During the month of April I received word that two friends,one young and one old,were stricken
with cancer. It made me wild in some way that sought expression, lacking channels elsewhere,
and so I unfurled a painting begun three years before--a draft or a promissory note on
the outdoor work I hope to do eventually. Quite irrationally I needed a large field for my large
I worked outdoors, for the good reason that this painting is six feet high and twenty feet long.
It is made from three layers of shadecloth,or black plastic screening. The painting interruptus was
to have been black and white,but all my prayers were to the blue, and I had been writing of
of the blue,and this is why the painting may have seemed to need to become blue.
And so I hung my painting on the clothes line in the strangest state of mind.
Cobalt blue is always the blue of the journey to God for me; I
associate it with Mohammed's Journey into Heaven by Sultan Mohammed,the Safavid
Dynasty-period Persian painter,a touchstone. There is a blue closer to
cerulean the Limbourg brothers use. I struggled for sometime to make these blues emerge
from my humble shade cloth.
The winds and the rains of the variable April weather constantly interrupted this folly of mine,
which I then had to fold up and place in the garage next to the lawnmower.
And the beauty of our old "pecker-fretted"appletrees in bloom was a constant reproof,so
beautiful were they. And indeed,there are times when the beauty of the simplest or most banal
thing seems to mock me.
So large was this composition that I found I had to climb on the roof and stare down
it upon the ground--the clothes line being strung too low to
completely accomodate it--in order to see it whole. And then I had to climb down
in order to modify it. The trick en route was not to forget what I decided to do.Gradually, it began to be an articulately,deeply blue image.
I very seldom lost some sharply felt sense of my friends in the doing of this, but
I must admit that I did not know what I prayed for except that it was for them.
The talented young woman and the talent old one,both dear to me,how can I
ask that they be uniquely comforted and healed? I found myself praying
for everyone--for the whole world-- through the image and memory and the urgency of my personal concern for my friends.
To feel something very strongly is no guarantee. A prayer is no guarantee of aesthetic
merit. The only way I am allowed to discuss this in anyway is if I recognize
this first. And perhaps it is enough to say that there are times when one
prays without knowing to whom one prays or for whom one prays or with
any sure sense in the efficacy or justice of one's prayers,except that this is
part of the equipment.