The Mayor’s Tree
We had packed the house for a May 1 departure back to Tuscany. We were nearly done with the last details when Maggie walked out the door with this little walking stick I had bought a few weeks before. Why I bought it I had no real idea, just that the stick itself seemed to have a kind of ‘character’ that I felt might make its way into a still life; slender, with a small, knobby head, and a lovely flexibility that made me want to do a little dance when I picked it up.
It’s the kind of stick that as soon as one takes it in hand a transformation occurs; turning one into a Chaplin, or Chevalier, or a dandy, a fencer, a hoofer… and Maggie was no different as she strutted out the door and did her little jig and spin for me. At moments like this one can see their intimates in a new light because the playfulness and theatrics are revealing in sudden and fresh ways. Although with Maggie I am fortunate to have a partner who is always ready to play, and so I see different characters quite often. Still, if there is no camera in hand the transformations are lost to time.
The Doll and the Grape Vine
The doll and the Grape Vine hung out on the set for a few hours. I hoped to make a flip book-like video to show you the way the figure moved, but couldn’t seem to get it to work today, so a contact sheet of sorts will have to do. I feel it’s important to share the process with you as I am feeling my way around while making these teatrino still lives. I am amazed and amused by the animated energy that comes from this eloquent little figure, and I can see that patience, and really concentrating on gesture, will be something that helps me to understand just what is going on within the still life form.
No matter how many times I passed this field the ‘call’ from the space zinged me. And yet there is nothing there that has any remarkable element that defines the space as special. It’s just a low lying field with a scraggly border of mixed trees. No eloquent stand of poplars bending in the breeze, no spreading oaks or cypresses marking the space, no ‘features’ that gave me reason to look again. But I always did.
Perhaps it is this innocent quality that we need to be attentive to in the world at large. The minor note that resonates deep within us and calls us to attention for reasons that remain somewhat undefined or illusive. That way the call is purely from something native within each of us, which is vulnerable to being awakened by simplicity rather than by more formal or intellectual values.
From these lessons a secret may be learned about what it is that constitutes our inner voice when we hear it call out to us from unexpected external sources.
A gloomy, early in the morning walk to the bakery, gave me one of many goodbye images of Bonnieux. I loved the little slivers of warm light pulsing out into the misty matin. Sometimes color is so barely there, yet it exerts all its slender force in the visualizing of the moment. It’s the thing that makes me gasp, and the gasp is what wakes me up. I say to myself, “isn’t that beautiful?” Or I stop, and dwell in the realization that so small a note can make me come to a halt and breathe it in and take something small but special away with me.
Later in the day our friends Gianni and Giorgio, and a strange friend of Giorgio’s, who you’ll meet in another post I am sure, arrived to pack a truck full of our studio stuff, and our belongings. Their great good humor was as uplifting as the Tuscan spirit always is, and on a day that started so moodily, it was like beams of sunlight. They came for a few days to see our part of what was once Roman territory, a place that bears some special kind of harmony with our beloved part of Tuscany.
We were beginning to pack up the house we rented in Bonnieux in preparation for our return to Tuscany. This was a really great house, luxurious, generous, comfortable, but the odd thing was that the master bedroom had no real closet to hold a winter’s worth of clothes. Instead it had a row of hooks on the wall, which might seem strange given the overall quality of the house. But Maggie and I actually grew to like seeing the few things we came away with hanging, like an ‘installation’, or laundry, visible for us every day.
On this day I suddenly saw our wardrobe for what it was; a couple of city people living in the far reaches of Provence with all our city blacks. How strange we must have seemed to the locals as we changed from one shade of dark to another. But what pleased me here was that I now, after months of making still lives, saw it as just another arrangement of objects on a background, and wished I had looked harder earlier.