I remember in 1987 my parents had an exhibit at Round Top Center for the Arts in Maine. My brothers and I all appeared and stayed the week helping to move art and cook meals. From my perspective it was a jolly time. I remember the night of the opening we had a potluck dinner at the Art Center and I sat with the painter Lois Dodd and my brother Stephen who as a kid had been close friends with her son, Ely. The statement that sticks in my mind is that Lois said, "when I come to Maine in the summer the first thing I do is sleep for two weeks." She said, "I have to reset my internal clock and slow down to see the view out the window."
After I weeded and harvested my garlic, I showered and felt overheated. I lay down on the couch with a catalog of her work called "Catching the Light." It was the perfect thing to read. She and her former husband, the sculptor Bill King, had studied in Italy like my parents in 1950. Then they came back to NYC and became dedicated figurative artists. Despite the fact that the then current tide was to be an abstract expressionist. Her dedication to observational painting allowed her to be living in the art world but outside the conventions of the moment.
It's how I feel I work. I look hard at the art world, but work outside the conventions of the moment. I am not a manufacturer and I am not a production potter and yet I make things that can be used with an artistic, poetic sensibility. After we visited Kiff Slemmons' studio and home in Chicago, the view of her table stuck in my mind. She is not a jeweler and yet that is the world she is associated with. On Wikipedia it says she is a performance artist. She said she knew that description was there, but she left it because in some sense her installations are a performance. We studied her long table--covered with work in process, work in hiatus--and she described it as her physical sketchbook. The time spent looking and talking ignited my imagination. The visit gave me that great feeling of jealously, the desire to play like her. Looking at her things is like sifting through the best flotsam and jetsam one could imagine. The careful collections and combinations seem like they occurred totally naturally and yet the sense of her hand is both visible/invisible. Her understanding of material and history of use is woven together beautifully.
I look at Lois Dodd's painting and I understand the brushiness of it. Her work is not photo-realistic. It is not impressionistic. It is a fresh look at the things she sees, the shadows that catch her eye. Her paintings can be of the broken glass in the city, the thistles in Maine, or the view out a window in New Jersey. She paints an iris and lets it be forgotten. She said once she brought flower studies back to the city to work on over the winter but could not work on them. She let the flower be forgotten like a fire that is stoked hot and then left to grow cold. Just as time can be our friend; then it is gone as we get older. Lois is a year younger than my parents would have been and as far as I know she is still making her way to Maine in the summer. And first things first, she sleeps for two weeks.
Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.
Let it be forgotten by Sara Teasdale