Red Head Gallery, 401 Richmond, Toronto, 2004
18 abstract paintings, oil on canvas, 18″ x 54″
ABOUT TWO RIVERS
My husband was dying. At my suggestion, he went with his two adult children on a week’s holiday in Cuba. I wanted them to be able to spend some time alone with their father. I spent the week in Big Sur, California, hiking with a group in the Ventana Mountains, one of my most beloved places on this earth. On the second or third day we stopped at a place where two rivers converged. It was an astonishing sight, one that I’ve since had the privilege of seeing in other parts of the world: two rivers coming together. I realized something that felt very profound: when two rivers converge, they can never be separated. Even if the river diverges further downstream, the original two rivers are inextricably intertwined, their very molecules are mixed together.
Sometime between that day and a few months after Terry died, I had a vision of a series of 18 abstract paintings which would depict the coming together of two rivers. I had the canvasses built and hung them on my studio walls. Blank. 18 of them, which had to function both as discreet paintings and as one large painting in 18 segments. My studio at that time was a storefront on Oakwood Avenue, next door to a Portuguese sports bar. There was a little room at the back I had converted into a lovely meditation room when Terry was sick. For a long time after he died, I would go into the studio, stare at the blank canvasses, go into the little meditation room and start pounding on a drum. My howls and wails competed with the rich hollow sound of this drum. I’ve always wondered what the denizens of the sports bar made of this caterwauling. I called an actress friend in despair one day and she suggested I sing. So I did, I sang Waly Waly, over and over, out loud, in the studio:
I cannot get to my love if I would dee
The waters of Tyne stand between him and me
And here I must stand with a tear in my eye,
All sighing and sobbing my true love to see.
Oh where is the boatman I’d pay any money,
Where is the boatman come bring him to me,
For to ferry me over the sea to my honey,
Or to scull him across the rough waters to me.
Picking up a paint brush felt like falling straight off a very steep cliff into nothingness. But pick it up I did, again and again, painting two white lines across the 18 canvases that converged at around number 15; painting strange round boat shapes, painting my heart and soul and grief and longing and despair. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done. A tribute to Terry. May his memory be a blessing.