Los Angeles revisited

Desultory thoughts, written most days on my phone app.

LA revisited. The feeling of an old stomping ground, workplace and home, combined with the association of parenthood. Sitting outside a cafe on Wilshire Blvd, sun on my back. Feels like total bliss. Music reminding of my kids. Tears. People all say hello. Plants grow in winter. City of interstice. Liminal spaces only seen when walking. I walk. Not many people do. Hasidic Jews walk too. To temple.

I see so many extraordinary things when walking. LA must be the best place to urban walk. So many curious visual vignettes.

I had a dream a couple of months ago that a friend Peter and I met at a red theatre in Brighton. Today he invited me to a Hollywood screening of our old friends. It was prophetic. The theatre was so similar, painted red in the foyer and the seats like in my dream and Hollywood Blvd a super similar vibe to the Brighton street in my dream. Other details matched in bizarre ways..

Went for a drink with Todd and Peter after the screening in an old Hollywood wood-panelled bar. Lovely to see Todd again and how we hook back into the old banter and laughter.

Today I am going to an art supplier. E says to get an Uber but it’s only a ten minute walk. It is the loveliest climate and mostly flat but barely anyone walks.  What is extraordinary is the scale of the place.  When I lived here, I got used to the vast scale of the roads and freeways and the vast distances between things.  Now my brain is fully European again, and I still can’t get my head around the hugeness of it all.  How I used to drive such vast distances without a second thought, down freeways with bright sunlight with blocky buildings and strip malls.  Now all the shops and businesses are going out of business, and the tents of the homeless springing up daily adding to the polarity between rich and poor.  There is still extraordinary wealth of course.

Elizabeth and I met. She drove up from La Jolla. She is my soul sister.  I love how we communicate, based on mutual and equal communication and heartfelt exchange of thoughts, pathos, depth, humour and honesty. We walked around Lake Hollywood and even saw a pack of coyotes coming down from the hills.

Today I am visiting a friend in Santa Monica. She came to the retreat in Spain. We said how much we missed the layers of history, romantic ruins and the old men sitting in rows along a street bench, spending time. Here people rush around with yoga mats to Starbucks in bright light and all the cars are shiny… The light is intoxicating as it is in Spain but the lack of history and culture feels sorely lacking. Perhaps today I am revisiting melancholy, but it’s okay. Still no suggestion or instruction of what to paint from Evie. I will just paint my commission from Olivia anyway.

Evie finally told me what she wants and we discussed options. Perhaps a Chinoiserie design on the fireplace in her therapy room. I also got a commission from clients in Switzerland so can work on that in the meantime.

This morning I walked to find a cafe and found a few pavements covered in graffiti so snapped them. Everyone is on computers in cafes so no one engages any more. It is a less friendly place than it used to be somehow. Still so many curious things to see when walking.

So lovely to stay with Brad and Evie and see all my old painting and murals. I am missing my kids and the music scene in Hastings but am hoping to see more friends again soon. Everything is so expensive here. When I lived here before it wasn’t so. London prices are similar but here feels like a city for the rich and exclusive. All my friends are rich now too, through inheritance and some really hard work.  Rents seem to have gone up a thousand per cent, adding to the homeless situation.  It has to be seen to be believed.  I am so happy I discovered Spain to dream towards.

Several days later, and I have settled into a rhythm of being here. Painting, seeing friends occasionally, coffee in discovered cafes, walking, noticing interstitial details, early nights.  I went to see the phenomenon that is Denise last night and her menagerie of animals and birds nestled in the Hollywood hills just under the Hollywood sign in a tree-lined canyon street of north Beechwood. So beautiful and heartening to see her. How joyful she is, in spite of her incredible schedule as restaurateur and caterer. Still has time for every animal or bird she can rescue. She even saved a sewer rat once, spending thousands on him. I adore her. She still has so much of my art on my walls.

Last night Elizabeth and I went to an art opening entitled Perceive Me. E was one of the artists invited to represent the woman in whatever visual medium she chose. The show questions and analyses notions and definitions of beauty, the male gaze and perceptions and representation of the larger female form.

Brad and Evie took me to the Broad Museum in downtown L.A and it was an incredible exhibition of contemporary art.  What stood out were the Infinity Rooms by Yayoi Kusama.

I met my old friend Jamie who used to be the guitarist for Harry Dean Stanton and now plays with Dennis Quaid.. We went to Venice beach and I looked at my old apartment. Beautiful to revisit the Pacific Ocean.  When we walked onto the pier between Venice and Marina del Rey, some guys were fishing and playing Rocket Man on their speaker system.  How wonderful that music can create a moment and make it forever memorable.  That really was a magic moment.

Am now in La Jolla with Elizabeth and the beauty of la Jolla cove is breathtaking. This town is deeply privileged and charming with houses on the waterfront. It is so delightful but feels like such a white enclave. The little coffee shops and bakeries with expensive boutiques are all within walking distance from E’s home. It feels like almost the most privileged beautiful place on earth.

La Jolla is so breathtakingly gorgeous and we walked along the coast again today and also through a park which curved up against a small mountain. The plants, trees and flowers in bloom in January were abundant and everyone we passed said hello. People largely over forty or fifty out jogging or power walking. We watched surfers ride the waves. The aqua blue of the cylindrical waves and the biggest splashes as the waves crashed into the beach and rocks. Seals bathe and pup in certain coves.

I took the train from San Diego to Los Angeles Union station and looked out of the window the entire time, transfixed by the light as the sun slowly edged toward sunset, the light growing more warm and golden as it set. I passed vast beaches, large areas of swamp land and trailer parks, expensive communities, ordinary California communities with their grid iron format reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. I thought how la Jolla reminded me of Stepford Wives or the Truman Show, wondering if I could ever live there…even if I could afford to.

From Union station I took a cab and saw the homeless people and their tents, pitched on grassland next to the freeways or in rows along streets. It is unbelievable how a country with so much wealth can create such a dehumanised situation.

Somehow though the light fills me with such a sanguine feeling and I know California has got me under its charm spell again.

Thoughts on the homeless situation in L.A.

Whatever I think about politics, Brexit, Trump, multinationals, capitalism, sunshine versus rain, doesn’t really matter as I have seen what the cult of individualism, Reaganomics, the financial crash and the cuts in services for the vulnerable can do and my trip to Los Angeles has shown me the most important thing, and that is the obscene dehumanised situation that is the result of the ‘me’ culture. That of homelessness. It is pandemic in almost every part of this city. Encampments of tents along pavements, on grassy areas next to freeways, under bridges. I saw an exhibition by photographer David Livingston, a lovely man who dared to photograph the people that society will not look at. Of course he asked their permission and the photographs were so hard to look at. So raw. Most close-up portraits. Some say the homeless situation is 60,000 to 80,000 people.

“To raise consciousness about what’s going on. I felt I had to do something to address the issue and this is my way,” said Livingston.

Instead of using his fancy cameras, Livingston used his iPhone, so he’d be less intrusive. He spent months capturing these images for an exhibit he calls: “Still Lives: iPhone Street Photography of The Less Fortunate among Us.” The photos have been taped to the walls of a gallery just south of Beechwood Avenue. Can’t remember the address. It was previously in Little Ethiopia.

“The photographs are as disposable as society sees the people. So that’s sort of the quote/unquote symbolism of why we did it this way,” said Livingston. “The pictures are not for sale. This was an altruistic project. I’m not interesting in making money or selling the photographs.”

Livingston is hoping people who visit the gallery will bring non-perishable food items, hygiene products and clothing that will all be donated to the Hollywood Food Coalition.

The best thing about my trip was revisiting my old friends, seeing my work on the walls and ceilings and seeing how frankly astounding it was that I used to paint on the ceiling with such agility!

The places that my friend Monika took me to were really interesting.  She lives in Lomita, near Rancho Palos Verdes, and there was something there that felt more ‘real’ to me.  Point Fermin, where we stopped for kombucha at a bohemian café where they were playing live music.  An old guy singing country music with his guitar, a little gallery and book shop next door, the beaches and cliffs at Palos Verdes, the wild peacocks nesting in trees and the vast view of Long Beach, the giant harbour with all the container ships, giant docks, cranes and industry.  The sunken city of San Pedro, where the city had literally fallen from the edge of the cliff and collapsed into a cave below in 1929.  Parts of the city’s infrastructure remains; old tarmacked roads, pieces of rail track.  It was amazing and with a backdrop of the ocean.  All the ruins are now graffitied on, adding to it a surreal and abstracted look.  We were taken to the sunken city by a young dreadlocked hippy dude,smoking a joint, who was watching, approached us saying he had manifested us, and asked if we would like to know how to get to the sunken city, because that was what we were trying to figure out as it was all fenced off.  So he took us the secret way accompanied by Bodhi the cutest dog, clambering over walls and under fences til we got there.

L.A. lacks character now and it feels like a harsher place, and the divide between rich and poor is outrageous.  Talking to an Egyptian Uber driver one night he told me that most people think ‘it’s their own fault’ ie, the homeless and their situation.  When I discussed it in depth with him he said that my analytical and compassionate opinion was rare in L.A. and how exceptional I was and how happy he was to have met me.  I said I would not be able to live in the city again.  Once Laurel Canyon and Beechwood Canyon were inhabited by the musicians, artists and hippies.  Now it is billionaires’ territory.  I am glad I experienced life there when I did. It was once like paradise to me.

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An Equal Stillness

An Equal Stillness. A painting in acrylic and gold, copper and silver leaf on canvas. A meditation on land and sea. For a forthcoming exhibition with fellow artist- painter Theresa Caruana. Dates and details to follow in the coming weeks. 💧

Painted listening to Bach, Debussy and the exuberant Vivaldi.

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Painting and music

My painting practice is almost always accompanied by music. Today it is the St Matthew Passion by Bach. Yesterday it was African Head Charge, especially Drums of Defiance. Mercurial me. 🙂
My beloved music carries me through life and helps me assimilate my emotional landscape. Music is transcendent, essential, cathartic, otherworldly, sacred. 🧡
Working on painting about the sea and land for a forthcoming exhibition.

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Freya’s Tears of Gold

May the tears you cried in 2019 water seeds you’re planting for 2020 🧡🧡

My painting Freya’s Tears of Gold is an homage to the painting by Anne Marie Zimmerman which in turn was an homage to Klimt.

Acrylic paint and gold and copper leaf on canvas.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/766388781/freyas-tears-of-gold?ref=shop_home_active_1

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Falling in love with the Land

I met a man in deep midwinter who told me his first sexual experience was falling deep into mud resulting in orgasm. I was talking about the relationship with Land as the most visceral, profound and erotic a relationship we can have. After many years of being in love with the complex, beautiful, often difficult relationship between humans, I have realised that to love the land is the most pure form of loving.

There is the changing weather, which can alter the relationship, or remind us that it is not always an easy conversation. There is the staring out to sea, the contemplation of colour, mood, air, ground, waves or horizon. The sensual excitement of each subtle change in energy at each turning of a corner. The newness, or re-acquaintance with a known love of a land revisited. To love the land is a life-long affair. It is to see a mountain and its changing form, texture, colour, presence becomes so overwhelming in its enchantment. There is the open road and the exhilaration of change. The deliberate stopping to contemplate or commune with a vista or to feel the vastness, or behold a particular tree or abandoned building.

There is also the phenomenon of the flaneur. The city wanderer who is walking the urban land and mapping the psychogeography. Within this there is a wandering about, a seeing and being seen.

The nature wanderer is a quieter lover. As a mother who gives birth is left viscerally, psychologically and somatically altered, after this experience, no relationship is ever the same. I began my relationship with land after birthing. I had glimpsed the relationship many times before when stopping the car deep in the American desert and learning about warm winds, nothingness and stillness or on a warm rock in Crete looking out to sea. After the recovery of birth the world was altered. Nature was a giving back to myself. The gift of land. The gift of myself and of love.

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Winter Solstice

The land was alive today.

Or maybe it was me.

Aligned as earth’s energy sang its December song.

A walk around the apple orchards.

Bare winter trees offering their branches skywards.

An ancient landscape with vast oaks silhouetted against bright cold air.

Outstretched and stark against a silver, milk-white sky.

A curve in the road, up a tree lined hill.

What mystery and stories lie up those little lanes?

Stone, Ebony, Wittersham, Iden.  Names are like charms.

Moss on a tree trunk and wall.

A brave pink rosebud against a weathered red brick wall.

Yule lights shine out from depths of interiors.

No wind or rain.

Church bells chime a perfect note.

Solstice.

Suspended

Held

On the threshold.

A liminal space

Between the years.

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Blue Song

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La Manche

Painted the day before the election. A storm at sea.

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Louisa

Beautiful Louisa, how can I write anything or enough, about today or about one so rarefied as you. Today we all said our collective farewell to you and tonight I have drunk a lot of wine, and have just returned from London and then the FILO where we met properly for the first time.

At your wake in Wimbledon, at your mother’s home, I was talking to Justin your lovely brother about you, and he said that you wanted your ashes scattered in the place in southern Greece by the sea and also in Hastings by the sea, and somewhere else but I can’t remember where. I want to rediscover Greece again. It’s been too long. Justin said that when you were gone you wanted to come back as an owl, and I have just been outside and heard so many owls calling from all sides, their gentle call.

I said ‘Hello Louisa’ and I started shaking from my feet through my body and then gently laughing and I felt we were laughing together, and the owls kept calling. The moon is in a full moon wane.. the Moonage Daydream..

It was the most beautiful gentle ceremony, and there was poetry read by Sally, a letter from Ruth about you, read by Sophie, a song written for you by our darling John Donaldson, your Mermaid poem, and readings from Peter and Larry and Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, and ending on Bowie’s Moonage Daydream. Then the tears, and OH my goddess rock chick, jazz, classical and everything chick, Sophie spoke of the delicate miniatures you used to make, with your tender hand. You were an artist, a Goddess, and a true empath and I hugged so many people today. People who loved you so much as I did. I didn’t know so much. How you worked at Stringfellow’s when younger. Your connection to the Bloomsbury group, oh yes I did know and Vanessa’s Granddaughter Cressida was there. You were so humble, you did tell me about this, because you knew I loved that stuff, but only humbly spoke of it.

But the drive with Ellie and Rebecca, on the A21 and then the M25, and Clacket Lane services for coffee took an age, but we made it just in time to Putney Vale and drove through the vastness of Putney Vale, and when we saw all your belly dancing friends and all the colourful glittering costumes waiting outside, we knew it was your ceremony.

I am going outside again now to hear the owls.

🙏🌸

Something Ellie wrote:

My despair of the general election results was put on hold to grieve the loss of a friend. I’ve noticed, that with grief also comes inspiration, because those we love do inspire so much in us. Louisa lived life so well, she rocked up to heavy rock concerts on her own in her flared jeans and would march right up to the front, half an ale in one hand and the other held up to the sky. She loved people so well, running up to them, crying their name and falling into their arms. I’m happy that those arms were sometimes mine.
Louisa instantly felt like family, like she was the missing link in something you never thought was missing in the first place but was so obvious once it arrived. My one regret is that I didn’t find her sooner. Three years simply wasn’t enough. I wished I had poured my heart out even more to her because I know that she would have understood – she always did. Not a bad word could ever be said about darling Louisa, she lived how she loved and she loved so well. I guess what I’m trying to say is we just need to keep trying and keep being kind to one another. If you can help, do. But if you can’t, be kind to yourself, because you are also important.
Rest in peace and power Louisa ❤️

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Above the sea today

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