All thanks go to Hurricane Kay for bringing some cooler air to us in No. California. While she may wreak havoc along the way, as hurricanes are wont to do, this old woman remains deeply grateful that through her magic our temperature has dropped 35 degrees from two days ago. We have complained and moaned our way through a record-breaking six-day heatwave of temps generally reserved for Death Valley. We are north of San Francisco, just 20 miles from the ocean so it is not normal for us to have blistering heatwaves. And yet we did. Most summers we get a couple 3-day hot spells, then the fog rolls in and we all can breathe again.
This was anything but normal. We all know someone somewhere who has too much water, too little water, too much heat, too much fire. There simply are no more ‘lovely days at the shore’ anymore. This is serious business. Climate change is real and it’s happening all around us.
We rode it out thanks to frozen dishtowels for the neck & head, pounds of takeout chicken and salads made ahead of time, frozen gel packs for the feet, gallons of water consumed, wearing only linen, and two big fans that we turned on in the evening, during the Flex alerts, when the interior temp reached 90. I ate no ice cream throughout the heatwave but did eat a lot of watermelon. My joints were so much happier without the sugar! We have no AC, as we have never needed it with our “just a few hot days a year.” That is about to change; the climate is changing and so are we. We are older and the excessive heat is not only dangerous but pure & simple torment.
Today’s cooling off was actually perfect timing, as Monday I need to ship work to Texas. And for that I needed to heat up the iron. I just finished prepping the work (ironing, rolling & securing it to ship) and also tackled cutting down the shipping box, which was 15″ too long for the work. (shipping companies charge extra for that oversize length) I managed with my arthritic hands to cut and tape the box end together, to insert the prepped work and stuff the bulk of the carton with recycled bubble wrap. Now it is ready to ship, on time. While I had the iron on, I pressed the two linen outfits I wore throughout the heat wave, so they remain ready for gasp! the next one. We simply would not want to be wrinkled when in seclusion at home!!!
This work I am shipping is Defining Moments 25: Homage which is a tribute to my dear friend and series collaborator, the late Marion Coleman. We had decided in 2014 to do a series together, each making our own work, based on our experiences and perspectives growing up as black and white children in mid-century America. We titled it Defining Moments: Stitched Perspectives on Becoming a Woman. We were to start with our childhoods and create autobiographical work up to our 70th birthdays.
We had become good friends and colleagues as adult women, when there was no commonality in our upbringing. She was raised in the Jim Crow era in west Texas and I was a child of white privilege in a suburb of San Francisco. It seemed we would have nothing in common and yet we shared many of the same traits and character. We decided to do 25 pieces each and worked in our own style. We met frequently for lunch or via Skype and talked about various aspects of the series, and about prospective venues where we would like to exhibit it. We talked at great length about piece #25 and decided we would make it a full collaboration, likely something 3-D, which we would construct together.
Life intervened and she was tragically taken by lung cancer in 2019, after completing 13 works in the series. At that time I was working on #23. I continued to work, determined to do 25 while simultaneously grieving the loss of another dear one to cancer. I kept coming back to #25 as a collaborative effort, which was no longer possible. And yet I felt it extremely important that there be a piece that tied this project all together. And that is how Homage came about. It includes text, photos and words all about Marion and what she meant to me. For me it was the ideal ending to our story.
The series enjoyed two wonderful exhibitions (Visions Art Museum in San Diego and LHUCA in Lubbock, TX) and was scheduled for a third which unfortunately was cancelled, when the pandemic struck. I continue to send proposals for this series, as I feel it is such an important and relevant body of work that needs to be seen.
Meanwhile, I was contacted earlier this year by the new curator of LHUCA (Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts) in Lubbock, TX about an invitational 25th anniversary exhibit he was working on. He was seeking work that had exhibited there in the past 25 years; and wanted to know if I would participate and if so, which work from the series would I suggest he include? I offered to send Homage… for many reasons.
Marion was a native of West Texas so in a sense it would be a homecoming for her. And because the work was about her yet made by me, it was as if both of us would be represented in the retrospective. I also wanted this predominantly white community in Texas to bear witness to my friend, the most generous artist I have ever known, a kind, gentle, fierce, courageous, smart and accomplished woman of color.
So Ms. Marion is returning to Texas for autumn! Hopefully it is cooler there.