Q: At the end of last Saturday’s (September 28th) post you mentioned something called, “Esala Perahera.” What is that?
A: My trip to Sri Lanka was timed so that I could observe it first hand. Here is a description from the “Insight Guide to Sri Lanka:”
The lunar month of Esala is a month for festivals and peraheras all around the island. Easily the finest and the most famous is the Esala Perahera held at Kandy over the ten days leading up to the Esala Poya (full moon) day (late July or early August). The festival dates back to ancient Anuradhapura, when the Tooth Relic (of the Buddha) was taken through the city in procession, and the pattern continues to this day, with the relic carried at the head of an enormous procession which winds its way round and round the city by night. The perahera becomes gradually longer and more lavish over the 10 days of the festival, until by the final night it has swollen to include a cast of hundreds of elephants and thousands of dancers, drummers, fire-eaters, acrobats, and many others – an extraordinary sight without parallel anywhere else in Sri Lanka, if not the whole of Asia.
I would go further and add that the Esala Perahera is one of the world’s great festivals. Who could ever imagine such a spectacle? It may be a cliché to say it, but travel is ultimately the best education.
Comments are welcome!
A: Today is a day off to let my fingers heal. When I start a new painting, I need to rub my fingers against raw sandpaper in order to blend the pastel. With each layer the tooth of the paper gets filled up and becomes smooth, but until then my fingers suffer. Here is what I’ve been working on.
This pastel-on-sandpaper painting is an experiment, an attempt to push myself to work with bigger and bolder imagery. The photograph clipped to the easel is one of my favorites. It depicts a Judas that Bryan and I found in a dusty shop in Oaxaca. Among the Mexican and Guatemalan folk art pieces that I’ve collected are five papier mâché Judases. This particular one is unusual because it has a cat’s head attached at the forehead (the purple shape in the painting). They are not made to last. In some Mexican towns large Judases are hung from church steeples, loaded with fireworks, and burned in effigy. This takes place at 10:00 a.m. on the Saturday morning before Easter. Mexico is primarily a Catholic nation, of course, so effigy burning is done as symbolic revenge against Judas for his betrayal of Christ. The Judas in the photo is small and meant for private burning by a family (rather than in public at a church) so by bringing it back to New York I rescued it from a fire-y death! In sympathy with Mexican tradition, I began this painting last Saturday (the day before Easter) at 10 a.m.
Comments are welcome!
A: I grew up in a blue collar family in suburban New Jersey. My father was a television repairman for RCA. For awhile my mother worked as a sewing machine operator in a factory that made women’s undergarments, but mostly she stayed home to raise my sister and me (at the time I had only one sister, Denise; Michele was born much later). My parents were both first-generation Americans and in those days no one in my extended family had gone to college. I was a smart kid and showed some artistic talent in kindergarten or earlier. I have always been able to draw anything, as long as I can see it (i.e., I require a visual reference as opposed to drawing from memory). I remember copying the Sunday comics, which in those days appeared in all the newspapers. At the age of 6 my mother enrolled Denise and me in Saturday morning painting classes at the studio of an artist named Frances Hulmes in Rutherford, NJ. I continued the classes for about 8 years and became a fairly adept oil painter. Living just 12 miles from New York City in Clifton, New jersey, my mother often took us to museums, particularly the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Natural History. I remember falling in love with Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy” and being astonished by the violence and scale of Picasso’s “Guernica,” when it was on long-term loan to MoMA. I have fond memories of studying the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History. They are still my favorite part of the museum. I suppose it goes without saying that there were not any artists in my family so I had no role models. At the age of 15 my father decided that art was not a serious pursuit – he said it was a hobby, not a profession – so he abruptly stopped paying for my Saturday morning lessons. With no financial or moral support to pursue art, I turned my attention to other interests (ex. I learned to fly airplanes, becoming a commercial pilot and Boeing 727 flight engineer) and let my artistic abilities lie dormant.
Comments are welcome!