Islands

wind rose
I have been making small paintings that look like collages of torn postcards and mail art…although the only real paper in these are the postage stamps…everything else is done with paint (including the “Air Mail” labels. This is a backup project for the Tactile Arts’ “Text” members’ exhibition, since there is a slight possibility that my original embroidered piece may garner disapproval for the word ‘fucking‘ that I have used in it. Fair enough, it’s a craft organization and not an art organization, and self-expression takes a back seat to tradition and execution in the world of craft. I’m going to make it, anyway, because I want it for our own boat.

The alternative project is not a lesser one…these postcard paintings are an old theme of mine, and I always did want to make more of them.

postcards from the equator

The paintings start with some text…often something lifted out of my journals from when Kris and I lived in El Nido, Palawan; sometimes just a story or description that I remember from those days—an image or experience that I treasure. I write/paint the story on the canvas (as much of it as will fit!) and then start to layer ‘torn paper’ effects, images, patterns, stuff related to the story. I pick a complementary postage stamp (I bought a beautiful antique stamp collection, from a dealer in old coins, that I keep for collage work like this), paint on a faux label, add finishing touches like gold leaf, and then varnish the piece.
WIP postcards from the equator
It’s been lovely, nostalgic work…re-reading my journals, resurrecting memories from our time among the islands, looking at our old photos, browsing through the stamp collection, digging up the poetry books that were my constant companions during those years.

Dilumacad Island
Islands
By Yusef Komunyakaa

For Derek Walcott

An island is one great eye
gazing out, a beckoning lighthouse,
searchlight, a wishbone compass,
or counterweight to the stars.
When it comes to outlook & point
of view, a figure stands on a rocky ledge
peering out toward an archipelago
of glass on the mainland, a seagull’s
wings touching the tip of a high wave,
out to where the brain may stumble.

But when a mind climbs down
from its high craggy lookout
we know it is truly a stubborn thing,
& has to leaf through pages of dust
& light, through pre-memory & folklore,
remembering fires roared down there
till they pushed up through the seafloor
& plumes of ash covered the dead
shaken awake worlds away, & silence
filled up with centuries of waiting.

Sea urchin, turtle, & crab
came with earthly know-how,
& one bird arrived with a sprig in its beak,
before everything clouded with cries,
a millennium of small deaths now topsoil
& seasons of blossoms in a single seed.
Light edged along salt-crusted stones,
across a cataract of blue water,
& lost sailors’ parrots spoke of sirens,
the last words of men buried at sea.

Someone could stand here
contemplating the future, leafing
through torn pages of St. Augustine
or the prophecies by fishermen,
translating spore & folly down to taproot.
The dreamy-eyed boy still in the man,
the girl in the woman, a sunny forecast
behind today, but tomorrow’s beyond
words. To behold a body of water
is to know pig iron & mother wit.

Whoever this figure is,
he will soon return to dancing
through the aroma of dagger’s log,
ginger lily, & bougainvillea,
between chants & strings struck
till gourds rally the healing air,
& till the church-steeple birds
fly sweet darkness home.
Whoever this friend or lover is,
he intones redemptive harmonies.

To lie down in remembrance
is to know each of us is a prodigal
son or daughter, looking out beyond land
& sky, the chemical & metaphysical
beyond falling & turning waterwheels
in the colossal brain of damnable gods,
a Eureka held up to the sun’s blinding eye,
born to gaze into fire. After conquering
frontiers, the mind comes back to rest,
stretching out over the white sand.

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37 thoughts on “Islands

  1. Wow, these are beautiful Nat! It got me to thinking… maybe one day we can do a collaboration of some kind, music and artwork? I really really love these 🙂

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    1. Wow, Mishka, that would be awesome, and I am so game to do something in conjunction with your beautiful music (it always sets me dreaming…the old stuff, the new stuff, I love it all)because music plays a huge role in anything I make, I have to listen to something when I work, and what I listen to comes out in what I make. Game! Just say when. 🙂
      *excited tuloy*

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  2. Wow. You make beautiful things. It makes me think of my travels to Australia (in my late teens) and what gems and inspiration lie between the pages of my travel journal. I enjoyed your little bit about omitting fucking and the rationale behind it. Smart move but kind of a bummer at the same time. No matter, your stuff is awesome either way.

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    1. Thank you for dropping by and leaving me your comment!
      Hah ha, yes, there’s a time and place for all things, I realise, and no need to rock anyone’s boat—I am no longer at the age where I need to call attention to myself by being a hell raiser 🙂 or by provoking.
      Happy to wait for the right show to put the expletives in, and there’s nothing wrong with making unambiguously beautiful things…all fuzzy-edged and grandmother-safe.

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  3. Wonderful art! Fun to read the other comments, as one of my first thoughts too was Bantock, but you do it so much better! I am so impressed at all the techniques you put into each small piece of art (craft show or not, they are damn lucky to have your ART!)… thanks for sharing these!

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    1. Eh, thanks Rhoz…but that bit about Bantock..I don’t really, I don’t! That man can REALLY draw/paint! Techniques and tricks that I use are really just ways of covering up the fact that I can’t just pick up pen/brush and make art that comes out of myself. 🙂 Still, happy you liked these! Thanks, again!

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    1. Wow, thank you! As designs they’re pretty cliché, but every cliché is based on a great truth, I guess. There are some images people seem to keep wanting to see, myself included. 🙂

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  4. These are stunning! I love the combination of words and collage elements. I laughed at how the word “fucking” might be okay for an art organization, but not necessarily a craft organization. Thanks!

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    1. LOL except for the postage stamps, there are no collage elements…it’s all just paint. 😉
      Yes, well, the craft org has a lot of older conservative members…and being shocking or bucking what is considered decent is the raison d’être of all visual arts organisations. 😉

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    1. I confess to having been enamored of that set of books in the 90’s, and they got me started on the whole mail art thing (though the story was cheesy…great artist, but no storyteller, Nick Bantock)
      Thank you!

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    1. Aww, what a sweet thing to say… 🙂 And reading about your dad’s super toilet the other day gave me a stitch in my side. Until the day I suffer from bladder incontinence, I look forward to your posts. Now isn’t that a sweet thing to say back?

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      1. Nat, if you ever suffer from bladder incontinence and are in my parents’ neighborhood I’d like to invite you to use their super toilet. I’m personally waiting for the day when they program toilets to give out words of encouragement or chastise you for not eating more greens or fiber. Technology is wonderful.

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        1. I am touched and honored, Susan, to have an exclusive invitation to become acquainted with the incredible toilet. Now I have something to look forward to when incontinence strikes me down.
          XX N

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