Author sara genn

Letters Ray
ink drawing
by Anthony Jenkins
16

I was putting the title The Red Canoe on the back of a painting when my friend Joe Blodgett walked in and said, “Nice painting, too bad about the red canoe.”

After a couple of single malts I was looking at the painting through Joe’s eyes. I was pleasant enough when I urged him to go down to the smokehouse to get our smoked salmon, and while he was gone I took off the final varnish and hauled that canoe out of my picture.

Letters Blue Landscape (Paysage bleu), 1958
colour lithograph on Arches Wove Paper
22 4/5 × 29 7/10 in
by Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
16

“This is why you must love life,” says Bernadette Fox, the artist-turned-wife-and-mother in Maria Semple’s 2012 comedic novel about art, failure and the domestic cage. “In one day you’re offering up your social security number to the Russian Mafia; two weeks later you’re using the word calve as a verb.” Bernadette, a once-lauded star-chitect is languishing in the suburbs of Seattle, unable to put her finger on the cause of her erratic behavior, anxiety, sleeplessness and misanthropy. She loves her husband and child, but something has gone terribly wrong with herself.

Letters Common Crow
watercolour on paper
by J. Fenwick Lansdowne (1937-2008)
14

Three others hang out with me when I’m painting in our garden. Lester and Mary were around here last year. This year they’ve brought along an oversized teenaged layabout with an annoying voice. Jack is often on his own, but Lester and Mary, who may be married, spend a lot of time strutting about, discussing, among other things, Jack. The parents are a bit co-dependent, but they like each other and seem smugly contented with their day-to-day routine. Lester, Mary and Jack are crows.

Letters Fallen Star, 2012
steel-frame house, concrete foundation, brick, chimney, garden, lawn chairs, table, hibachi-style grill, bird bath and bird house
approx. 180 x 215.98 inches
by Do Ho Suh (b. 1962)
7

Over a recent 48 hours, an intimate group of tail-waggers embarked on a treasure hunt of public art. Our gang, like an itinerant, vibrating organism, scrambled up and down the hills and in and out of the eucalyptus groves to identify creative miracles, dotted like superstars among the natural wonders of this coastal oasis. Like an Easter egg hunt, the expedition signalled a kind of exultant celebration of worship and quiet human endeavour.

Letters Fête, 1989
screenprint on paper
 53 x 76 cm
by Bridget Riley (b.1931)
12

Recently, I quietly conducted a personal experiment in streamlining my art life. Like a big purge, after almost three decades of living a philosophy of multi-tracking, flexibility and expansiveness, I narrowed the scope and range of my activities to see if it would intensify what was most creatively meaningful and satisfying. The process came with terror, guilt and a fear of loss and failure.

Letters The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (1836)
oil on canvas
by Thomas Cole (1801–1848)
5

This morning, Janet Morgan of Brooklyn, N.Y., wrote, “My husband Gregory Frux and I will soon be leaving our jobs to become full-time artists. We’ve been doing some brainstorming. We both have projects and trips in our wish-books. We’ve done residencies and will most likely do more. Have you any thoughts on changing from having very little time to having lots of time for art?”

Letters Toni Morrison in New York, 1979.
Jack Mitchell photo
10

When asked about her writing process, Toni Morrison described a ritual of rising early — a habit she developed by being a mother. “I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come,” she said. “Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”

Letters “Mont Blanc”
pen and ink sketch
by Edward Abela
17

One of the fun things about Blackberry co-dependency is the ability to send and receive emails pretty well anywhere. Up here in the Rocky Mountains, however, the little darling is as mute as a dead gopher. Missing those soft vibrations of the pocket, I sent my unit with a day-tripping friend who was off the mountain overnight. The machine came back fully revived, her tiny cheeks bulging with fresh seeds.

Letters Claude Monet (1840-1926) in his studio at Giverny, 1920.
15

“If you can’t paint, paint big,” said American photorealist Audrey Flack. My dad, a student of the classical school and reducing grand themes onto 8 x 10 mahogany panels, quoted Audrey when he visited me at art school and noticed a syndrome of sizes going up and quality going down. We discussed how size could have its merits, and I reminded him that Monet’s most ambitious and groundbreaking work was huge — work he didn’t begin until the apex of his creative maturation when he was in his 70s and 80s.

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