response to an old and true friend

Dear Ming,

You ask me if painting makes me forget about everything in the world.

I can only reply that in the moment when I am painting, it IS everything in the world.

Ming, I love that you asked me about painting. About how I feel about it. Most people wonder what I do all day after a long career in education and raising children….they imagine I have too much time on my hands. But it is just the opposite. I work every day from morning til night. The actual painting never feels like drudgery–it feels like good work, the kind that is exhilirating and exhausting at the same time. It is intense and takes a lot of focus, concentration and energy. Painting is about resolving problems, solving this or that little question or big question. Figuring out how to do something, how to make it work. I LOVE THAT!!! I always feel like I have met my energetic match in painting!

Even if I don’t know what to work on, or I don’t feel like working on the project at hand, I always know there are little jobs waiting for me in the studio: gessoing or sanding boards, preparing papers, organizing for a project. As I settle into one little job or another, inspirations come. Thoughts untangle themselves. My mind and body relax. I find new readiness for the work waiting for me. Or I start another project. And I know that whatever I do is okay. This is art. I cannot get it wrong. I can only be truthful to myself and to my effort. I can only keep working. There is such deep comfort in this work that is propelled from the inside of me—-after so many years of trying to make the world better, trying to help students, trying to be a good mother and teacher and administrator and teacher trainer—-work that comes from stories and dreams and feelings inside to tell, images and colors that haunt my dreams, work that comes from nowhere I can recognize, just comes as my hands begin to set up the still life or the model…..My life is close to perfect, Ming. I love what I do. And each week I get a little further in figuring out how to make a living as well as a life making artwork. Figuring out the artworld financial and practical landscape. A little at a time. Starting over.

That’s the work of a life, starting over and over.

I was trying to describe my typical day, but ended up writing too much detail that may or may not interest you:

I wake up in the morning and I think of my day in an entirely new way these days: What is the work in front of me today?

While I empty the dishwasher and make my coffee, I think about the day’s work and schedule. I usually write a little in my journal. Then I get dressed, proceed with my day.

Monday: I water the plants and clean the fish tank. 9-12 painting group at Shelli’s studio—this work varies as to what we are working on, then home to work in my studio, house, or garden. I walk with my friend Karen around 4, then cook supper for jon. I usually do laundry while I am working. Monday night the Rabbi and I hold a class at my house. He teaches the intellectual part, and I feebly attempt to lead the group in the art process that accompanies the mental work.

Tuesday: Work in my studio or house or garden or go out to landscape paint,, then12-3 portrait group–We have a different local model each week (clothed, longer poses), painting the model at Shelli’s studio. Walk with my friend, Karen. Some Tuesday nights Jon and I go to the half-price movies. Sometimes on Tuesday nights I attend Spanish Conversation group, and sometimes I might have my almost monthly women’s group meeting. It is a very private group and we are all sworn to secrecy, so if I told you anything about it, I would have to kill you.

Wednesday: Post the painting efforts from Tues and Wed on the Blog, also post any other works or information that might be relevant….answer any comments or inquiries. At 2 I usually visit with a friend who was recently in a very bad accident. Then I go home and get ready to be picked up by my little group that comes for me on Wednesdays at 5.. Jon takes a break from work and meets us for supper @ Thai garden or Spice Root, then returns to his office to continue working. From 7:00-9:30 I go to drawing at Williams College (nude models, shorter poses), and Jon meets us all afterward and we go to Mezze for a glass of wine

Thursday: Work in my studio, house or garden or go out to landscape paint until afternoon. . I clean my brushes from the week, which are soaking in the basement sink in vegetable oil. I do not use toxic substances or mediums or solvents. Lately, I am organizing the basement and getting rid of things we don’t need. I am also painting the rooms in the house, a little each week. Fixing things that need to be fixed. Lots of things were neglected when I was sick and when I worked all the time at school. Lots of things just need maintenance. Cook supper. Walk with my friend, Karen. Usually I end the day by looking through drawing books and studying or reading things I need to support my current learning and experimentation.

Friday: Work in my studio (just for a little while in the morning), clean the house, cook supper. Some Fridays recently, Jon drops me off at the Clark Art Institute where I work all day copying a painting in the gallery (for learning purposes)

Saturday: Teach Tai Chi Chih at synagogue before services, then go to services, then Jon and I have the afternoon and night together. I make sure I have my things organized for Sunday morning’s class. In the good weather, I might work in the yard, or I might do some painting. Sometimes we are having guests for dinner, so I’ll prepare for that. Or maybe we are going to someone else’s house. Or maybe it is a luxuriously free night for just the two of us.

Sunday: Right now I take a drawing class at the Clark on Sundays from 9-1, and then usually the class goes to look in the galleries and talk about paintings. But after four more weeks I will return to my Sundays with Jon. Sunday, we sleep in a little til 8 or so. Then we read the NYTimes in bed while drinking coffee and watching Sports Reporters, then Ina Gartner (cooking show) then the Lazy Environmentalist on the Sundance Channel. It is a decadent and lovely morning. Then we make a plan for the week, around his schedule, for meals, etc. Then I try to make his day as lazy as possible for him because he works really hard all week and needs time to just watch sports and read and hang out. I often take care of some things during that time like cooking, and working on submissions and looking for grants for individual artists, search for exhibitions to which I would like to submit work. Sometimes I work on the comic book, or the panel for this year’s Comic Convention. Or I take care of other paperwork. Sometimes we sit down to do bills and that kind of thing. Sometimes I clean and organize my studio. Sunday night I end the day by making sure my things are ready for Monday morning to go out the door when Deborah, my faithful colleague, comes for me.

My work in the studio begins with whatever painting projects I am working on. Currently I have the following projects:

-Two illustration projects—one is a children’s picture book about a mouse and a woman wearing slippers , and the other is about turn of the century Italian immigrant marble workers. Illustration is new for me and I am learning as I do it. The author of the books under construction is my good friend and colleague, Marilyn (maybe you met her some time at my office?), and her writing is exquisite. I am honored to have the chance to try my hand at making the visuals.

-Finish the “Adventures of My Left Breast” Comic book about Cancer Experience and get it to printer by May 1. We will be taking it to NYComic Con with us in Oct.

-There is a painting of my skeleton to finish on the easel, and the skeleton (named “Frida” after Frida Khalo) waits patiently in her pose on the model stand. I am making a series of paintings of Frida for an October/November Dia de Los Muertos Exhibition at Images Theatre in Williamstown. I will also be taking Frida to the graveyard by the old first church to paint her there for some of the paintings.

– Works in Oil and Pen and Ink and Watercolour Wash for the August Exhibition at South Street Cafe

-Omer Project—this is a reflective mixed media project that has to do with biblical/Jewish themes and stories. There are seven large stainless steel refrigerator doors that I am painting on the outside in oil, then the insides are collaged preparatory notes and sketches. There are lots of school lunch trays and Chinese take-out containers that I am also using as the grounds for drawings and small paintings. The name of the entire installation is “Sustenance” and is really about what sustains me through wandering and exhile, through the deserts of starting over and not knowing— and what it is about wandering and exhile that sustains me in and of themselves.

-The Cancer exhibit pieces travel to different exhibitions, so I work on submitting them and the details of getting them to and from the different exhibitions.

-The retablo for Lilly Oncology

-A book of Poetry and Paintings called, Breathing in Colour Right Between My Eyes. The Poem I wrote about you, “Ming”, is in that collection.

-Choosing and preparing to hang Paintings for different charity events and local venues. Every week there is at least one organization which wants me to donate a painting and I am happy to do this. It makes me feel super wealthy to be able to give something that raises the kind of money I would never be able to donate on my own. This is a really wonderful feeling. Art life has so many powerful aspects.

-Grant and Competition entries, writing submission papers and filling out forms. This specific kind of paperwork is new to me and NOT my favorite part of the work. In fact, I suck at it. But I am committed to making my art work self-sustaining. I cannot do some things that I could before. My hands go numb and so do my feet. (That is the main reason I can no longer drive) Apparently, my mind also goes numb frequently: I cannot hold information in the same way I once could. But I have increased capacities of other kinds, and one of them is the certainty about living my art life full time . If not now, when? If not me, then who?

-Painting what and who I love and am inspired and compelled to do at any given point that may or may not have to do with anything conscious or supposedly relevant at all……..experimentation….THis is the MOST IMPORTANT WORK I DO: Making great art. Telling the truth as I find it, feel it, dream it. This above all else….. My paintings are honest, and they get better in quality with each making…….

-Reading and studying art history or artists’ work that I admire….sketching…ruminating

-Preparing the print, or written, work for exhibits. Did you ever meet my friend, Lani? She does the press release work for me and she is very kind, artistic and beautiful, too. You can see the paintings of her on the blog, under Painters, Poets, and Other Merry Pranksters.

-Communicating and preparing the written works for the Comic Convention Panel, “The Healing Power of (Comic) Art

-Writing and sketching in my journal, collecting dreams and images and thoughts and ideas, working out ideas

-Keeping up the blog, which I don’t do very well. It is by the grace of AbrilMayo, or April May—Do you remember her? She was also a former student, and then an employee, fellow artist and always a true friend, like you.

I always have more to do than can possibly be accomplished. This seems to be part of my nature.

In addition to work in and around the house and gardens, my life with Jon, and my artistic work, I usually talk on the phone to my daughters every couple of days, and phone or email my mom and sisters about once a week. I practice my TCC/QG and I have been teaching a little bit, informally, about the Myers-Briggs again (Remember when you took that inventory with me?). Little by little, I find what about my old life fits and what doesn’t. I like to watch movies for entertainment, both at the theatre and netflix. I like to go to museums. I like to read. I like to play with art supplies. I like to garden and I like to walk and walk and walk. I really enjoy learning from and working with my artistic friends and mentors. I like my neighborhood and my neighbors. There is a dog named Buster of whom I am really fond! You remember how much I like to cook and I also still love to EAT! I love Jon, and I love Anna and Phoebe—they remain the axis of my life, the most important work of my life and what sustains me more even than painting.

Even my hygiene and personal care routines are dominated by painting and by love. I shower at night, as I am often covered with the day’s work, no matter how strong my daily intention to a cleaner style of working. My clothing comes from the thrift stores and ends up as rags to use in the studio.

Sometimes my schedule deviates in order to accomodate trips to see Anna (sometimes Phoebe–I went to Eugene in September, or my family, but not nearly as often–I haven’t been home to Colorado in over a year and a half), which will also include attendance at museum shows that I am studying. Or I will have family or friends staying with us for a visit.

Today, I deviate from these routines to write this missive to you. I hope it has not been too boring. But it has been such a long time. And I am just learning who I am now, what my life is now, and I wanted to share it with you.

Take care of you, and keep finding wisdom and happiness. That is a great goal. I think I will do the same.


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viola moriarty

(American, b. 1958)
Modern Expressionist Painter
2012-13 Recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

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Current and ongoing: New Works, Allegro Ristorante in Bennington on Main Street.

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