Thursday, May 25, 2006

Technological limitations

This will probably be of no interest to anyone but me, but I did my first forearm stand in yoga class this week. This is a notable event because I have a mild phobia about being upside-down. I can manage a headstand against the wall, and a very brief, kinetic handstand in the center of the room, but the idea of falling over backwards from an upside-down position is so deeply terrifying to me that I can't even do a handstand against the wall. This would require falling backwards of vertical far enough to hit the wall, and something in my reptile brain will not allow this.

So I have been theoretically working at forearm stands for about eight months now. It looked fairly easy when the teacher first demonstrated it, but when I got started it felt impossible. You put your arms on the ground, elbow-distance apart and rigorously parallel; your head is lifted, your back arched, and you kick your legs up so that your feet land against the wall over your head. Then you hang out and whistle. This is the theory, anyway--my forearm stands, up until this week, have consisted of getting arms into place, hopping like a wounded penguin attempting flight, and eventually freezing in a panic and retreating to Child's Pose.

We generally practice forearm stands after about 45 minutes of sweaty vinyasas; thus when it's time, I'm sopping wet and shaking with the effort. My strength and will for turning upside-down are at a low ebb, particularly when you include the slippage factor. This week, when 'okay, do a forearm stand' was announced, I traipsed blindly toward the wall and prepared to humiliate myself once more.

Then I made myself stop. For a full minute I sat there, and visualized myself doing a perfect forearm stand. Then I did it. It was easy.

Intention is a powerful thing. I practiced it the next day at the co-op, too. Being low on funds, I decided that I wanted to spend $40 on the week's groceries. After that I didn't count, just focused on getting the most balanced meals at the best prices. I was sure I'd gone over, maybe as much as ten or twenty dollars over, but when they handed me my receipt, it said $39.96.

So, on with the art.

This week I intended to finish, and finished, the current painting, called "Fireflies."

It was thrilling to get it done, and horribly disappointing to get it photographed. It seems that the palettes I use are irreproducible with the technical equipment I've got. If the blues and purples are more or less accurate, the yellows, reds and pinks are washed-out, and vice-versa. I talked with some experts about it this weekend, and the solution involves either purchasing some more expensive equipment or hiring an expensive person. So for now, you get an inadequate JPEG and a long-winded explanation.

In person, this painting is three feet high by four feet wide, oil on linen. The deep blue/purple hills at the bottom make a sort of deep, grounding, peaceful 'hummm' in the space in front of it, while the lighter blues, purples and pinks in the sky create a shimmery energy that seems to rain down over the hum. The baseball-like bubbles appear to glow with a light that is simultaneously incandescent and fluorescent, including as it does a wide spectrum of yellows, ochres, reds and pale viridians, and the bubbles themselves seem to lift your heart up with them and carry it into the deep blue of the twilight.

The detail shots aren't much better, but hopefully they give a slight idea of the texture, and the number of layers of color. The surface is extremely matte, given the large amount of beeswax medium in the paint.

I wanted to convey a number of impressions with this painting; the way the sky is still so full of shimmery light long after the sun has set; a sense of whimsical movement in the active lines, loosely representing fireflies, each encased in its own bubble of light; a suggestion of infinite journeys up ahead, conveyed by the abstracted 'river' flowing into the sky between the two hills; a pervasive peace that is still not entirely devoid of wistfulness.

Or perhaps this is all bullshit, and it's a childish painting of yellow floating baseballs. Only time will tell.

For those of you who are still wondering, this is how the Endless Painting ended up. I'm calling it 'Plexus.'

This one makes a very powerful cone of energy, radiating out from the spiral. There's a certain amount of tension created by the fact that the paint is so thick and rough on the 'rock' part, and relatively flat and smooth in the 'sun.' I wanted to convey the impression that the light is in the process of shattering the rock.

Again, the colors and details are utterly horrible on the computer, and Photoshop will only take me so far.

So, what are y'alls intentions, this week?


Barak said...

Hi Serena,

It should be possible to RENT the expensive equipment that you need in Brooklyn. I rent photo equipment all the time and am continually surprised by how inexpensive it is.

With the rental places around me, it's like having a fully outfitted studio with all the lights, cameras and lenses I would ever need for a third the price of my cheapest lens every year.

serena said...

Hi Barak! Thanks, that was suggested, and I think I will do it. It's always hard to decide when I've got enough new work to make it worth the effort.

And is the JPEG of that last painting overlapping the screen on anyone else's browser? Can't figure out how that happened.

Anonymous said...

Hi Serena,

I am not sure what "jpeg overlapping the screen" means but it looks fine w/ IE on Windows.

I like "fireflies" a lot!


serena said...

Thanks, Beck! It must be all in the browser. Danny says that on his PC, the whole post comes up a page and a half down the screen, with empty space up above.

Danny, perhaps you should look into upgrading your browser? I use Firefox, and although it crashes on any blog that uses Blogads, it displays things pretty well.

dananonyous said...

HI Serena, well ..the blank spot got filled in mostly with the Chelsea post. Glad the day was that exciting. WHat a treat. I went by with a friend to 108 Wycoff to visit the mosaic lady's work. It has moved up a bit above the windows with two beautiful by and look. You will be happy.
The idea of upgrading the browser,
well...I am a little broke right now and am still saving up for a couple of prothetic devices so I will have to hold off until after I am fitted. But thanks. Besides...there is nothing wrong with my brows that a good pair of tweezers can't return from its unibrow state.

serena said...

Danny, jeez, you can upgrade most browsers for free. At least, I got Firefox for free; you just go to and download it. I don't know about IE or other Windows browsers--I frown upon Microsoft, as well you know.

danonymous said... dear....the above broswer comment was made with swollen tongue in sallow cheek to speak....
i.e it was a joke.....
But I am seriously computer handicapped....if I touch it and it does something funny....I shut down and try another day..... so much for my tech ability...fortunately...shutting down seems to fix 99% of the stuff.
Maybe that's why we, as people, shut down so often....just to get fixed.

k said...

I LOVE Fireflies. Just adore it.

The difference, viewing these in person, is making me itch with wanting.

With this post, for the first time, I think I'm getting the feeling of how limited the medium is for conveying the sense of depth, and the dolors, in these paintings. It helped when I clicked the pix and looked more closely. Some of the details from Fireflies suddenly had this sort of layery feeling to the colors, but not so much like juxtaposed layers as like clouds. Like there was space between the layers of colors.

It was very beautiful and peaceful, like being on a big cruise ship looking over the water at sunset, where you not only see the great multidimensionality of the colors in the sky, but you can feel it in the air on your skin.

k said...

The detail from Plexus? It also looks a bit like a cross-section from a very old and checked tree trunk.

But that may be because I'm so fond of aged checked tree trunks. I tend to see stuff I really like in places where it doesn't necessarily belong.