Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blackfeet Ghost Story: Heavy Collar and the Ghost Woman

This is a ghost story from the Blackfeet/Blackfoot people, called "Heavy Collar and the Ghost Woman." I used to tell this story to may little sister, and to the Bear Comes Out kids. It was a favorite. There's not a lot of flash in this...it is straight-out storytelling old-school style...no sound effects or music. The story is in two parts. Just turn the lights down low, lay back and get comfortable, and listen to an old-style Indian ghost story.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Two Flowers Standing Woman

I just finished this painting today, a commissioned work. It was begun back in 1984, three years after I left art school in Santa Fe.

It has often been a struggle to paint certain paintings. Some seem to be missing something, and then you put it on the back burner, never knowing exactly what was wrong. The back burner, way way way in the back. Behind the stove in fact.

I started this with the title as "Promise of Spring," with the Girl representing the Innocence of Spring and the meadowlark representing Truth. In a way, she represented a daughter I never had. The Girl's features and the painting style was inspired by Gauguin's work in the South Pacific. I was really into Gauguin and the Fauves at the time.

But there was something missing, and though several people expressed an interest in buying her, I would not part with her. I didn't want her to go with them. She was not complete, not yet ready to go into the world.

Flash forward to this last year, 2007. I had been asked about doing a commissioned work for a dear friend of mine several years ago (so many years ago, it was embarrassing). It was to be called "Two Flowers Standing Woman." I just couldn't get things together. I had done several sketches, and nothing was working. I asked my friend what kind of flowers, hoping that would get me moving. He said "Sunflowers." And something stirred in my mind and I could not remember what.

And then this fall, on my return to Montana, I found the Girl waiting for me. And it clicked. She even was holding her hands crossed upon her breast in a perfect way to hold the flowers. Sunflowers. Which clicked with the meadowlark and brought everything together. The girl was reborn and now she had a name: "Two Flowers Standing Woman." And she told me she was ready to travel onward. So I must release my little daughter. And now, 24 years later, the Girl is a Woman.

People often ask artists how long it takes them to paint a painting, somehow wanting to value a painting based on how long it takes to paint it. Well, this one took me from 1984 until 2008, 24 years, if that means anything. To an artist though, time has little meaning. A painting is ready when it is ready. This painting is alive and it is ready.