Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ode to an Aged Artist - Part II

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Tiles

I’m an hour into painting the third of four colors that will make the tile pattern under the elephant.

It is killing my back. I raised the painting, but I still have to bend over to work on the bottom. I’m into it so it is hard to make myself stop and take breaks to stretch. Is this painting worth a month of chiropractic adjustments?

The first time I can remember being aware of tile as a decorative motif was in Cuba in 1958. I was twelve or thirteen. I was living in Miami at the time and my dad was working as a mechanic for Pan American Airlines. There was some deal where airline employees could fly to Havana dirt-cheap and also get a bargain rate at Hotel Nacional. My dad went to gamble. While he was in the casinos, I wandered around Havana. I remember the tile that covered the facades of buildings and paved courtyards and plazas. My dad lost all his money and we went home early.

When I think back on this trip, two aspects of it puzzle me. The first is why my dad took me. It seems out of character. I suspect it had something to do with the endless machinations of my mother and father’s on again, off again marriage. Probably, I was thrown into the mix to balance the scale in someway, but what that way might have been is a mystery to me.

The second puzzling aspect is the timing. There was a revolution going on. I’m not sure of the season of the trip, but it was probably in the summer. Castro’s forces would triumphantly enter Havana in less than six months. From all the reading about the Cuban revolution I’ve done since, I know there were bombs going off in Havana, people being shot down in the streets. But there I was, an oblivious thirteen-year-old kid from the US, wandering down the Malacon, watching boys my age swim naked in the sea.

When I went back to Cuba in 2000 and again in 2001, I looked for the tile. It was there, but like everything in Havana, faded and broken. I took lots of pictures and tile patterns keep finding their way into my paintings.

This painting is a mess.

I always think that at some point during a project. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes it is just me recalibrating my ego as I spend hours doing something that there is no reason to do other than that it brings me pleasure.

When a painting is a mess, sometimes I can fix it and sometimes not.

This picture has two chances to succeed. First it might end up being a good painting that I can show to people and get a smile, or a nod, or a conversation out of them. The second shot at success is that it can be a catalyst for this blog, a jumping off point for telling some good stories and sharing some thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment