The Emerging Painter

Artist Jourdie Ross at her solo show, I Remember It Like This.

It is my honor to congratulate my sister Jourdie Ross on her first solo show, titled “I Remember It Like This,” where she was a featured artist in this month’s First Thursday at the Santa Barbara Forge and Iron. *See her website, www.jourdieross.com.* I am encompassed by pride.

Growing up, I would look at abstract art in museums and wonder what was so special about it. I would look at a red smear on a canvas and think, can’t anyone do that? The answer is no, anyone can not. I have never been all that good at painting in the abstract, myself. (At my final critique in a painting class at UCLA, I hung the 30 or so paintings I’d done over the quarter. My professor walked along the wall, pointing and commenting, even praising several pieces. He stopped at the one abstract work and said, “What happened here?”)

Treats from The Blue Owl offered at the SB Forge and Iron, made by Blue Owl culinary virtuoso Jacqui Wou Ross, our mother.

Technique. Composition. Ability to work with varying media and combine colors and materials. These are a few of the things an abstract artist must master. Beyond the tangible, abstract art may speak with the emotion from which it is born, and this is one of the things that makes my sister’s work so powerful. Hers is work that moves you, because she has the vulnerability to engage so thoroughly in her own experience and bring it to the canvas in such a way that you are present to your own experiences.

Child interacting with installation piece.

In the words of her artist statement, “My work is about fear, and turning fear on its head. I make art about the parts of ourselves that we marginalize, that we so often hide from ourselves and from each other; our uncertainty, our sadness, our doubt, our longing. My work is pictures of my own experiences with these things, what we so often call negative emotion. With my art, I aim to create a space where turmoil can reside, where we can find beauty and humor in our struggles, and begin to befriend rather than alienate the parts of ourselves that feel pain.”

The sunset view across the street from the gallery.

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The Emerging Musician

May I present the hypnotic album, “FARYN,” created by my talented friend, Doron Diamond. He has done almost everything himself, including playing an incredible range of instruments, from guitars and piano to English horn, ukulele, and glockenspiel, not to mention vocals.

I find his music lulling, entrancing, and am only the more entranced knowing his work comes from a place of love and passion. His latest album is worth a listen – check out the tunes and purchase the tracks here. I am deeply honored to have been one of the people who supported him in having this happen, and thrilled to see my name in the acknowledgements section of the page!

Artwork credit: Gina Farkas

What does it mean to emerge? For artists (and this includes all kinds – painters, writers, musicians), there is an elusive turning point at the beginning of our careers at which moment we believe we will no longer be aspiring but will have “made it.” This moment, I fear – in fact, I am pretty sure – does not actually exist.

As a writer I might believe that publishing my first 800-word article in a beautiful, respected, glossy magazine might be it. (Happened – wasn’t it.) I might believe that selling my first short story might be that moment. (Happened. Wasn’t it.) Finishing a first draft of a novel. Nope. Second draft? Third? No and no. So then I might believe that publishing my first novel might be that moment – this hasn’t happened yet, but from what I hear, this won’t be that moment either. You finish one, and then you just ask what is next, and each book is no easier than the first. So when does one call oneself “successful”? At what point has an artist actually “emerged”?

Since there is no actual moment, no single event by which to claim before and after, we must be proud of each success, and have faith that the harder and longer we work, the more success we’ll have, and there will be some magical moment so many successes down the line where we will look back and suddenly realize that not only have we emerged, but our emergence is past, and it has all been worth it.

A Moment in Montreal

The requisite maple sugar candy.

After five days in New York, my mom, dad, sister, and I took a road trip to Montreal. It was wonderful to be in a new city, and this one reminded me of Europe. I was able to practice my minimal French and was pleasantly surprised by how many of the billboards I could actually read. My visit to a used bookstore in this city, however, did not yield purchases as my comprehension is far from novel level.

Tomatoes at the open market.

Puppy post at the open market.

My mother and sister are both professional chefs, among other creative talents, so we sampled some of the best foods and restaurants. After shopping at the open market, they exercised their culinary mastery in our hotel (Dad made sure to select a place where the rooms had kitchens). We went to La Banquise to experience poutine, the city’s famous dish: French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Even if you’re not a foodie, Olive et Gourmando is worth visiting, in Old Montreal (only tourists call it “Old Town,” a cashier at the open market told us).

Famous for poutine, the menu listed several variations. We had classic and one with sausage, onions, and mushrooms.

This orange-flavored hot chocolate was so thick I had to spoon it bite by bite.

At Suite 88 Chocolatier, I had one of the best hot chocolates I’ve ever had – and I am somewhat of a connoisseur, having had them all around the world. The best, no surprise, was from Belgium. I have also been to botanic gardens all over the world. My love for them began at the age of 12, in Japan’s Garden of Denbouin. At the Jardin Botanique in Montreal, I saw more variations of leaf than I ever knew existed.

During my NY/Montreal vacation, I received my first set of notes on draft 3 of my novel from a trusted reader. The experience of this draft and the ensuing comments is much like that of draft 2 – elation at completing, pride, and then feeling crushed by comments – you mean there are this many things that need work? You mean I am this far from really being done? Will I ever be done? The notes, however, are streamlining. This is a very good sign, because it means my drafts are streamlining. I may be this far from being done, but I am simultaneously this much closer. I have a vague case of nerves regarding my impending Online Critique next month. I also have burbling excitement. The notes I receive will spur me to the next draft, which is again this much closer to completing this work.

My sister (who was an agro-ecology major in college) leading the way through the Botanic Garden.

A few fancy insects on display at the Botanic Garden’s Insectarium.

New York, New York

The end of August found me in Manhattan. Not a place I would usually choose to go in the heat of summer (the weather was undesirable, to put it mildly), but I went with my family for my cousin’s black tie wedding at The Pierre. It was dazzling. It was nice to see family, though too brief.

Highlights of the trip: the food, especially ice cream from Il Laboratorio del Gelato, seeing a couple of very good friends, seeing the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Whitney, going to Yoga to the People with my sister, and yes, I visit book stores everywhere I go. At the used shop I noticed on my way to yoga, I picked up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

I would not, maybe, call visiting the 9/11 Memorial a “highlight.” Yet, however depressing, it was incredibly moving. Serene. I cried before we even entered the park. I am interested to see what the space becomes, as the park is intended to be public. I hope to visit again when the construction is complete.

Love the way the clouds are reflected in this building.

And, briefly, the pros and cons of traveling with a tablet, as opposed to a laptop:

Pros: lightweight/portable. Don’t have to take it out of bag when going through security. Fits in purse. Many books on one device, so less lugging things around. Skypes just as well as a laptop.

Cons: makes me reluctant to type, even with a travel keyboard, so less writing. Can’t post successfully to blog (wait, is there an app for that?), lacks the feel, sound, scent of a book (and flipping back to previous passages is a nuisance).

On a trip like this, where I was packing and re-packing seemingly every other day, and being inundated with family and sights (hence very little time to write anyway – besides, I was supposed to be on vacation), the tablet was the right choice. I usually pick up books wherever I go anyway. If I were going to be chilling in Hawaii for a week, just for example, however, I’d probably opt for my laptop and a set of good old-fashioned paperbacks.