After Francesco Clemente’s Indian Miniature #16
The sun-face looms over me, gigantic-hot, smelling
of iron. Its rays striated,
rasp-red and muscled as the tongues
of iguanas. They are trying to lick away
my name. But I
am not afraid. I hold in my hands
(where did I get them)
enormous blue scissors that are
just the color of sky. I bring
the blades together, like
a song. The rays fall around me
curling a bit, like dried carrot peel. A far sound
in the air—fire
or rain? And when I’ve cut
all the way to the center of the sun
flowers, flowers, flowers.
—Cutting the Sun by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
I was in the Puerto La Cruz marketplace last week, wandering the labyrinth of crowded alleyways between busy stalls—skirting the glacial section of raw meat and poultry, hurrying past the small hills of briny fish and molluscs, stepping carefully over the wet patches of ground, sleeping dogs, and raw garbage—until I came to the relatively quieter section of herbalists and natural medicine vendors: dried tubers, colored powders in bottles, snake oils, bunches of fresh herbs, unguents to attract love, money, or bring ruin to your enemies, sachets of dried leaves, bundles of unidentified twigs for making special smoke. One or two of the women shoppers—dressed, from head to toe, in the pure white clothing of Santería initiates, with white turbans, bead necklaces, and large hoop earrings—were quietly negotiating over small, wizened knobs of dried rhizome. Shade cloths stretched over the paths between the stalls, shutting out the fierce sunlight and the noise of the city, giving that area the cool, dappled peace of a forest.
I found a lady selling nothing but gourd bowls (tapales or tapares), from tiny coffee-cup-sized bowls, to massive, pumpkin-sized things. I bought a dozen, roughly medium-sized, gourds for $2. A couple were elongated, and the rest were more round.
Inspired by the painted terracotta plates of Lucretia Chavez, an artist whose work I saw and admired in Merida (but whom I never managed to meet in person), I thought I might try my own ideas out on these unusual, spherical canvases.
I gave the painting surface a light sanding (especially the exterior of the bowls, which are a bit glossy) and a coat of binder medium, to seal the absorbent surfaces and help the paint adhere. Then I drew a design using a fine Posca pen, and filled it in with acrylic paints and a #00 paintbrush.
Kris made one, too…just dashed it off, without any preliminary drawing! I’m jealous of the variety of fish shapes and characters he can draw, without having to look at any pictures of fish. You can tell he’s worked on fishing trawlers and looked at lots of different fish, before!
They’re pleasant to work with, these hollowed-out gourds. The couple I’ve painted, so far, have opened me up to experimenting with all sorts of different objects as canvases for acrylic paints. I bought a couple of little terracotta dishes, shortly after the gourds, to see what I can make of those. (Although I think I prefer things like gourds…easier to store, lighter to carry and handle, less likely to crack or break).
As soon as I let go of the idea of a flat, smooth canvas, it seems that everything cries out to be used as a painting surface. Will see what else I can find, to cover with paint and doodles!