Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mi Propio Canto
Acrylic on Canvas

I finished the above picture last week for a show opening at Onda Gallery on Alberta on March 25. The show will have the work of twenty women artists and is inspired by the song, "Gracias a la Vida" by Violeta Parra. This will be a powerful and interesting show inspired by a powerful song, and a powerful life. Here's some information from the National Geographic music society about Parra:

"One of the most versatile artists to emerge from Chile in the 20th century, Violeta Parra remains as one of the most unique and powerful representatives of the nueva canción movement. A visionary artist, Parra would explore a multitude of platforms for her message of peace and social justice, from music to poetry and painting.

Born to a large humble family in the Ñuble countryside of Chile, Violeta del Cármen Parra Sandoval had to work much of her young life to support the family, and preferred singing and performing to her formal studies. Parra's father taught all his children to sing and play, and from those modest beginnings, Violeta set out on a singing career as a young girl, moving to Santiago and forming a duet with her sister known as Las Hermanas Parra. Without much success early on, Violeta married and had two children (one of them well known folk singer Angel Parra), yet continued to make her career a priority, which resulted in the end of her marriage.

She embarked on a more promising performing and recording career in the 1950s, and also traveled throughout Latin America and Europe, although the political content of some of her lyrics was banned in some Latin American cities such as Buenos Aires. Her expertise in the musicological research of Chilean folk music as well as her performing brought her to Western and Eastern Europe, and her painting lead to an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, the first invitation for any Latin American artist.

Together with her children, Violeta established several peñas (cultural centers) where the family as well as invited musicians would perform, and she also wrote several volumes of poetry. One of her most celebrated (and widely recorded) compositions is "Gracias a la Vida," a hauntingly beautiful tribute to life in the face of darkness. Yet despite her successes, Violeta's inner pain resulted in her suicide on February 5, 1967."

I have always loved this song after first hearing it recorded by Joan Baez. I didn't know about Parra's suicide until recently. It seems at odds with her song in praise of life, but I don't doubt that she loved life and lived it fully. People continue to love to sing and hear this song, and it reminds us that life is to be loved in spite of the pain living sometimes involves.

Mercedes Sosa as well as Joan Baez, helped to make this song a favorite worldwide. You can see and hear them perform it here.

Here are the words to the song in Spanish and English:

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco
Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado el oído que en todo su ancho
Graba noche y día grillos y canarios
Martirios, turbinas, ladridos, chubascos
Y la voz tan tierna de mi bien amado

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado el sonido y el abecedario
Con él, las palabras que pienso y declaro
Madre, amigo, hermano
Y luz alumbrando la ruta del alma del que estoy amando

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados
Con ellos anduve ciudades y charcos
Playas y desiertos, montañas y llanos
Y la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio el corazón que agita su marco
Cuando miro el fruto del cerebro humano
Cuando miro el bueno tan lejos del malo
Cuando miro el fondo de tus ojos claros

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto
Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto
Los dos materiales que forman mi canto
Y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto
Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.

It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude
The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
"Mother," "Friend," "Brother" and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human brain,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes...

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone's song, which is my own song.

My model for the painting is my wonderful daughter-in-law-to-be, Ruby, who kindly let me take a bunch of pictures of her. She posed with the crown just for fun, but I decided to leave it. I wasn't sure which line of the song I was going to use as my muse. I had trouble deciding what I wanted her to hold in the painting--I tried roses, sunflowers, and fruit, but nothing seemed right. I called Ruby to ask her what her favorite flowers are. She said her favorites are wildflowers, like Queen Anne's Lace. So that's what I used, and I love the way it came out. I wanted to dedicate this painting not only to the song, but also to my gratitude for having Ruby in our lives. I decided to call the painting after the last line, "my own song." It's my song, and also Ruby's with her own wildflowers and crown.

I really enjoyed getting back to painting. I've been doing so much mixed media, which I love to do, but have missed painting more than I realized. I want to do more paintings of family and friends and see if I can get better at capturing likenesses, or at least, essences of people.

Pictures from last week's workshop at my studio, "Journal to the Center". I had five wonderful students for this visual journal workshop.

This is how I like the work tables to look after a class!

Students prepare backgrounds and respond to prompts

Thanks Amy, Nancy, Nicole, Sam, and Jessica for a great class!

1 comment:

dewatobay said...

Let me know when your next class is scheduled.