Dia de los Muertos at MOCO

Migueltzinta Solis, myself and 4 other artists have installations hanging (now thru the end of November) at the MOCO gallery in downtown Oakland. For those of you unable to catch them live, here are some photographs along with my artist statement:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Altar for My Ancestors’ Art

When Bea Gould, my father’s mother, met my grandfather in Worcester, MA, she was an understudy on a popular radio drama with dreams of becoming a famous actress. She had the presence to be a star, but neither her violent new husband nor the reality of her era nor perhaps her own courage allowed her to try. As an older woman in the Sixties and Seventies, Bea took tickets at a local theater festival and read the fortunes of folk musicians. I believe she was magical, psychic, possibly brilliant—but she despaired. Her dream—the life unlived—had died within her and she soon followed…

Bea’s mother, Gertrude, though, did fight off the demons and restrictions of her youth to learn to paint at age 54. Gertrude, who’d spent her entire life (a wife at 15, a single mother from 17, possible homo??) in servitude and manipulated by male relatives, did not grow less angry or happier, but she did paint. By the time she passed away in her late seventies, she was working out of a studio near the MOMA in New York, selling her abstract expressionist paintings as fast as she could make them.

I have a great photo of my mother’s mother, Mary Steinberg, sitting in the lap of her beau Lenny Lempert on a wide beach, cityscape faint in the background. “Coney Island, 1934?” written in shaky blue ballpoint on the back. My grandparents would have been in their late twenties—they are small and lanky, both of them, wild black hair shimmery in sunlight, chased by wind. In 1934, the dream—she a writer, he an artist–a cartoonist perhaps–was inchoate, but present. Even in the throes of the Depression some part of both shows a gentle faith, that yes, even for a couple of immigrant kids this could be done. In those days, Lenny was selling jokes to cartoonists on the side (his most famous can be spotted in the newsprint background of his altar) and Mary, an independent young woman in Manhattan, proved that she could do more than what was planned for her. 1934 may have been about as close as either ever got to living for the imagination, but I know that for my grandmother, the critic, and my grandfather, the storyteller, art did not abandon them—it only quieted, tamed by bills, small town New Jersey life, an unhappy marriage, parenting.

These altares are an offering to the spirits of my (no doubt bemused–but possibly also delighted) Jewish grandparents, to feed and recognize their ravenous art. As dreamers beget dreamers, the stories, the plays, the drawings, the jokes, deferred but never abandoned, we—my brother and I—carry for them. Committed.

—L. Dani Blue, 11/1/2012

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s