My aunt Jane Taggart was a prolific landscape painter, an astrologer, a collector of crystals and all sorts of eclectic passions. And could she talk. She'd leave a message on my answering machine, run out of tape and call back to finish her story. She was the 'resident astrologer' for my writers' group: I'd call her now and then to say Hi and find out when the stars were best aligned to send out manuscripts to editors, and report back to the group. Here we are a few years ago at an exhibit of my work. She was a big supporter of my painting, always encouraging me to keep working and putting my artwork out into the world.
My blog is named after the picture book she gave me, 'The Tyger Voyage",
written by Richard Adams, illustrated by Nicola Bayley. She gave it to me for my 14th birthday. I cried because I loved the illustrations so much, and some part of me knew this was an important moment. I wanted to make books. I still do.
Well, Janie passed away yesterday, at 84 years old, after quite a few years of failing health. I will miss her dearly.
Last night I fell asleep to the sound of helicopters circling overhead, and sirens wailing. I had taken BART into the city to see my friend, Christine Marie 's shadow performance, Four Trains, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Sadly, it was her last performance. She'll be back - what she does with shadow and light is amazing!
But I digress. Waiting at the BART station, we heard an announcement that the Berkeley station was shut down temporarily, due to protesting. Yesterday morning I read Caille Millner's column in the SF Chronicle. Yes, she is right, I thought. Protest to make change happen is inconvenient. We don't like it. It scares us.
But how else are we to make change happen?
I have friends who are cops, friends who are shop owners and friends who are protesters. I have African American friends, who get stopped just because they are driving or walking down the street. One of my sixth graders came to school the other day with a note pinned to his shirt: "I am not a criminal." He is 11 years old.
Our country desperately needs change. I do not know what is the best way to make change happen. But I know it will be uncomfortable and painful. I support those who are protesting. I do not support those who are throwing bricks at cops, or looting stores. I do not support tear gas and rubber bullets being shot at nonviolent protestors. There is so much fear out there, what will it take to stop this?
I've gone through an enormous, scary change this year. I got divorced, after 24 years of marriage.
When I was in the darkest, deepest hole, I started drawing mandalas. They made me feel better.
I taught my students how to make them. There are two kinds of mandalas, geometric, drawn with rulers and compasses, and organic, which start with a dot, or a seed. Take a look at this: how to grow a mandala
Today I will be drawing another mandala. Maybe it will make me feel a bit better.
I have been absent from the blog for ages.... major life changes kept me away.
It's been a tough year, but piece by piece
I have been putting my life back together.
My family and friends have been amazingly supportive. My kids are grown and both on the East coast, making their way in the world. I find myself starting all over again, making a new life for myself. Alone.
Not the life I expected, but a new, different life. And lo and behold, I find that I am not actually alone at all. I am constantly surrounded by love, everywhere I turn. It's a new beginning. Like the kids I teach, I am excited for whatever adventure lies ahead.
Bit by bit, I am putting this new, challenging puzzle together.
I am finding that starting fresh is a gift I have been given.
I am so so grateful.
Quilt for my daughter's new apartment in Brooklyn.
I have been looking forward to The Monuments Men film opening. I saw it
last night and was somewhat disappointed, for several reasons.
But first, a bit about this amazing woman. Rose Valland had degrees from the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, and graduate degrees in art history from the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre. She worked her way up the ladder at the Jeu de Paume, to assistant of the museum.
During World War II, she was the only French person continued to be allowed to work there when the Nazis took it over. They used the museum to store stolen art, mostly from Jewish collectors. She had a front row seat to what they were doing, and, being very unassuming, the Nazis didn't pay much attention to her. They didn't know she spoke German. And they also didn't know she was keeping track of every single piece of art that came and left the museum. She had spies helping her everywhere: drivers, guards, and packers who helped her follow where art was being taken. Eventually she showed her detailed records to one of the Monuments Men, who, once the Allies invaded Germany, took her notes and used them to retrieve much of the art.
Rose did not receive much recognition for her bravery and detailed work. But it wasn't until 1953, after 20 years, that she was at last given the title of curator. She was the inspiration for the film, 'The Train', starring Burt Lancaster (1964), about a train full of stolen art sitting at the station in Paris. She was given the Legion of Honor, the Medal of the French Resistance and was made Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the US and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. She died in 1980, virtually unknown, but one of the most decorated women in France.
So, back to the Monuments Men film.
Cate Blanchett plays Rose Valland in the film. Really? Why not a French actress? And why did they change her name to Claire Simone?
George Clooney wrote the screenplay. As a friend said, it sort of 'Disney-fies' this story. Yep. Too clean, sort of Hogan's Heroes style. Jokey boys group of actors, bumbling along, looking for art. The script doesn't flow, it's just one disjointed scene after another, with lively marching music.
It could have been so much more.
Still, an incredible story. And it's true. Stolen art continues to be found in attics and basements today.
It all began when my aunt gave me The Tyger Voyage (by Richard Adams)when I was fourteen. Looking at Nicola Bayley's glowing illustrations made me want to paint some of my own. I still love her work, and I still have that book.