My interests and involvements have long been attended by a nearly irreconcilable split between art and psyche. I may have mentioned this before, perhaps a million times. Having dedicated the better part of more than half my life to people with mental illness, psyche is sated. I have only endured this split through the grace of the artists I have known, a huge job I have tried to repay richly.
Saint Vivien was painted shortly after Vivian Gordon died. She'd been an awfully hard friend to have. But, She was art for me, as only a few people have been. I was grateful to know her, to have been acknowledged as an artist by her, and to have shared a good deal of our time together sculpting, and when she gave up sculpture, gardening, her last remarkable canvas and painting project. Our work time was laced together by many hours talking, in her studio, in the garden, on the porch, and around her round kitchen table over meals of salami, onion, torn french bread and pepperonchini, washed with Dos Equis beers.
One evening, on a rare visit at my house in Bodega rather than her's in Petaluma, I pulled out my video camera and we had ourselves an interview about her life as an artist. She was at first curmudgeonly and shy but soon became the grand dame that was central to the inner vision of herself. She was truly splendid, such intellectuality dressed in dirty overalls, all deep talk and broad gestures befitting the progeny of Jewish socialist philosopher chicken ranchers.
So, suddenly it seemed, there was Vivien, gone. Meg had found it necessary to take quite a long break from me. I had found it necessary to take a complete break from Blair and an even longer one from Tomas. Steve was newly returned, and I was still quite uncertain about his devotion. There were other artists who lived in the same community but they had little to do with my life as a working artist. Those artists named are the ones I have learned from and leaned on, those I have counted on to keep art alive.
Losing Vivian demanded a tribute and Saint Vivan became my homage.
This is Vivian, at her most glorious, indeed saintly. She is painted in her favorite blues and purples with silver and gold glazes from a proclamatory still in her video. She lies, life-sized, on a concave ceramic surface which had always meant to be placed in the garden, set into the ground. When it rained, she could catch the sweet water and shimmer back at us from this sunny grave, eternal, unforgettable.