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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sunflower Spirit

Sunflower Spirit by Tanya Torres, Oil on Canvas, 72" x 36", 2016.

I've been challenging myself to paint bigger, which is not easy for me! This painting is actually taller than me...

I call the paintings in this series Spirits of the Forest, although Emergencein my mind, is more a spirit of the water. But most of the paintings I have created in this style are full of leaves and earth, and now a giant sunflower.

Unexpected Connections

My friend Veronica de Nadie recently visited me after 10 years away from N.Y.C.  She is my beloved friend and poet from the times of Mixta Gallery. We connected through our kids, who met playing in the sandbox at Central Park. I wasn't there, but my mother in law, Doña Ramona, told her that she would like to meet me.

One day Veronica showed up at the gallery, and she asked if I needed help. I'm not sure I even knew her name at this point, but I told her yes, I would love some help, and to go upstairs to my apartment and bring down a chair or two. A regular person would have thought I was some crazy lady, which I probably was, but Veronica loved it, and that night she made her debut as a poet in the Spanish Poetry Night and it was the beginning of our friendship.

She had to leave back to Ecuador, and we didn't see each other for 10 years. But she finally visited this June, with her beautiful daughter Irina, all grown up like my son Julian, and we went down memory lane with our now college-student kids. We couldn't get over seeing them together, enlarged, so intensely beautiful. We visited the sandbox to memorialize and honor that grand moment in time when our babies brought us together (and took a picture of Irina and Julian in front of the sandbox!,) and spent several days being our old selves again.

She reminded me of so many feelings I had put away so as not to suffer her absence too greatly: it is not every day that you meet an extraordinary friend that is just right for you. She also reminded me that true love and true friendship have no time or space limits.

Veronica told me that she recently visited Cuba, and that there she encountered the Yoruba goddess Oshun, whose attribute flower is the sunflower.
"Oshun is a deity of the river and fresh water, luxury and pleasure, sexuality and fertility, and beauty and love.[1][2] She is connected to destiny and divination.[3]" From Wikipedia
I don't know a lot about Santeria or the African religions, but was glad that there is a connection to Oshun, whose color is yellow (a color that for me represents wisdom, as in the Magdalene color palette.) 

It is interesting to me that Oshun is a water goddess, a river goddess. I am from an island, but not really from the sea. My image of paradise includes this river:

This is the Salto Curet in Las Marías, and it holds up there at the top of the waterfall the scariest, most exciting moment of my life, when my friend Daisy and I decided to follow the lead of our local friends and climb the mountain to reach the top of the waterfall. We do things like that when we are 20 years old...

It looks small here, but we had to climb on roots and wet red earth, and then hug a slippery stone to cross to the other side. If things had not been successful, I would not be telling this story right now. Our friends happened to be exploring the Santeria religion at the time (and I never thought about that until writing this...) It may be that Oshun was with me after all...

I guess these are the connections that an artist makes in her mind and psyche by perceiving and absorbing all that is within and all that is around. 

Sunflower Spirit, as the other Spirits of the Forest, is the synthesis of an idea of Paradise that I carry within me. For my ancestors, the Taínos, the first beings we tree-like and had no sex. A bird (like a woodpecker) carved the sex of woman with its beak. They inhabited landscapes like the one about and their spirit remains and grows in the flora and the fauna, and even the imported species brought by history, invasions and the embrace of the outside world, including Oshun and all the Yoruba pantheon, and the beautiful sunflowers that make me so happy anytime I see them in the Mexican flower shops of my Barrio.

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