La Jolla Cove
There are two journeys that await everyone the physical one and the one of the mind.
As a kid, I grew up in a privileged, beautiful, and bitter place. La Jolla is and was one of the wealthier towns in the world. It was made up of designer homes, coves with sleeping seals, beaches, cerulean skies, tennis courts, eucalyptus trees with their dusty-sticky smell, and earth crystals one could dig out of the hillsides. And it was populated by sophisticated and rich business people, models, housewives, and BMW’s. Alcohol and divorces flowed a little too freely, and the sun shined after the morning fog.
My grandparents were made up of a German adventurer and a free-spirited Canadian, and a Hollywood flapper and a cigarette executive; both sets lived in Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles. There are rumors of a touch of insanity in the family, something about the phantom uncle that died in an institution. Another story is that my German grandfather traveled from Argentina to Canada and courted my 18-year old grandmother, brought her down to Los Angeles and then married her. The same grandmother had the complete set of the Time-Life Library of Art books, the book on Delacroix was my favorite. I would spend hours looking at those books in their Mid-Wilshere bungalow with its streaming southern light casting rays of light highlighting tiny dust particles making them look like stars.
La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club
Everyone in my family played some tennis. My parents thought it was a good way for the five kids to keep busy, tired, and off the streets. I had a knack for it being quick and strategic. Lester Stoffen, 3-time Wimbledon doubles champion was the local tennis pro gave me lessons once every two weeks which my grandparents paid for; he taught integrated fundamentals. And I liked art. In sixth grade, another kid forgot his math book and the teacher, Mrs. Bowden, allowed him to do his art project instead. That day on the way home from school I threw my math book under a tree. The next day I told the teacher I lost my book. For weeks I did my art project instead of math. Sadly another kid found the book, brought it to class and Mrs. Bowden looked at me with a puzzled expression. She pulled me aside and told me “you are going to float through life and I am afraid that you will not amount to anything.” I guess she didn’t think that being one of the best tennis players in my age group in Southern California (in its heyday) or my passion for art was work. For the next decade, tennis and art were my daily projects.
After winning my first tournament, boy’s ten and under.
(Growing up and even today I wish I never had to attend school, rather, like in the Reniassance, I would have jumped at the option to be an artist’s apprentice.)
I was too young (11-years old) to understand, and may never know the causes when I locked myself in the bathroom for 3 hours, laid down on the tiled floor and pressed my hands to the sides of my head, hoping to push the voices out of my head. There was an incessant inner voice repeatedly screaming “evil, evil, evil, evil is here.” I asked the voice where it was? Was it something inside or outside of me? What did I do wrong? Was I bad? I looked inside and couldn’t find anything deserving of such a horrible dark feeling. Another voice said, “no, you are not bad, you are a good.” Continuing to rack my brain for hours I came to the conclusion that whatever this dark matter was it was outside of me. I didn’t know if it was a person, a thing, or something in the atmosphere, but I was relieved to feel it certainly wasn’t me. In the future, I would be on the lookout for it.
Awakening and My Grandmother
I loved my Canadian grandmother very much, she worked hard and appreciated sports and painting. She loved Los Angeles and I never once heard her bitch. She was so wise that if she were directing us kids, we never knew we were being corrected. I didn’t know but only subconsciously felt that she was giving me the green light to be an artist. She saw the seed bud and watered it as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do.
Once while walking with her down a sidewalk lined with shops, we stopped at a bookstore’s window. Time stopped. There was a huge book with a painted portrait of a woman on the cover. The woman’s eyes were so gentle, thoughtful, with a quiet intensity almost if she were to cry. The shadows made out of space seemed to caress and move around her neck and delicately touch her earlobe. The cover of the book was a portal to a universe that opened up and pulled me inside. I lost my real life bearings, and all could feel was the energy of this beautiful person; it was like being in a dream of light currents. I shook my head and realized where I was and looked for grandmother. Looking over to my left I saw that she was two windows further and she glanced at me with an expression saying “you go on and keep looking dear.” Which is what I did until I had had my full of looking at the portrait.
I was turning 12-years old, and my grandmother gave me a heavy package when I tore off the wrapping it was that book! It was The Complete Works of Rembrandt.
Rembrandt, Hendrickje Stoffels (This is the first work I fell in love with. The shadows clothe her in mysterious space, the empathy in her eyes is palatable – so truthful and amazing that paint can be organized to communicate psychological depth).