First things first... I try not to talk much on this website about personal things beyond my artwork, but March 16 was a particularly significant day in my studio, when 62 family members and friends joined Dorli and me in its main workspace for our wedding. Almost three years after losing, just two weeks apart in the summer of 2010, the beloved partners to whom we'd been married virtually all our adult lives, family and friends of ours from ten states, the District of Columbia, and three countries honored us with their attendance as we exchanged sacred vows in my studio and asked for their blessing.
We had planned a very small, intimate ceremony, inviting old friends and close family from far and wide, but not expecting many of them to make the trek to Alaska in late winter. We were overwhelmed when virtually everyone we asked made the trip--from my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in Seattle, to Dorli's stepson and his older son from Michigan, to one of Dorli's cousins from Wyoming and her husband, to both my late wife Missy's living siblings, their spouses, and their children from Virginia, to Texas, to Wales in the U.K.
One of Dorli's undergraduate school roommates at Hampshire College, Ginnie Ferrell, who has degrees in chemistry, geology, and theology and is now an associate pastor for a vibrant, socially engaged United Church of Christ congregation in Atlanta officiated. Dear friends--from two whose post-stroke condition made it a challenge not only to get to Fairbanks, but to climb the four steps to my studio, to another who was vacationing in Hawaii with her own children and grandchildren for the month but flew back for the day--came from all over Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and far beyond.
As the numbers of positive RSVP's mounted over the last couple of months, we began to worry about whether the studio would hold them all. But we were able to seat all 62, with an ample central aisle for Dorli's entrance, flowers, two flutist friends from the Fairbanks and Anchorage Symphonies playing a processional and recessional, and our minister Ginnie, my son Eli, and us standing in front of the painting Dorli had selected as backdrop.
We repaired to the house, just a few steps away, at the close of the ceremony, drank a toast in honor of our attendees, and joined a much larger group of close local friends for a reception and dinner in the ballroom of the local Princess Lodge, beautifully decorated by several of our friends. It was an extraordinary day, and three weeks later, with all the guests from out-of-town departed, with my work in the studio and Dorli's teaching and performing back in full swing, we're still celebrating the love and generosity of our wonderful family and friends.
Oh, and yes...I've been making art. In the weeks before the wedding, I had begun the painting I recently titled Radiant. I had my studio back in working order the day after the wedding, and I was soon back at work on this canvas. When I finished it ten days ago, I sat across the room, looked hard at it, and asked myself, as I usually do when I finish a new painting, "Now what was that about?"
I was kind of amazed at the effusive brilliance of the color in the two birches that had emerged on this canvas. I don't think I've ever painted two such bright, multicolored birch portraits. I could only conclude that as usual, the character of these trunks was a reflection of my state of mind. I think I must not only have been excited, ebullient, but especially in the days following the wedding, as I added dashes of brilliant color and layers of bright hues, I must have been thinking about how beautiful Dorli looked in her wedding dress, and how we both felt--radiant.
There is a similar kind of radiance, I think, in my latest painting. In the last week and a half, I've been glorying in being fully back in the swing of work, keeping my usual long hours in the studio as I worked on a big new oil pastel. I have loved working with oil pastels since I was introduced to them in undergraduate school by my painting professor Herb Jackson, and over the years I've not only regularly used them for field studies, but from time to time made big, finished paintings with them like this one, on full sheets of heavyweight BFK Rives paper.
I use oil pastels in a somewhat unusual way--much the way Herb introduced them to me more than forty years ago--more like oil paint than like crayons or pastels, pushing them hard and layering them densely to build a thick, rich surface of juicy color. In images like this one, I love all-but-burying the dark but multihued colors of the myriad branches with thick spring snow, the way the twigs' sharp forms and color burst through the whiteness that tries to encompass them, and the way the spring light sets the forest aglow.