Just enjoyed the blessing of a couple of days in L.A. with old friends, Gwen and Richard Mayer. If art is a gift of grace, their lovely home on Tiara Street is grace in abundance. Bright splashes of color on every wall. In Gwen’s fabric paintings: new life stitched into materials as ordinary as used coffee filters and fallen leaves.
Her haunting memories of workers filing into the cavernous, hulking depths of the steel mills of Pennsylvania captured in the somber lines of figures, heads bowed, sewed in place in grey, burgundy and black; skies darkened by ash and smoke, ablaze with spewed flames. In another, the multiplicity of identity and the endless cycle of regeneration expressed in a riotous sea of umbrellas quilted onto backing fashioned from old drapes. Mark, the beloved brother, killed in a welding explosion, is remembered in a quilt that on the one side spells out his name in cloth “logs” that evoke the furniture he made. Turn his name over and a jigsaw of fragments from the clothes he was wearing when he died helps heal the wound of loss and reconstitutes a life torn asunder.
In Richard’s precise drawings with colored pencils: the darkness of the Iraq war seen through what look like angry lava flows. In other more ebullient drawings, the crazy “take your life in your hands” experience of driving through a Dominican village and the exuberance of entrepreneurial friends find expression in whimsical re-creations of people and places. Landscapes and seascapes. Colored pencils trace the contours of fruit, the outlines of a friend’s cabin in the woods, light shining through its windows. Boats beckon on a sea shore. As does a woman in silhouette in a doorway. (Did being surrounded by so much art lead me to conjure up more pictures in my mind? Isn’t that how grace works as well?)
Every corner of this little crown of a home is awash with color, capturing loving remembrances of family and friends. A prism, reflecting the energy of people who delight in constantly breathing new life into their home, making it new by honoring the old. And no more so than through little Jake, an addition from the home of Gwen’s late mother: a small, barking powerhouse. His presence an affirmation of rambunctious life, disrupting—if only mildly—the extreme orderliness of this household, and in so doing once again giving it new life.
I find the depiction of a steel mill with workers approaching it, very heart-rending. The lives of so many working class people created temporary prosperity for them and American dominance for others of us. This work of art is a Labor Day image for every day.