The departure date for a long-awaited artist’s residency on a ranch in Ojai, CA arrived days after my grandmother’s death in the spring of 2011.  Packing up my studio late one night, after the funeral and the shiva, I let go of my expectations of how I might paint and accepted that I might not paint at all. Instead, I painted like I had never painted before, in an impromptu studio on the grounds of the ranch, from sun up to sun down.   

A Snail in the Orchard.  Watercolor, raw indigo, African lipstick, murex, mud.  70" w x 52" h 

On my first morning in Ojai I hiked into the orchards. I picked up a tiny skeleton. Tiny white snail shells surprised me – we were 15 miles from the ocean. I brought back the skeleton, fallen olives and boulders back to my impromptu studio to weight down paper.  I unpacked my colors and prepared my ‘mise’.  A tiny snail had crawled across the page to begin.

Esther Eta Cha Cha Cha.  Watercolor, murex, African lipstick, lapis lazuli.  108" w x 54" h

Esther Eta was a joy to paint. There was a moment when I reached for the bouganvillia in front of me as though it were a color. I painted the shapes of bouganvillia into this piece. My grandmother taught dance lessons in her basement, and I felt as though she smiled and danced and with me as I was painting this piece, reminding me of life’s pleasures, and that this, despite my great sadness, was my time.

Esther Eta Cha Cha Cha - Left

Esther Eta Cha Cha Cha - Right

To Whale Rock. Watercolor, African lipstick, raw indigo, la. pis lazuli, murex, mud.  72" w x 52"

Ojai is known for its ‘Pink Moment’, a natural phenomenon that occurs just as the sun sets, when the color pink holds for a few minutes in the sky. I filled the top of this piece with this pink, working with a new combination of materials I’d used on a piece I’d made in my studio in Chicago that winter, ‘Open Hearted’ – African lipstick, male murex, and some of my favorite reds. A bright coral weights it to the sea of this place.