Friday, January 28, 2011

Woman Seated

I was able to work on Woman Seated again today and to get a second (and often third and fourth) layer on the entire piece.  I can see that I still have some work to do on it - her feet and left leg look too chalky right now, and her left arm is too yellow - but I'm very excited with how luminous she looks overall.

I'd read a lot and heard a lot about glazing, and I thought I understood the concept, but this piece is bringing it home much more substantially than ever before.  In my last piece, Woman in the Mirror, I put a sienna-based coat first then glazed over that.  I liked how it worked.  This time, though, the colors underneath were so strong, they are strongly affecting how the piece is turning out.  They're informing the whole thing in much more interesting ways.  I think it looks more realistic and more interesting and vital.  I will certainly have to play with this method a lot more.  It's exciting to me!

I'm not done, but I have a feeling that Andrew and Chris will like this better than they did before.  I hope I'll pass muster!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This piece is called Woman Seated.  I thought I had finished it and felt excited about the vigorous palette knife strokes and the bold colors.  Then my husband and older son independently looked at the piece and told me that I was not done!  In no uncertain terms.  The model is one of my son's friends, so he was very clear, "Mom, I'm not going to let you leave her looking like that.  She's much pretty than that.  No way.  You made her look way too masculine.  You have to make her look better."  OK OK OK OK!

So she sat around the studio for a couple of weeks, looking at me, saying the same things Andrew had.  Today I wasn't expecting to have a chance to paint because my mom just got out of the hospital so I figured I'd go over there and help her out.  We spoke on the phone, though, and she's doing OK, so she told me to go ahead and stay home.  Time to paint!

I didn't have a new canvas to work on so I figured that must mean it's time to work on Woman Seated again.  I decided to try putting in more accurate coloration, but using glazes so that the previous colors would show through.  I was curious to see how that would look.  I'm pretty thrilled so far actually.  It's obvious, I think, which parts I worked on today.  I love how her skin looks translucent as the bold colors from before show through.  It makes her skin glow.  I don't have time to work more on it now because it's Chris's birthday, but I think I'll have some time to get back to it tomorrow.  

I'm blessed to have two such discerning critics in the house to help me be more patient when I think I'm done but am not!  Thanks, Andrew and Chris!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Periods, periods, and more periods

Two more women responded to my query asking what it was like to get their periods.  Each of them is around 50-years-old, so perhaps my generational theory isn't accurate.  Here are their responses:

I wasn't going to reply to your request for 'first period' stories, because I really don't have one.  But I read today that you've been finding generational differences in the stories, with older women having a much more difficult/emotional and embarrassing time of it.  In my case (I'm 49 1/2), however, it was a non-issue!  I honestly cannot remember when it happened, or any details about it.  I vividly remember my Catholic grade school class being separated - boys going into one room and girls in the other - and seeing "The Film" and the corresponding book that went with it.  Of course we giggled and made fun of it amongst ourselves.  The only thing I remember about my first period is that it came a bit later than many of my friends, and I'd wondered when I would get mine too.  My mom and I could talk about everything, so I believe that I was 'prepared' for the event when it happened.  At least I knew what it was about, and who to go to (Mom!) when it did start.

Interestingly, I found myself talking with two of my nieces about that topic when they were 13 and 12 years old.  The older one hadn't started her period yet, and she was dreading it.  She DID NOT WANT to get it.  My other niece, who was a year younger, was already carrying an "emergency" pad around in her purse.  She and her mom (my sister) had spoken about it a lot, and her mom had given her a special pouch for the pad.  She was quite proud of it, and was excitedly ready for her first period to start - she couldn't wait!


I was happy! 
It was my little secret and it was ALL mine. Nobody could control it! Not even I.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hats and Woman in the Mirror

A few weeks ago I photographed a most lovely lady.  (But then, if you've read this blog more than once before, you probably know that I think all my "ladies" are lovely!)  We had an interesting quandary - she was completely willing to show her face and have us all know who she is, but her company has a "morals clause" which states that she may be fired if she does anything which might embarrass the company.  She had some concerns that appearing nude in paintings might be construed to be embarrassing for the company so she chose to have me photograph her "faceless".  What a shame!  She's quite wonderful looking!

Despite that restriction, or perhaps because of it (restrictions are something to push against so often create situations I wouldn't have considered before, and thus very interesting pictures), we got some wonderful pictures.  She brought some fabulous hats with huge brims which were made by Ignatius Hats from Petersburg, VA.  The hat to the right is by them - don't you just LOVE IT??!!  The two she had were amazing - perfect for wearing to the races which is exactly what she got them for.  They were great for these photos too - they cover her face but leave her looking coy or playful or demure or mysterious (depending on the particular picture).  I plan to begin that picture next.

The one I did first is of her torso in the mirror with strong light thrown across her belly.  I love the drama of the shadows and the light and the startling element of her blond white hair.  The piece is 16"x20", unusually small for me, but I didn't have a larger canvas ready to go at the time because Chris, bless him, was hard at work on his masterpiece, the frame for "Don't Mess With Me".  This piece is called "Woman in the Mirror."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Raqs Illuminaire!

Chris and I just returned from a wonderful, fascinating performance at the Byrd Theater.  It was called Raqs Illuminaire and was a belly dance extravaganza!  There were 10 different performances by about 20 performers.  I don't really know anything about belly dancing, so I can't go into technical details whatsoever, but I can say that we enjoyed it thoroughly.

My previous experience with belly dancing was pretty awesome - at the blessing way (a sort of spiritual baby shower) before Dylan's birth, a friend of mine belly danced for the assembled group.  This might seem like an odd gift unless you know (which I hadn't) that belly dancing was created to help women give birth!  The gyrations in the dance form are perfect for laboring women to help relieve pain and to work through the contractions.  Amazingly, when I was giving birth to Dylan, even though I'd been throwing up and having other intestinal issues the whole 12 hours previously, I was able to move my body in belly-dance-like movements, and it actually alleviated the pain!  I would gyrate and by the time I reach 180 degrees, the pain was beginning to subside.  I was astonished.  It made labor completely manageable.  I became a convert then and there!  But that was over 18 years ago, and I haven't done anything with it besides think about it every once in a while.

But now belly dancing is coming into my consciousness more and more lately.  My friend Peggy O'Neill has been talking to me about it for years.  She teaches it in town frequently and, in fact, I think is who taught my friend so long ago.  Then there's Linda Hollett, an artist friend of mine who has studied it for over 20  years.  Alice Warner, the wife of another artist friend, has also danced her entire adult life, I believe. 

After my show, Sacred Flesh, in October, two more belly dancers contacted me - Dawn Flores is a very cool woman who teaches Goddess Dancing at Unity at Byrd Park.  She asked me to come to the class so I could see what's going on around town.  It was a terrific class, very empowering and fun.

Khalima is the other woman who got in touch.  She asked me to teach a class at her studio, Illumination, on Naked Self Portraiture, so that's the genesis of that course.  She also sponsored the Red Tent Evening which took place at the last new moon.  And she's who produced the show, Raqs Luminaire today.

And then there's Heather Addley (who's quite an outstanding photographer herself!) who modeled for me the other day.  She came to the studio with her 2-year-old daughter.  I photographed them both.  It was a delightful session.  Seeing Heather with her daughter reminded me of my days as the mother of young kids.  At one point, both of them were nude, and Heather was nursing her daughter while holding her little bottom with a hand to keep her from falling off her lap and pulling Heather's breast with her!  The way Harper climbed all over her while Heather continued the flow of conversation uninterrupted was so familiar to me from my kids!  Then, for the moments when Harper was occupied, Heather would switch gears immediately and tune into her self and her body.  She moved with a belly dancers sensuousness, hand movements, gyrations - the whole thing.  It was gorgeous!  The images we got from that session were so exciting to me.  Chris is already making canvases for me to paint a couple of them.  Heather has a wonderful Birth Goddess figure, reminiscent of Venus von Willendorf and the Earth Mother she evokes.  Of course I'll post the images as I work on them!

But back to Raqs Luminaire!  Here's the description of it from the website along with a list of the performers who were in it:

Luminaire is a beautiful and genre-defying production produced by Khalima and explores the intersection of belly dance, music, theatre and magic. A process and exploration for not only the viewers, but for the performers themselves.

We welcome to the show local and regional performers of bellydance fusion and music.

Joining us on stage will be:
The Rogue Bellydance Collective
Leyla Nissa

Tina Batya on violin
That was one thing that impressed me today - though belly dance is quite a sensual dance form, this performance was certainly not about sex, as people sometimes tend to think belly dancing is.  Sensuality and love of the body, definitely.  There were gorgeous women of every size up there on stage moving their bodies, feeling the gifts God gave them.  One who impressed me the most was a large African American woman who moved with such grace and sensuality, I couldn't take my eyes off of her.  There was also a petite woman who was perhaps of Indian heritage who was quite a master.  She balanced a bowl on her head as she shook and turned and twirled the rest of her body.  She was quite skilled!  The first dance featured Leyla Nissa as a woman giving birth aided by her attendants, Hadara and Khalima.  Leyla Nissa had her own real baby in a sling on her belly whom she "birthed" during the dance.  That was a lovely way to start the performance to remind or teach people that that was the origin of the dance form.

Khalima and the only man in the show, LeVar Carter, did a fascinating piece about death at the end.  Each had on an elaborate mask at the beginning which reminded me of Egyptian lore.  They did some lovely dance together, replete with yoga and contact improvisation moves.  Then there was Spoon who came on stage dressed in black with green neon lights outlining her body and light sabers!   All in all, it was a wonderful afternoon.

I left feeling like maybe I should go take belly dancing so I can become more confident in how I move my body.  These women shone!  Their confidence and joy in movement was apparent.  I want me somma that!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two more menstruation stories plus an - uh - interesting photo!

Here are a couple of stories from younger women.  I think they're around 21 or so.  I notice that these two seemed to have an easier time sharing with their mothers than we older women did.  I hope that means we're making progress!

This is really cool.  I've heard so many different stories of first
periods from friends, it's an event that I think every woman
distinctly remembers!
My first wasn't as bad as the scene in the movie 'Carrie' but I think
it was still kind of horrible.
My family really likes to camp, so when I was twelve we went camping
in the summer.  I think it was in southern Illinois but I'm not sure.
We spent a wonderful couple of days hiking and reading and playing
bluegrass music, which I was embarrassed of, at that age.  Then one
day I started to feel sick.  It was really hot and I was dizzy and
achy.  I remember stumbling out of the tent and walking to the
outhouse with the sensation of blacking out - my mom and I get low
blood sugar so I figured that was why.  My parents didn't notice
because they were playing music with another couple.  I went inside
the stall and sat there for maybe ten minutes not sure if I would
throw up.  Sweating, dizzy, etc.  Then I noticed a weird brown
stickiness in my underpants.  My mom had told me many times about
periods.  I knew what to expect - red blood.  This was not that.  I
freaked out but thought maybe it's ok and she just didn't mention it
before.  So after another ten minutes and trying to deal with it with
toilet paper, I staggered out of the bathroom, over to my parents.
They were still playing bluegrass.  'Mom,' I said sickly, 'hey, can I
talk to you?'. She smiled and said brightly 'Sure!  This is our
daughter Sally.  Sally, these are some nice people who have been
playing music with us!  Why don't you get your fiddle?'. I gritted my
teeth.  'Can I talk to you alone?'. I finally pulled her away and told
her of my problem.  She was overjoyed, despite my pain.  My parents
were quite proud of the fact that I was now a woman.  However we
didn't have any supplies because my mom had just finished her cycle.
So I made do with toilet paper until we could drive the twenty miles
to the nearest drugstore.  Thus began a long struggle between the
monthlies and me.  Later that year, I had a period that lasted twenty
days and bled through two pads and a pair of pants onto a chair in the
school library, and for which I had to be put on the contraceptive
pill in seventh grade to make my cycles more regular, but that's
another story... Now we're cool though!  It's pretty regular and my
diva cup means I never have to think about it.

And a story from a second young woman:

I was fourteen so I had been hoping for my period for a while. My friends always said I was lucky when I told them I hadn't gotten it yet, but being in high school without having it felt weird, and I was ready to look older; I was often mistaken for an eleven or twelve year old.
I woke up one day at my dad's house and saw what I knew must be my period from what my mom had told me. I didn't feel like telling my dad or stepmom right then so I made do with toilet paper on the way to school and then bought a pad from a machine in the bathroom. I felt so self-conscious buying the pad, which seems really silly now. On the drive home from school with my mom I told her that I had gotten it. She was excited, which was nice, but I didn't really feel like talking about it more than to acknowledge it. Later we went out to lunch and she bought me a pair of earrings to commemorate my entrance into womanhood. I had been waiting for so long that I just remember feeling relieved, and I'd heard all of my friends talking about it as well as having received instruction from my mom and my school so I had a pretty good idea of how everything worked. It was a positive experience but really not a big deal - just the start of something I had known was coming for a long time.

And, sorry - I found this picture while I was looking for the previous two pictures and just couldn't keep from sharing it!   It's quite creative if a bit gross!

Friday, January 21, 2011

More stories about starting to menstruate

I've gotten some wonderful emails as follow ups to my question about how it was for you to start your period.  Thank you to all of you who responded.

I think I'm noticing a bit of a shift from my generation to younger women.  The four people who are around my age who responded seemed to have suffered from intense embarrassment and shyness.  Those 30 and younger who've responded didn't have any huge reaction to it - it was more normal and fine.

That speaks well, I think, to the increased comfort we're having with our bodies, and perhaps our own experiences are helping us do it better with our own daughters?  I like to think that's true.

I believe this is a rich topic, and I'd be delighted if any others of you felt moved to share your stories with me.  Thanks.

Below are a couple of more stories I received.  I'll post more tomorrow as well.  Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing!

This 30-something woman posted her story as a comment on this blog, but I wanted to make sure it got a wider audience, so here it is:

You know what's funny about my first period? How easy it was to tell my mom! It's interesting to realize this, because it highlights for me in a new way how separate the physiology piece was from the sexuality piece in my family. Talking about my developing uterus? Easy. Talking about the development of me as a sexual, sensual being? No way in hell.

My mom was a childbirth instructor in the '70s and a natural birth proponent. Pregnancy and birth were everyday topics in our home and eventually I witnessed the births of my three youngest siblings. I can remember being three or four and seeing my mom change her sanitary napkins, and she explained what they were to me. My preadolescence was spent desperately wishing for breasts and my period.

When my period actually came for the first time, at 13, almost 14 years old, it was just one or two brownish spots on my underwear at the end of a beach trip. I remember being in one public restroom stall with my mom in the next, and telling her through the wall that I thought maybe this was my period (I was surprised, I had expected it to be heavier the first time), and that I needed her to buy me some pads. She was pretty matter-of-fact about it. Not congratulatory, not embarassed.

A month or so later when my first "real" period started, heavy and crampy, I was equipped with thick pillowy pads. I waited for the bus on the first day of my high school career with this mattress between my legs, feeling crinkly and certain that everybody could hear it or smell it or see the way I walked. I didn't comment on those worries to my mom, who was at the bus stop with me. They seemed more personal, less physiological.

This woman is closer to my age (around 50, I believe).  Her story is closer to mine, emotionally.

I was 11. I had seen The Film with my 5th grade class. Toward the end of The Film, I raised my hand to ask, "Does this happen to everybody?" The Lady leading the discussion said, "Well, pretty much. Every once in awhile, there's a girl whose body needs extra help from the doctor to start her hormones working in a way that makes her periods start." I remember sitting back with great confidence and comfort, thinking, "That's the path I choose. Why bother until you need your womb for making children?"

That year was the last time I remember being completely comfortable in my body all the time. But my mom must have seen the signs of impending puberty because, when I left for Girl Scout camp, she packed a package of Modess pads and a sanitary belt. I loved Scout camp--hiking, swimming, singing camp songs, playing with my friends. One morning, I woke up to see blood in my sheets. My distinct thought was, "Dang! I must really be scratching my mosquito bites! I'd better stop it." At breakfast, I shared this comment with the table and then saw the expressions of my counselor and table mates and made the connection. I was horrified and embarrassed that I had misunderstood the event and felt more than a little betrayed by my body, with whom I'd made a deal a few months earlier.

I remember not being able to relieve the Oklahoma heat by swimming twice a day (since tampons were unheard of for use by 11-year-old virgins), sitting by the side of the lake or pool feeling very sorry for myself. I remember struggling to make the belt and pads work right, including getting the nasty little hooks tangled in my pubic hair. I remember feel dirty as the only showers we had were cold water ones and the only bathrooms wooden latrines. When it was time for my parents to pick me up, Mom asked about my experience, saying that the camp director had called her and she'd thought about coming to see me, but decided that would be making too big a deal out of it. I remember this hurting my feelings as, in my world, it WAS a very big deal.

That's my story. Hope it's useful.