Friday, June 21, 2013



Fireflies ignite
A frog to punctuate
And there's the Mockingbird

- solo not alone –

He'll stitch his own Companion
Spun from loosened threads 
Tugged from another’s song

Carry down the winter bedding
So sun will shake it out today
Tree Swallows fledging in an instant

– tipping axis –

In that wheeling Flight
They turn ellipses in my sight 
Hay-maker shakes out arcs of sound 

© 2013 Ravenna Taylor

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Second Chances

I was in the city today. My legs wore out before I wanted them too, but I saw a lot of art that I loved, and some other things too. I love to look at the people and the walls, light and shadows.

For instance, I was walking to a gallery and passed a young woman on the sidewalk, talking into her phone. Her eyes were focused on a point that wasn't in the space she occupied, and her face was stained with tears. She was in her twenties, I'd guess, really just embarking on her adult life, full of possibilities that I don't even bother to imagine for myself anymore. And all I could think at that moment was how great it is to be past that age and in this one instead. That was a good moment, since I am often thinking of how much time I've lost, of the dreams that have fallen out of my pockets along the way.

I had a list, and a couple lucky accidental finds, looking at the art. I hadn't been in Chelsea lately and was impressed with the work I found. It felt a little strange though too: such a rarified world. I'm an artist, I've had work in Chelsea and I hope I might again sometime. There are careers, and then there are Careers. I think a lot about that.

I helped another young woman figure out how to get her rented bike out of the rack into which it was locked. It was my first time seeing the new rentable bikes, and her first time using them, and as I stopped to look at the machine, she asked me if I knew how it works. There were no instructions; I wonder how many people feel mystified and then a little silly, because really it's not hard, it's just a motion that isn't the first motion one tries.

Here's a photo I took later, after dark, of the restaurant where I had dinner with my husband and the dealer who gave me my solo show in the 1990s, before Chelsea had really taken off. That gallery shut down years ago - it was a dead end, not the first of many steps, as I'd hoped it might be. I happened to eat at that restaurant with friends some months ago. I didn't tell them that it was my first time back since that October night.

La Luncheonette

Anyway, after Chelsea I was in midtown. I'd been carrying my raincoat and an umbrella all day, and the day grew warm; I regretted the extra weight, as the weather was perfect. Near the end of my agenda, I was in Peter Blum Gallery, enjoying the paintings by John Zurier, remembering other shows of his work, and visits to his studio, sorry I hadn't gotten one of those watercolors way back when, thinking about how it felt to run into him recently, and that I'd left San Francisco but here he was in New York. [The photo in this Lagoon post features my recent watercolor, using some very special paper I purchased from the Italian factory, entirely because of a visit with John and his watercolors. He never got the share I bought for him, but I've hoarded this treasure for years, and bring it out when it is the exact material I need.] The gallery space has beautiful proportions, (I would say Palladian, without knowing the actual measurements), with a full wall of north-facing windows which flood the room with sublime light. I was reading the lovely poem (transcribed below) after which John's show is titled: "A spring a thousand years ago." The gallery attendant said "Uh-oh" and pointed out the window, to the downpour out in the street. I told her it made me happy because I'd been pointlessly carrying my raincoat around all day. But when I left the building, the rain had passed. I felt lucky two times over then - I had my raincoat when it rained, and I didn't need it.

Marca-Relli, in Washburn Gallery

Having seen the art I went there for, I was finally having a rest and some food around 6 pm. I learned something: If I am hoping I might see a friend in addition to a whole lot of art, then I need to arrange for that to happen on the front end, because by the time I'm finished with my list, I am pretty drained, both physically and mentally. Sometimes I meet friends to visit the galleries together, but often I really like to look at the art by myself; it's work afterall, and I work best in solitude. I think next time I'll try to get in there earlier and see if one of my friends can have some time with me before I start on my list. I'm polite, and always concerned my choices and my pace won't suit another, but I do like to visit galleries with friends too. Since months might pass before I get back, I usually am trying to get as much ground covered as I'm able, in one neighborhood at a time, if possible -- although much is determined by what shows are imminently closing. It's a feast for the art-addicted in NYC. I miss things all the time.

Finally, I'm resting, eating, drinking tea, gathering the energy to get home; and I'm thinking about how nice it would be to hear some live music. By the time I finished, it was after 7 - it seemed too late to get to a concert - and I was exhausted and hadn't found anything listed for tonight anyway. So I made my way back to Chelsea where my car was parked, and as I approached the garage, the light was beautiful, I could see people walking on the highline, and I hadn't been up there in a long, long time. I went up, and it is so verdant right now, all the plants look happy because of the light and the rain and the temperatures we're having. I walked and enjoyed it, I saw Spencer Finch's piece there, and walked some more, and then I came upon a place under some structure, with a man tenderly playing Bach cello suites from memory, eyes closed. There were chairs and I sat there for a long time, probably an hour. It was dark. I gave him my bottle of water and threw some money, more than a little, into his case. The serendipity of it was marvelous.

Throughout his performance there were bursts of traffic noise, and people walking through the area, some deep in conversation. Several stopped to listen a moment, or longer. I observed the exact radius of the space listeners skirted, as they walked to his case to drop in some coins or a bill; it was as though his concentration created a bubble no one wanted to prick. I watched the interior lights of the buildings brighten as the sky dimmed. I thought about how serendipity sounds like serenity, with a doodle or a dance attached to it.

it's kind of beautiful, how heartbreaking
it's heartbreaking, how beautiful
life is

I should have gotten his name

* * *

The Night Shed Its Blue Tears

The night shed its blue tears
on grass and woods

and the earth grew cool and deep
beneath my feet
and I felt for a moment
as though a pallor struck my breast
and my bones were rotting
and I was seized by fear.

Then I thought I heard a low whisper
like that of a closing flower:
You are a spring a thousand years ago.

Stefan Hörður Grímsson

[from the book On A Clear Morning, by Stefan Hörður Grímsson
translated from the Icelandic by Hallberg Hallmundsson,
Útgefandi, Reykjavík 2005]

~ with my thanks to John Zurier 
and Peter Blum

and the unknown Cellist of the Highline ~

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Work Is What You Do To Live: Blue

Ravenna Taylor, 2012, Heat Waves #7, watercolor, pencil, 8 x 10 inches

This day was so crisp and bright, breezy, heaving scents of honeysuckle and wild multiflora rose! When I woke this morning to a chilly, dry, gem-like day, I immediately felt I'd had a long, complicated and colorful dream, although it took my looking away for it to come back to me. 

 Ravenna Taylor, "Rent Time," 2009, gouache on linen, 6 x 4 inches

In the dream, I remember there was a pair of birds with their fledgling chicks - somewhat large, ground-dwelling birds with big heads, like the Whip-poor-wills that used to suddenly flush from the ground in Arkansas.

Ravenna Taylor, "Facture #5," 1999, collaged watercolor and printed papers, 6.5 x 6.5 inches

(In summer there, in the Ozarks, one could actually hear the approach of twilight - the Whip-poor-wills began their calls at a very particular moment of the evening, so their song rose at the same even pace that the sun fell, and starting far away to the east, would come increasingly near to us on the almost-visible waves of dimming light.)
Ravenna Taylor, 2000, watercolor, gouache, collaged paper, 4 x 6 inches

The birds in my dream were fluttering as if injured, a defensive ploy to deflect attention from their helpless brood that hadn't yet grown their flight wings. Their colors blended with the leaves on the forest floor, but their eyes were bright and dark, penetrating and watchful.
Ravenna Taylor, 2000, watercolor, gouache, 4 x 6 inches

I had no water in my studio today. I looked around in my boxes, drawers, and on the walls, for small works that featured blue. These are a few that drew my attention. Here also, a small painting from 2008, which is back on the easel now - I don't think I'll change it much, but I've always known that it needed something, a very delicate kind of shift in the surface, while not demolishing the already delicate sense of something either coming into being, or disappearing -- which? After 5 years, I'll attempt this balancing act again, with hard-won grace, I hope.
Ravenna Taylor, "Susurrus," 2008, oil on wood, 8 x 7.75 inches


I don't know what there is to know.
Maybe time's a trinity—
before and after
pressing in on present—

meeting at the fragile skin, and bone—
the taste for sweets,
the nodding off—
beginnings loop to meet their ends.

I don't know what to know. 
I fall back upon the three,
the whole trinity -
the middle age belongs to now.

Summer comes, the hourglass
still fills with grains of light,
as lengthened days fill with sensation—
each scent pinpoints a shadow:

honeysuckle; ripened hay; multiflora rose;
low tide, and sun
on a rough woolen blanket.
Its olive weave smells just like sand.

My tender skin of eyelid shut
to better see my dream;
my inner ear is tilted to my heart.
This, the work we do to live.