April 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
Fredericka Foster paints water. Her new show at the Fischbach gallery on 11th Avenue is only that: water and more water, given shape by light and shadow.
You know how when you stare at a body of water—ocean, river, lake, doesn’t matter—you feel both stillness and motion at the same time, the change unchanging? That paradox is what Foster paints, and the hook is the same hook water has; you keep looking to see what’s dominant, the verve or the peace, the bright day in the open air or the quiet in the well of the soul.
When I look at her paintings, I feel a certain tension, wanting her to make a choice—to show me a storm at sea, shipwreck; or the utter stillness in the eye of creation.
But she paints what she paints, and the show is very soothing. No, it’s exhilarating. It teeter-totters. It made me a little antsy. It made me want to get wet.
Later, we went to dinner at her loft in Soho: a lovely evening of delicious food, wine and interesting people. Many of them were artists who were included in the 2011 Cathedral The Value of Water exhibition, which Fredericka curated. It was nice to see all those faces again.
One man was talking to us about a trip to the Arctic he and his wife, the artist Diane Burko, are taking this summer. There are special cruises for scientists and artists. He was encouraging us to apply, and I would so much like to do that. He was also discussing close encounters with polar bears; when he said bears were the dominant predator in the Arctic and I said, what about humans? he stared at me blankly. Of course there are places where no humans hunt, but we have more subtle means of predation. So subtle, apparently, that Andy Revkin of the Times thinks that our biggest climate change problem is fear-mongering. Are the people are around you scared silly, frozen in despair? I didn’t think so. We’re sedated by surfeit.
My brother told me a few months ago that when he was in college he wrote in a paper that the earth would be better off without humans, and the teacher suggested counseling. Today, she’d probably see him as a would-be Adam Lanza.
I’m not really changing the subject. Fredericka is deeply involved in the fight against climate change, and her paintings remind us of what is more beautiful and necessary than money. And yet…I, too, want things.
For example, I’d like to live by the water again. A small house by a lake, with a flagstone terrace facing the water, cherry trees on one side, lilacs on the other; an old-fashioned kitchen with vanilla-painted cupboards, formica counters, a band of painted tiles (green and yellow flowers) all around the room, and a walk-in pantry; two bedrooms with high ceilings; a library without windows; and a screened porch at the back edged with flowerbeds, surrounded by tall trees.
I haven’t said much about the lake, have I? I need the house first. Then I’ll go outside and watch the wind on the ever-advancing waves: in sunlight, moonlight, dawn and inky darkness. I’ll think about Fredericka’s paintings and the colors of the stones where the waves break. I’ll stop thinking.
I can do this in the city. Theoretically. But let me paint my word pictures of water. I lived on a lake once.
“…always night and day/I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;/While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,/I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”
I’ve already used that poem in this blog. Here’s another one.
Elegy in Limestone
If the water, everywhere, and if she
is. If ghosts, like water, like if all
rivers and oceans and rains are one
ghost, surrounding and throughout.
If she is, like if the lakes and bays
of Seattle define Seattle, if the ices
Of Mars and Massachusetts,
hidden in their deep stones, define
Mars and Massachusetts; if she is.
A thirst unmet, alkaline or saline,
the water not touching that thirst,
if my thirst wants something else
entirely. If she is. Water, if it is in
and is blood. If invisible until
exhale. If science lies and water
doesn’t reflect sky but sky this
water. If she is the sound, if it isn’t
essential until its lack. If she is
the sound of. Waves. If in the body,
the dew in morning, and the moon.
If she is the sound of the water.
If rising, if breaking, if throughout.