The last of my “Painting a Day” paintings.

The_Artist_and_His_MotherAn Artist and His Mother, by Arshile Gorky.

I have been posting a painting a day over at Live Journal.  I haven’t been up to writing a poem a day this year. If you click on the link you will see my version of An Artist and His Mother.

I watched “Without Gorky” last night.  I really should have been sleeping.  I was exhausted.  It was about Arshile Gorky, to quote the TVO website:

Renowned abstract expressionist painter Arshile Gorky is at the center of this film by his grandaughter Cosima Spender. Without Gorky is a personal journey into a powerful family tragedy. At the centre of the film are the conversations between the director, Cosima, and her grandmother, Mougouch. The whole family has been shaped by the legacy left by Cosima’s grandfather: Arshile Gorky. His suicide in 1948 still echoes and disturbs the family. Gorky was an elusive character who escaped the Armenian genocide and reinvented himself as a romantic artist in New York in the 30s. Gorky struggled until he found in Mougouch the emotional support he needed to flourish. Their relationship was passionate and inspiring, however, the pressure of children and poverty soon put a strain on them. In 1947 he was struck by a series of tragedies that led to his suicide. This film takes you through the pain and courage of the family, coming to an emotional climax in Gorky’s birthplace: Lake Van, former Armenia.

Many things in life are sad but the saddest are the things that make it impossible for us to harvest the wealth of joy that is always springing up.  Life is very determined and essentially optimistic.  It is perhaps maddeningly so because we commit to so much that we are often broken by disappointment.

I loved that his daughter talked about wanting to paint when she watched him paint as a little girl, all while painting and talking to her daughter, Cosima, the films director, who narrates. For the brief time my father painted I remember wanting desperately to paint. Gorky at least let her paint on the back of his canvas!  My son is an artist. We haven’t talked about how he felt about me painting.  I didn’t do much when he was growing up.  I was too busy!

If all you have is a hammer, everything becomes a nail.

This is my favourite quotation. For me it speaks of how we suffer greatly and act accordingly, often, because we don’t have the tools we need to change our situation. But for now I am thinking about how we communicate and how it affects what we communicate. I think some guy from Canada wrote at length about this…

I had a discussion years ago with some of my fellow students who were French Canadian about language when I was in art school in the 70’s. Quebec nationalism was a huge topic and the importance of preserving the French language really important, so much so that when the conversation got really impassioned we each would shout in our own! Our argument was whether the true nature of a person wasn’t formed by the language they used to express themselves.

Is there some mystical quality in language? Can you change the scope of your mind with language alone? I would prefer to believe that understanding is what is the greatest power for change and language is only one way to get there.

Words can be used to distance ourselves from our experiences and from each other and so in the end they are limited. They can even be dangerous when used to express division of self and other. They can inspire, motivate and condemn but they have to arise within a context that is somehow meaningful to the listener and it is the context that decides their effect.

What I take the quotation to mean is recognize the context, the tools a person is using, if you want to understand what they are saying.

I also take it to mean, spend your life acquiring tools of expression but pay attention to the intent and the context to avoid bludgeoning meaning.

Also, expression is often wordless. Even the greatest poets can stutter in the face of reality. Expression requires effort and integrity more than just a vast or specific vocabulary.

The greatest tool is an open mind and that is the hardest to attain, it requires practice, but it is flexible and allows us to pierce all contexts, it uses language but is not a slave to it. An open and compassionate mind sees the hammer, sees the nail but hits both with itself.

in collection of Anzan Hoshin Roshi

window moment

well said, she should be a poet

sub rosa


a window moment

Jane Hirshfield: Many good poems have a kind of window-moment in them–a point at which they change their direction of gaze or thought in a way that suddenly opens a broadened landscape of meaning and feeling. Encountering such a moment, the reader breathes in some new infusion, as steeply perceptible as any physical window’s increase of light, scent, sound, or air. The gesture is one of lifting, unlatching, releasing; mind and attention swing open to newly peeled vistas.

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Thank you!

I want to thank all the people who write posts and for the “Reader” tab in the corner of my screen that takes me to them!

I may not have had much to say lately but I do read, look and ponder, laugh and commiserate thanks to your diligent posting!  It is a part of my very delicious cup of morning coffee.