Memphis is agog over Hamilton this week, but I ended up at Hadestown on Broadway instead. Tennessee Shakespeare Company has an annual gala fundraiser every year, and the grand prize is a raffle for a trip to Broadway. I had one one book from the old Pinocchio’s Bookstore when I was maybe in 3rd grade, but otherwise I’ve never won a raffle. Apparently I was saving it up for something big. The prize was a trip to New York, two nights there, a fancy dinner out, and one Broadway show (not something as hard to get as Hamilton). I had recently seen Sarah Ruhl’s version of Euridyce and was transfixed by her retelling, so (without Shakespeare being really on offer during the summer tourist season), I chose Hadestown, a different retelling of the Orpheus and Euridyce myth in the form of a folk opera. It was also marvelous. Not as deeply thoughtful as Ruhl’s version, which I’m still really mulling over a year later, but a wonderful take nonetheless. It paired that couple with Hades and Persephone. The music was overall good, the dancing and choreography amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to see it again. My favorite was Hermes, an older gentlemen who looks like he walked straight off of Beale Street. My favorite thing about the play, and what is sticking with me, is the way it walks full tilt into tragedy, lets us mourn, and picks all of us up and says we keep singing the song, telling the story, and trying again.
I got home this week, having recently done those two small gouache still lifes, and I was ready to dive back into oils. Here was the first one, just 8x8”. But it suits the tiny cherries. I don’t tend to blow things up too much. I’ve found there’s a scale I feel comfortable painting in, both for landscapes and still lifes, and it’s not successful when I try to exceed it by too much. Process shots below. I started with a gray chalk for the drawing.
I was awarded a show at Playhouse on the Square for this September. It’s in the most visible gallery there, and also a much smaller one than the enormous, cement-walled ramp I often get assigned. I’m so grateful for the better visibility, and now I’m scrambling a little bit (since I’ll be gone most of August) to make sure I have a solid show. I’ve been enjoying the still lifes lately, but I’ve also been away from my easel. I decided to try a couple in gouache, and I had a ball doing them. This is a good travel project for August as well, so I’m tentatively titling the show “Daily Pleasures” and pursuing this line of work for it. I’ve got a handful of larger oils already, and I think I can fill out around them. My very first gallery show was still lifes, 20 years ago in 1999, so it would be nice symmetry.
Alongside the gouache studies, I’ve been doing some more standard (for me) journal sketches along the way. Here are some from the last several days. Two of them were bicycle trips to the bakery to have a treat. I’m a late bloomer on a number of fronts, and I got my first bike out here. I never learned to cycle as a kid, and Concrete is a perfect place to catch up. There is almost no traffic in town along with quite wide streets, and best of all, there’s a green line that runs through the center of town (to within a couple of blocks of anywhere I want to go) and also goes out of town and as far as I could care to go. I can pack up art gear and take off on my new bike, a second hand cruiser. The next image has my bike in the background and bakery tea in the foreground. I wanted to record this moment in my journal.
Here is the view a few miles out the trail from town. It’s been my regular walk here, but I can go a bit further on the bike and paint new places.
Plus another blueberry pancake sketch from Perks diner here. A totally awesome place. Flower at the grill collects heart shaped rocks like I do and has begun to make me heart shaped pancakes when I come in. <3
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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