especially the friend, who opened his arms and said, “I want it all!”

At the time my all seemed not much. But I let myself be embraced as I was. I welcomed him into my haven and allowed the assembled works of my hands  do the talking. My friend walked around and received what I had received over many moments of solitary creating. He was happy and wanted nothing more, just to dwell for a short time in the light-filled studio of a fellow artist. For he, too, is an artist  who gives what he has been given. He, too, must abide in the solitary space of his creative life in order for the gift to go forth and touch other lives. 

So though I was sure I had little to offer when he first arrived, by the time he walked through my door and away, his happiness told me that he had received the most meaningful of gifts: confirmation of his own artistic imperative. He also carried with him a dancing angel formed out of wire – formed out of solitude: my gift to my self.

In The Name of Art

November 9, 2011

Over the last few weeks I have rushed hither and thither in the name of art. In the name of art, I have entered a sculpture and drawing in the Ocean Springs Art Association show, rushed to complete more sculptures for The Peter Anderson Festival and attended that same festival to uphold the family name. In the name of art, I have joined my family in honoring yet another visiting poet who would write of my famous father, while the  poet within me languished for want of attention. I have gone through the motions expected of a member of the artist’s family. The artist in question – even when still alive – wisely held himself aloof from such.  Walter Anderson was true to himself. Am I really honoring his artistic legacy by setting aside my own truth, in the name of someone else’s art? Would he want me to bear such a weight to the detriment of my personal journey? Don’t we each have messages worthy of delivery?

Words On The Wing

May 16, 2011

The title of this post is the title of a series of poems written a couple of years ago as I was recovering from surgery, but I find that it applies very well to where I find myself right now. I am preparing for my part in a program at The Ogden Museum in New Orleans to take place one week from today on May 22. The program is in conjunction with an exhibit featuring Walter Anderson’s art and my part is called A Legacy of Wings. I shall perform several of the poems, all of which have been inspired by birds and/or flight. One of the poems begins “I have always been drawn to things that fly.” This is not too surprising a statement for a woman who has danced her way through life, nor for the daughter of an artist whose favorite subject matter for painting was birds. But writing these poems – seeing them as a means of letting my words take flight – was extraordinarily liberating. I have integrated these poems into other performances: reciting and dancing my way to completion, but this time the words may fly farther. Emboldened by recent voice lessons, I intend to sing the poems.

This drawing illustrates one of the poems that I hope to sing. It was inspired by the collision of an Indigo Bunting with one of the highly reflective windows of my house. It is emotionally and vocally challenging but is probably the deepest and most meaningful to me.

Narcissus And The Angel

Stunned to stillness

yet my heart still beats a delicate tom-tom in my breast,

breath and blood still do their lively dance.

How could it be that I lay still as death

indigo blue of feathers staining spring-green grasses?

Wings are limp

yet I fly toward myself.

Repeatedly the bird I fly to meet

flies toward me blinding me with beauty.

One moment rapt with gladness flying fast.

Now I lay motionless

still seeing and responding to enticement.

The merriment of my own species carries on

as I lie here suspended in my folly.

Now something moves

approaching heavily yet carefully.

Earth shifts beneath my body.

Merry singing has gone silent.

A colossal presence.

Voice speaking softly.

I do not recognize the sounds;

the tone bespeaks the language of the heart.

So when I sense my smallness cradled

close to a rhythmic beat so like my own

I feel the promise of persistent life

and I am trusting.

It is a soothing transport through familiar air

a setting down upon a surface that is tree

yet not quite tree.

Once more alone

not quite alone

I am calm and safely basking

in the warmth of sun.

Never have I felt more patient

never more surprised

to feel a stirring greater than

the stir of feathers in a breeze.

Then sudden rush of life’s return!

Then swift ascent above the trees!

And flying with me is the one I flew to meet.

The Artist’s Gift

April 17, 2011

Last week, with the Walter Anderson Museum Gala approaching, I returned to the wire to create an offering for the Gala auction. My fingers were stiff and reluctant – unaccustomed to the unruly stuff after such a long break. It was difficult to still my dancer’s body long enough to wrest some form from resistant matter. Yet my hands did remember and connected with some mental image of my artist father. His trade mark hat came first and, of course, the nose. Broad shoulders and large hands followed and immediately suggested some kind of offering. The theme of the Gala was Fleurs de Vie, so flowers hovered invisibly for future manifesting. Due to various other obligations, my father’s upper torso hung suspended by a long umbilicus above my wire-working basket for several days.  He seemed unperturbed by the wait, and when I returned, his further formation happened with ease. The stand was quickly done and the figure attached. Yet it was the flowers and the paintbrush, sprouting and blooming from the artist’s fingers, that made the gift complete. My father’s gift – and my own.

Learning From Walter

October 4, 2010

For all of my growing up years, I watched my father make frequent getaways to his chosen haven: Horn Island. Lately I contemplate this practice as a means of maintaining his sanity. His cottage on the family compound allowed connection with his family and all that represented, yet his island getaway insured connection with himself. Free from demands – imagined or otherwise – he was free to exist in his natural and unencumbered state. Horn Island was his paradise; trees, sand, wind and wave, birds, butterflies and curious and charming mammals were his daily bread. His drawings and watercolors were  means of manifesting love.

My recent wire creation of my father seems to speak to me of his capacity for love. He holds protectively a baby racoon, possibly taking it somewhere to set it free. I never knew this aspect of my father while he lived. He was barely present during my growing up years, and his infrequent presence was not a comfortable one. Even so, my imagination has led me to this image and allowed me to identify – somewhat cautiously – with the vulnerable creature held on his hand. Some part of me is alert to his wisdom and even his compassion. Some part of me knows he has my best interests at heart. Some part of me trusts him to carry me to where I need to be. But all of me longs for the haven where I can be free.

Winging It

September 16, 2010

I have flown to New York and home again since my last blog, and though I was blown about a bit by circumstances and events, I begin to believe the trip was worthwhile – that experiences gleaned will gestate slowly into something new and surprising.

The drawing I have posted is in the exhibit at the Luise Ross Gallery, one of three that was hung. Called “Joyful Reunion”, it was purchased at the opening by a lovely man with whom I spoke at length about dance and yoga, and how the practice of meditative movement can transmute into other forms of expression. I am pleased that this particular expression has found such a home.

It is a lovely exhibit – with art by my father, Walter, as well as by my Sister, Mary, my nephew Christopher, my niece, Mary Annette – and, of course, my own work. There is also a silkscreen from my father’s blockprint of Beauty and The Beast, printed by Carolyn Anderson and painted by her daughter, Mary Annette. The arrangement on the walls seems almost random – no names are with the pieces – which accentuates the relatedness of all the art. The “legacy” is apparent; we have all been affected. I think, especially, the influence of nature is echoed through out this blending of diverse personalities from the same family. Given this acknowledged influence, I cannot give all the credit for my creative expression to my father’s genius. It is said that we who are related to Walter Anderson cannot call ourselves self-taught – no matter the lack of training. I have difficulty with this, because I was there to witness my own awkward fumbling with various mediums – the initial messy attempts that led to piles of ink or paint-smeared paper on the floor around my feet. I was there to lift cracked or exploded sculptures out of the kiln. I have allowed myself to play with color as a child might play – splashes and smears of paint going onto the paper without thought for what might manifest – with occasional interesting results. I believe that whatever courage has led to these endeavors comes primarily from my experience with dance. Improvisation is my delight. Though I did have training in Ballet, and I did find form through Airth, my most dependable approach to the making of art has been to wing it. And to wing it one must transcend the fear which always comes first. As with the little birds that inspired my drawing, I must let myself fall before I can fly.

Paris and Other Destinations

August 21, 2010

Over a week since my last blog. So much living going on. And in between, the pondering. Pondering the possibility of Paris. It would be my seventh trip to the city of light, but I find that Paris has become an automatic destination. Just the name of that magical place can trigger an immediate and intimate awareness of myself on those streets, in those parks, on a bridge looking out on the Seine. Where else would I go? So the pondering, and in years past, the eventual acting to make it possible. Booking the tickets… Finding the right hotel… (Each time I have gone to a different hotel for a moderate shift in perspective.)

It has been just over a year since my last trip to Paris. It is natural to have those stirrings again – to feel that delicate and persistant pull. But how much of this has become habitual, based upon that long ago initial journey when a brief romance with a reverent and debonair Frenchman set the tone for subsequent journies to the city, though from then on my experiences were those of a solitary romantic, and at times were tinged by a loneliness not admitted to others. Even so, It was always worthwhile: the going and the being. I have seemed to have an ongoing love affair with the city, and our relationship has moved between rapturous and harmonious exchanges to those awful periods when no amount of love or longing could bridge the gap between Paris and me.

Just before my last journey to Paris in June of 2009 I completed a novel in which I called upon all my knowlege of the city and my experiences there over several years. Paris is the setting for three quarters of the book. A trauma suffered by the young heroine leads to a year in Paris – Paris at its most magical, romantic, and welcoming. Granted a year in the city, Lily, who is a gifted dancer, finds healing and fulfillment, and in the writing of the novel, Leif probably found the same and – by so doing – let go of Paris as her major destination. That last journey seemed almost redundant. There… I admit it. The love affair may have run its course. No wonder I found myself reluctant to book those tickets.

But I have booked tickets to New York City. I shall go for the Walter Anderson Legacy Exhibit at the Luise Ross Gallery – opening in September. I shall see my drawings hanging along with my father’s paintings, my sister’s paintings, and the paintings and drawings of my niece and nephew. My soul has no great investment in this journey, but some journies take a while to reveal there larger reasons. And all destinations prepare the way for other destinations.


July 21, 2010

The word encourages a letting down, a deep down sigh of gratitude. Reprieve: a break from everything that weighs the mind, the body – and stops the soul from being heard.  My soul appears to be in a wait and see mode, not quite believing that her time has come.  Surely the outer clamor is about to pounce again – demand again participation in the worldly dance. 

For days and days I have  been responding to the requirements of the New York exhibit – being the one expected to pull all the artists of the family into a cohesive whole  for the sake of the Walter Anderson legacy exhibit. Walter Anderson would have long since escaped – loaded his skiff and met the sunrise enroute to Horn Island.  Answering emails and practicing various forms of friendly persuasion with family members would have been too alien a concept  to consider.  I am so like him in my tendency to insulate – to keep myself to myself and live in attendance to interior directives.  Yet I am far more easily pulled away and deafened by the outer appeal.

Being a mother from an early age, I learned to sense the needs and heed the cries of others even as my own needs languished and my cries became a background noise that I could ignore. Actually,  the insistent sound could never be denied for long. Even as I met the needs of child – and others who attached themselves to my susceptible heart – the dancer danced a secret, yet  increasingly desperate prelude to the dance she longed to dance.

My heart continues to be susceptible, even to gallery owners in New York. A peculiar ability to see all sides of any situation – almost to know the unvoiced truth behind the obvious agenda of the other person – compells me to do what I can to ease the way, to calm the clamor – imagined or actual.  Yet I take on the role of emissary or peace-maker even as stress accumulates and creates havoc in my own neglected system.

I have a cold, a gift from my baby grandson. Little love germs traveled from him to his nan – eagerly settling in to gestate until, fully-fledged, they manifested as the virus no one wants but me. I am just ill enough that everything out there is muted by my physical symptoms. Dear little symptoms – quietly coaxing me to yield, I accept you; you remind me of my need to breathe – to take a breather and be mindful of the miraculous flow.  I pause now – fingertips in humming stillness on the keys –  and feel the gentle rise and fall – the movement of my breathing body. Every part of me is real and present and at peace. So be it…