Many of the paintings I own have circles, which symbolize numerous ideas: no beginning, no end; a centering in the midst of chaos. A large abstract canvas in my collection is entitled “Portals and Pathways,” by Michael Moon. I had seen it hung horizontally in a Melrose Avenue gallery , but I wanted to hang it vertically. When the artist came to my house to install it I asked him if he would mind my turning it on its side. He said, “No, I painted it so that it would be pleasing to the eye either way.” It’s been hanging in my living room cattycorner to another large oil painting, “After Monet’s Water Lilies,” by Sigrid Burton, a New York artist, originally from Pasadena who studied at Bennington with Helen Frankenthaler (one of my favorite artists known for her vibrant color field.)
When Michael saw Sigrid’s painting, which I had purchased years earlier, he told me, “Sigrid and I are friends. It’s wonderful that we will get to hang out together.” Burton’s painting is a gorgeous profusion of greens and blues with shots of oranges and violets. Moon’s painting has a very different color palette but he, too, uses a brilliant orange so somehow the two pieces work together and are roughly the same size.
Recently, I was in a gallery in Santa Barbara. I had just done a book signing at Chaucer’s Bookstore for Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge, (by Cliff Simon with Loren Stephens). This memoir/adventure prominently features the iconic cabaret and we pay homage to the Moulin’s turning, brightly lit windmill. When it spins, the lights blur into a pinwheel of luminosity.
Drawn to a Painting
There were roughly ten or twelve paintings hanging on the gallery walls. I was immediately drawn to a painting by Felicia Kincaid. I don’t recall the title, but I think it was “Ferris Wheel.” There was a large circle on the canvas and the grounding was a brilliant sienna orange. The size was too big for the space over my living room fireplace. I wandered over to another painting, which was part of a series and entitled “Amusement Park.” It too had a circular pattern at its center, and the strongest color on the canvas was apple green, the same color as the rug in my living room. I’m not suggesting that you need to find paintings that match your décor, but rather to say that I often gravitate toward certain colors and apple green is one of them – it has a joyous intensity and is a nod to nature. The rug was the first purchase I made when we rebuilt our house after a devastating fire took our house down to the studs four years ago. So for me the apple green is a symbol of rebirth and hope. Green is also supposed to be calming; while orange and red actually can raise your blood pressure.
I stood in front of “Amusement Park,” and within minutes and conferring with my husband who agreed that he loved it, too, I bought the painting. We loaded it into the back of his SUV and drove it back to Los Angeles. It’s now hanging over the fireplace keeping company with Michael Moon and Sigrid Burton.
I examined it in the light and discovered that it was not signed so I contacted the gallery who put me in touch with the artist. Felicia said she’d send me a certificate of authenticity, but more importantly she’d be coming to Los Angeles, and would love to see its new home and sign the painting.
Right after the New Year, we made arrangements. The doorbell rang. When I answered it, I was surprised to see a much younger woman than I had imagined. Felicia has short blond hair, beautiful blue eyes and a tan that looks perpetual, and doesn’t have a hint of synthetic orange. I gave her a tour of my art collection, and then we talked about her painting. She said it took her almost a year to complete, and that some of her inspirations are Kandinsky and Sonja Delaunay, two of my favorite artists (the circles, again). She signed her painting and then taking a copy of Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge, out of her bag, asked me to autograph it. She said, “You know, I kept a postcard of the Moulin Rouge on my refrigerator for the entire time I was working on “Amusement Park.” Coincidence? Serendipity? Synchronicity?
As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for these subconscious connections, what Carl Jung coined “synchronicity. “ He defined it as " temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." In other words, one event does not cause another but rather occurs at the same time, and has a common ingredient to the other. It’s only when I keep my eyes and ears open do I come upon synchronicity, as was the case in buying Felicia’s painting, having her tell me she referred to a postcard of the Moulin Rouge, while working on the painting, and my having discovered her painting in the gallery after my book signing of “Paris Nights” in Santa Barbara.
synchronistic events in life
I can point to many synchronistic events in my life, and I often try to incorporate synchronicity in my writing. Perhaps I am playing G-d, but there are times when my creative unconscious drives me to use images that are repeated with slight variations over and over again in something I’m writing – whether an essay, a short story or a novel. For example, a young French girl receives the gift of a nightingale music box from her father, who shortly afterwards dies; it is her most precious possession. Years later, she is accompanying a wealthy German student of Schubert’s Lieder on the piano. The song they are working on is called An die Nachtigall (The Nightingale); and in a brief conversation he reveals that he has a nightingale music box and the song reminds him of it. There are also many references to birds throughout the novel. Did I deliberately plan to do this or was my unconscious sorting through the many possible images that I could have used and I alighted – like a bird coming to rest on a bare branch – upon that particular image?
So circling back to the beginning of this blog, I always try to surprise myself in my writing, and in the art that I choose, and look for the coincidences behind my choices.