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.
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 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.
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.