Cornflower Blue

I’ve been strolling around my neighborhood a lot in this lovely May weather. I watched as bare ground erupted into lush gardens, spring flowers opened up, color blossomed in so many places. In this city of concrete and asphalt, so much springs to life.

It’s been an odd week, too. I keep finding trashed plants. The first was a snake plant, dumped out of it’s pot and left beside a trash bin. It looked like the people in the house there had moved — lots of odds and ends in the bins. But why dump the plant? Why not leave it in the pot for sidewalk scavengers? I know snake plants are pretty hearty. The corms on these were in tact, so I brought them home, trimmed off the dead leaves, and potted the healthy part, watered them and set them on the porch with the hope they’d continue to grow.

Another day, I passed by a business with two planters on the side of it’s windowless wall that had been totally trashed — filled with fast food containers, vodka bottles, wrappers, and surprising little soil. Under this trash volcano, I saw hosta leaves poking out. They were still fresh and green so I dug down and found several hostas and begonias, roots caked in dirt, but torn from whatever soil they were planted in. It was obviously the doing of some maladjusted person. I collected the plants, and again, brought them home to give them a chance to grow.

It has all the making of verdant spring for me. Then yesterday, I got news that the sister of a dear friend of mine had died. She was only 56. She had MS, and she accidentally overdosed on medications. A little life ended too soon.

I’ve lost a brother. He was alienated from his family, from me, by his mental illness of paranoid schizophrenia. My grief was bound in a sense of relief that he would not suffer anymore, but I mourned the life he never had. I made a gauzy shroud and planted him in my heart where the grief blooms, then goes dormant, then flowers again — different colors, different thorns, different ways that both nourish and deplete my soul.

After receiving the news of my friend’s sister leaving the planet, I went for a stroll through the neighborhood. Where I live now is only a few blocks from the house where I raised my children. I’ve lived in midtown most of my life, a wealth of stories populate all the streets and avenues I wander through.

There’s a little park adjacent to a school across the street from me. They have huge planters arranged in a circle with stone benches and a small altar for St. Mary, because it used to be a Catholic school.

I looked at the plants the students had started growing — lettuce, herbs, kale. There was a cluster of blue cornflowers growing in one.

As I made the circle around the garden, I found another cluster of cornflowers, but they had been cut down and thrown on the ground. The flowers were still fresh, but they were dying, leaves drooping, stems softening. I used my phone internet to see if there was any way to root them from the stems, to rescue them, to bring them back to life. But they can’t be propagated that way. They were dead.

Why would they cut them down? Why this need to tear out these flowering lives? I suppose they want to plant something new. Or maybe it was just an act of malice. I’ll never know. So much I’ll never know or understand.

I broke off some of the flowers and arranged them on the stone bench. I took a picture. Then left them to return to dust, to nourish the soil.

Cornflower Blue, photography, by Joy Murray

And I came home and grieved for all that we suffer in life, and how hard it is to lose friends and family to death, even though we know it’s inevitable, especially as I age. All life’s grief wakes back up and pricks the soul so the new grief can flow in, grow in, become part of neighborhood.

I had been thinking of the resurrection of practically everything before I heard of this death, and as I process this latest sad news, I have let grief resurrect. I sit with it on my porch in my wheelchair, on my little patch of earth, where all around me things are growing for me to witness, then watch as they go dormant, or die. I wait til something new emerges; I pay attention, and try to keep my heart open to it all.

Point of Departure, by Joy Murray,

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Seeds, from Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is one of my favorite books. The cover states:

“Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she studied trees, flowers, seeds and soil…Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book.”

I love the way the book’s chapters switch between her life, her struggles as a female scientist, her discovery of true friendship with her eccentric lab assistant, her fight to balance mental health and work — and always over and under every part of her world: the lives of trees.

I was invited by my spiritual support group, Open Heart, to record an affirmative reading for their online meeting Sunday, May 2, 2021. I chose this passage on seeds from Lab Girl, because it’s spring and I’m planting seeds and witnessing seeds leap into life, and seeing trees create more seeds, more reasons to wait, more evidence of what is “both impossible and inevitable.” I thought I’d share the video with you.

I got tripped up on words a few times, but I hope you enjoy this very insightful description of seeds and life.

Acorn by Joy Murray

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Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share it, if you’d like.

This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways. 

If you’d like to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal 

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

Investing in Myself

In March, I engaged artist Gwenn Seemel as an Art Guide, a service she offers to help artists evaluate their work and goals. She also helps her clients figure out how to get unstuck and how to set reasonable goals. I engaged her because I was having difficulty making decisions about a series I’m working on called “Look Closer” on disability and sensuality.

She helped me take me myself seriously, to narrow down my goals (I tend to make bigger plans than I have time or energy to do), and get some focus. She also helped me to come up with a brief statement about the series.

LOOK CLOSER, paintings on Sensuality and Disability: Passion is a basic need in our lives, but people who have unique or disabled bodies are often left out of the media surrounding sensuality. This series explores ways people express their sensuality no matter how life transforms their bodies.

I initially wanted to do all nudes, but in discussing my end goals and where I wanted to show these paintings (rehab hospitals, Veterans hospitals, and various places people are dealing with body changes), I realized that doing all nudes would limit where I could show the paintings. So now I’m coming up with ways of showing sensuality without full nudity.

A lot of my paintings deal with the body in transformation anyway. But this is the first time I’ve felt driven to paint about the sensuality and beauty that springs from body diversity. (I was inspired by Ben Duffy’s “Take a Look at this Heart” but wanted to capture still, intimate moments in my paintings.)

The first painting I did for this series was a nude, and when I imagined it, I didn’t have any idea about the way the gold and blue fabric would take over the composition:

Yet Desire Seemed to Expand by Joy Murray, mixed media, 2020

I wrote about the series on an earlier blog post. I stated that I wouldn’t share these paintings on this blog until the series was finished, but would show my progress on my Patreon page, to those who support my art and writing. I decided since they are not all nudes, then I’d like the feedback that the blog can provide me with. So my dear Patreon supporters will get first looks and get writings and pictures of the process of how I make each painting, but I will share the finished paintings here as they are completed.

With the help of Gwenn, I am more focused on it. I also am doing more complex compositions than I ever have, and will be making fewer paintings to sell. If you want to help with finances while I’m working on this series, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter or giving a donation through Paypal.

While working with Gwenn, I got distracted by my Mandusa painting and other ideas, but the weekly session kept me grounded. I finished one piece featuring a person who uses a tracheotomy, called The Color of Air.

The Color of Air by Joy Murray, acrylic paint and ink
The Color of Air (detail) by Joy Murray

I planned to paint another in this series in April, but I realized the composition I wanted to create wasn’t something I could manage yet. I also had to have a few medical procedures that threw me off my schedule. (I’m fine now.) I’ve been practicing in my sketchbook and have started working on another painting.

I don’t think I can be cured of my circular way of working and tendency to be distracted by new ideas, but meeting with Gwenn helped tremendously. We’re still living in a world of social isolation, especially for those of us who are mobility impaired anyway, so it helped to have a Skype session each week for both the social aspect, and the deep talk about art. Investing in myself and getting encouragement and constructive criticism was just what I needed to jumpstart this project.

Check out Gwenn’s work here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share it, if you’d like.

This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways. 

If you’d like to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal 

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

Lou Bond Portrait

Lou Bond was a musician recorded by Stax back in 1974. His music was not the typical Stax sound, he was a unique musician who played acoustic guitar and fit more in the singer/songwriter category. He had an orchestra for back up, and wasn’t following musical trends. But people, he could sing. His songs focused a lot on the injustice he saw around him, that he saw all of us suffering from. He was of his time, and he wasn’t.

I got to know him in his later years. He was a very close friend to the man who commissioned this portrait. I couldn’t find many pictures of Lou, so I used the photograph on his album/cd as a model for the painting. (The CD was re-released by Light In the Attic Records) so his music still available.

There were many struggles and shadows in his life. When I knew him, he was playing in coffee shops in Memphis. He rode a bicycle around midtown. I remember thinking of how hard it is to make a living as a musician if you don’t have the type of personality that can deal with all the confusion and ego of the music business. Lou wasn’t equipped to be a “star” and yet he shone in the life of those who knew him. He’d been abused as a child and hurt in ways he could never share. He was on disability for mental disorders, but the music in his soul still shone brightly.

You meet someone who seems to have so much potential, they could be famous. But Lou was someone who carried the weight of life, who didn’t belong in that harsh and dehumanizing light of fame. He was a man who recorded some songs, who felt things deeply, who was hurt in ways he could never recover from, but who sang any way. He passed away in 2013.

Lou Bond by Joy Murray, 8×10″ acrylic paint and ink

You can listen to his music here.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share it, if you’d like.

This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways. 

If you’d like to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/my/profile

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.