Thursday, May 29, 2014

Flowers and Women

Just to put on record a few of the places I've been or seen in the last two weeks. Life is never dull, even when I purposefully cut back on activities and health appointments. In an hour I will be on my way to WU Community Center for a weekly Bones For Life class. The rest of the day? A visit to the Apple store for an adaptor - my new iPhone is not compatible with iPad or Withings blood pressure machine. I'll stop at a couple of $ Stores to find frames I can use with text for Second Seating Rehash. Have three weeks in June to assemble the remains of the original Second Seating for Diverse Work's summer show with selected Idea Fund grantees. Glad to be on their roster for this exhibition.
So, what's happened in two weeks time? Barbara Friedman invited me to share in a table for the Annie's List luncheon for Wendy Davis and Letitia Van De Putte. Good company in a ballroom almost on overload. Preaching to the choir, but what a choir.
Kim Ogg, candidate for Harris County District Attorney with Elizabeth Kidd.
Wendy Davis speaks. Hate to say it, but she wore a very interesting coat and dress, a  la Michelle Obama?
Barbara Friedman and daughter Allison. All ears for the candidates.
My friend Irina and I made a day trip to Galveston, one of many such trips over twenty years time. These trips are always in the spring or early summer and we have a planned itinerary that rarely varies. We head first for a cemetery near the seawall, covered with concrete boxes that used to be home to that wild pink lily. I first photographed the lilies in the 1980s, printed the lily leaves on 16 x 20 inches paper and hand coloring them with Marshall's oils. Beautiful and strange.
I began annual pilgrimages to see these lilies, just at the time of the year when there were still blooms, but seed pods beginning to burst. Late May into June. So fertile, fecund.
Several years ago, when Irina and I visited the cemetery, the ground was shirred. No more yellow wild flowers allowed to bloom and seed. The lilies on the edges of the graves were severely, meanly pruned. Then came Hurricane Ike and I blamed the continuing lack of lilies on the brackish gulf water that flooded the cemetery.
When we visited a week ago, there were no lilies at all. The site where I made the original photograph was bare. Not only is the landscape bare, but the concrete boxes/tombs have been filled with sand. Nothing more will grow in these 'planters.'
There was a two-man maintenance crew on site so I asked them about the lilies, the sand. They had been tasked with filling the graves with sand. I asked,  "In response to the Hurricane Ike flooding? Or to keep lilies from spreading in profusion?? The men had no answers.
There is one place in this now barren cemetery where small lilies are cropping up. You can tell that they've been shorn, but they steadfast remain. I plan another trip to Galveston soon with a spade and strong trowel. I am digging up more of these baby lilies for my garden. They don't care about them in this cemetery. Which is interesting because along the esplanade on Broadway they have raised beds filled with these same lilies. Are different city departments in charge here? I mourn these lilies every single year.
Irina and I moved on to the cemetery on Broadway, where the tombs and gravestones are fancier and where the wild yellow flowers are spared. Then on to lunch at Mosquito Cafe, a walk on the beach and finally to a shop where we sometimes find wearable treasures. Fortunately, no treasures this time. A final cup of espresso and a look at Pat Colville's exhibition at Galveston Art Center and we were done. A very fine day. I suspect that our 2015 day trip will follow much the same terrain. We will lament the purposeful banning of lilies at the old cemetery, we will walk a mile along the beach, lunch and stop in at one shop. This suits us both.
Days before the trip to Galveston, Earl and I treated ourselves to a gallery afternoon. I wanted to see Karin Broker's new drawings at McClain Gallery. I am drawn to her work and whenever I see it, I long for wall space and money. Her new exhibition titled 'Damn Girls' knocked me over. First, I love her way of drawing and smudging bouquets of flowers. Each blossom is sensuous, mysterious, almost a ghost of itself. This new work is big in scale. There are the bouquets, but then with a closer look, you can see her handwriting and the title of each work becomes apparent in the handwriting.
A profusion of names on each drawing becomes a litany of women tormented and tortured centuries ago for being Christian, for being smart or foolish or simply for being women. Broker gives details. May are beheaded, others covered with burning pitch, stripped and flogged. The list is endless. The bouquet becomes a memorial to lives who were deemed dangerous to the communities that murdered them.
Another bouquet is surrounded by lists of young Irish girls who were taken away or given away to convents to become laundresses. I am sure the laundries were quite profitable. Labor was no doubt free? As you can read within the circle below, many of the ages of the girls are below puberty.
Women are commemorated in softly written lists and the sheer volume of names speaks to the rage and passion of the artist. Someone could be writing the names of the women killed by guns in America too. Another outrage that is never confronted by the powers that be.
Karin Broker, thank you for your bouquets.
We saw other artists' work that afternoon, but none can close to Broker's power. So I'll stop right here.

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