the kitchen


A couple of months ago I moved an easel into my kitchen. It seemed like I would get more work done in the evenings if my easel was in a cozy comfortable place. Sometimes, like a child, I don’t want to walk out across the dark yard to go to my studio. I want to stay in the warm light of the kitchen. This kitchen was first the domain of my great-grandmother and then my grandmother. I remember sitting in its warm light as a child, on top of a phone book, so I could reach the table. I also remember occupying the family high chair, made long ago by a man we know was named Milas Potts. He was an African American craftsman, his skill the best explanation for why children still sit in that chair. It is oak, and its seat is oak, hand split and woven. And the places where little feet go are worn into the curve of Cupid’s bow. I remember falling backwards while seated in that chair. I must have pushed myself stubbornly away from the table. Back then there was an old clock that sat on a shelf above the kitchen table with a handy kerosene lamp beside it. The clock made a calming background sound that was the meter of the evenings. All this makes me realize my kitchen is dense with association. Now it is also dense with spilled paint on the floor, and carelessly disposed pots and pans. I skip the clean up sometimes to get to the painting, with so little time before bed. The painting this week is vertical. It’s a group of river birch tree trunks, peeling, pastel, complicated, against the green of the woods behind them. It’s a vignette from a subdivision landscape so it seems like cheating. The plants aren’t native. The scene is not venerable. It’s just wildly textured and patterned, and thus it drew me in.

These days I’m working with unaccustomed materials—for the first time in my adult life, oil paint. It’s very different from the acrylics I’ve used for the last 15 years. I miss the wild chemically derived colors in my acrylic palette. There are certain subtle undertones of hue, nearly invisible, that I’m sure can’t be duplicated with my oil paints. But I love the sensuality of the oils, thick, slow to move, grooved by the hairs of the brush. I can almost feel the intersection of two areas of color like a field of conflict.

So in the kitchen, as the night falls, I’m trying to keep the cobalt and cadmium out of my ice cream, so close at hand, and trying to keep the floor from looking even crazier than 150 years of foot traffic has already made it. Then I notice the tread from my shoe reproduced on heart pine in titanium white. Maybe I can find some way to use that…

This photograph was taken by a wonderful photographer, Mike Carroll, last summer.  He spent a day at the farm capturing the light, color and texture of life here.

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