Meanings Behind Art

blue swallowtail

“Blue Swallowtail” Mixed media on board. 12 x 16 inches © 2013

Questions, Questions, Questions

I have a monthly art blog, Funny Face Studios. It forces me to keep creating: I paint consistently now; I didn’t before. Last week a visitor to the site asked me two questions: What size is the “Spectre” painting; and what is the story behind its creation? The first question was easily answered and in fact, was already present on the page. I always place the title, description, size and year of creation directly under the photograph of the painting. But the reader missed it and I had to wonder, “Why?” What was I not doing correctly that caused her to miss that particular bit of information? This week I went to an artists’ workshop and asked the question. The presenters had this advice, “Provide a distance shot along with the close up. That way, readers will have a clear idea of the size and scale of your works.” Such simple advice! I knew that I worked in what the art world now considers miniatures, but visitors to my site didn’t necessarily know this. (True miniatures are nazar paintings that Indians used to present as gifts to their Mahajaras.)

Stories, Stories, Stories

The second question was easy to answer as well. The painting about which the reader inquired, Spectre, had quite a bit of personal history behind it and I provided the answers. But by asking these questions, the reader started me thinking about my presentation. It made sense to include the actual stories behind my creations. So for this month’s, and all subsequent issues of Funny Face Studio, I will provide the stories that go with the works. Thank you, Kristen, for making me think more about how I present my works. This post is a re-presentation of my current Funny Face art piece. It is about my “Blue Swallowtail” painting and includes the story behind its actual creation. Any feedback is appreciated.

photo 2I have also included two “to-scale” photographs of “Blue Swallowtail.” Here it sits on my tabletop easel. You can see from the photograph how small (or large?) it is or isn’t. While in width it fits properly into the easel, it isn’t quite large enough to fill up the entire height of the structure.

About the Painting

“Blue Swallowtail” is from the “Appropriations Series.” The young woman in the painting has been appropriated from Iranian graffiti artist A1One (also known as Tanha). She reminds me of my Aunt Carmen as she appeared in an old black and white photograph ages ago. I guess you could argue that like the woman, the butterfly too, has been appropriated (from nature).

The Blue Swallowtail Butterfly

The blue swallowtail is one of many butterflies from my childhood. In a way, this painting is a nod to Jamaica. It wasn’t too long ago that these butterflies swarmed the Eastern end of the island. Today they are quite rare. You can still find them in a countryside area called Rozelle which is close to the sea.  (Rozelle lies between Morant Bay and Yallahs Pond, in the parish of St. Thomas.) A mini-waterfall descends from the mountains and cascades into a culvert by the roadside. Here you will sometimes find naked boys and men soaking up the invigorating, and free, mountainside shower.

More About the Blue Swallowtail Painting

As with many of my paintings, the representations are not literal, not exact. The shapes are in keeping with what is being represented. This is true of my presentation of the blue swallowtail.

Here, as in my “Spectre” painting (September/October issue), I chose to use just a few monotone type colors. If you look carefully, you may be able to see a slight hint of a horse’s head in the top middle of the painting. It is another homage to a childhood friend, my horse, Ghirlie.

blue swallowtail 2

Into Cow Pastures We Sailed (A Jamaican Tale)

2012-12-30 10.05.33
St. Thomas Cow Pasture

Long before the bobsled team ever was

my sister and I

slid down mountain slopes

past yellow beaked sentinels

stalking about

on their spectacularly long legs.

Into cow pastures we sailed

on our flattened cardboard boxes

stopping only when faced

with the asses of cows.

Momentarily happy

we scrambled  to our feet, giggling,

delighted we were wise not to

aim for barbed wire fences

fronting ancestral cemeteries

with their pale Jamaican ghosts

***                ***          ****

Some information about the parish of St. Thomas (Jamaica) where this story takes place can be found here:

http://thesourcefarm.com/about/st-thomas-jamaica

St. Thomas People

“It don’t make any sense you put your hand on your head and bawl; what you going to bawl for? Tell me….”

-Seventy-nine-year-old Hazel McLean’s response to the destruction of her home in White Horses (St. Thomas, Jamaica) by Hurricane Sandy.

Whether you put your hands on your head and bawl or don’t put your hands on your head and bawl, one thing that Jamaican children know about hurricanes and floods is this: There will be plenty of water to play in and a whole heap of school closings because of dangerous weather conditions. (Translation: “Whee!”)

Growing up on the eastern end of Jamaica in the parish of St. Thomas, I knew what these children know: The little ditty we’d been taught about hurricane season isn’t always true. “October all over,” proves to be untrue in 2012 as once again, a late-season hurricane lashes the island and Hazel’s home and is especially cruel to the people living in the eastern parishes of St. Thomas and Portland.

October is probably the gloomiest, darkest month on the island. Storms, floods and tropical depressions all make for dark, overcast skies and many rainy, sunless October birthdays. Here now, is the little ditty about hurricane season. It and Hazel’s phrase, “What you going to bawl for, tell me,” linger on from my childhood. Maybe in a later post I will write about this phrase and another one from many a Jamaican childhood: “You want something to cry for? Ah give you something to cry for!”

Ditty about hurricane season

June too soon

July stand by

August look out

September remember

October

all over.

Map of Jamaica (the parish of St. Thomas is to the extreme right, bottom of map)

All the photos in this post belong to Garfield Robinson (photos taken in the parish of St. Thomas, Jamaica,  end of October 2012).

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