Every year I go up to Mamaroneck for Halloween. Its a bit of a tradition, my friend Jim has his house rigged up with gravestones and a smoke machine and rope pulled tricks ( his theatre background skills). Its a lot of fun and its pretty much the scariest house in their neighbourhood and attracts a large crowd. Unfortunately this year we are forced to be quietly ensconced in Manhattan- my dog Eti is under the weather and has to take it easy for a while, so I'm dedicating this years Pumpkin - a sleeping French Bulldog- to him. Rest up little guy - get well soon.
Its been warm here in NYC this fall, and its only this last week that I've really noticed that the leaves are turning color. I shot some footage of the oak tree outside my bedroom window but haven't got round to editing it. Today on my errands run on a gray rainy Saturday afternoon I found some interesting images around Morningside Park and this is one them. I actually like the range of color here from green leaves to brown. So this is really a teaser for an upcoming short film about leaves and an upcoming slideshow about leaves in the city. Tomorrow I go to the Scholar's garden in Staten Island.
What you see in the photo above is a knot of Lemon Grass. I have a potted East Indian Lemongrass inside the front window, not particularly well tended I must admit so the harvesting of the leaves was also a mini intervention. I then put it outside the kitchen window for a chance to recoup in the fresh air. I've grown lemongrass outdoors too but it doesn't survive the winter and therefore never gets to grow into those large plump stalks that you see and are able to buy in Chinatown. Its those stalks that are generally used in South East Asian recipes. They are lightly pounded and bruised and tied into a knot to put into curries and spicy soups to release their unique lemon scent and then removed prior to serving. Unable to grow the stalks to that size in a cool temperate garden or a windowsill, the next best thing to do is to use a knot of their leaves as pictured but in a recipe with less demanding flavors than a curry or a Tom Yum. The perfect one would be to throw that knot into a rice cooker and when the rice is almost cooked to add some coconut milk to be absorbed by the rice in the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking or steaming. Add some chopped mint at the end and you'd have lemon scented mint and coconut rice, which is exactly what I have planned.
I've been meaning to post something about Alice Waters. She's been on my mind. I'd seen a great little video recently about her on the New York Times about How to Work a Greenmarket. Then last night channel surfing she was on Iconoclasts with Mikhail Baryshkinov and I got to see footage about her project The Edible Schoolyard. Web surfing I tripped across an excerpt about the first night opening of Chez Panisse where I have had the good fortune of eating - how I got in there is a story worth telling another time. Needless to say I'm a big fan of hers. I couldn't begin to describe why or how so I searched through my photos for perhaps an image to trigger some ideas and this is what I came up with. A cucumber salad. The cucumbers were from the Union Square Market. The herbs are Mint, from my windowsill, and Perilla weeded from Mamaroneck- its growing all over the place. I poured a little live organic kefir over it and sprinkled it with some raw sunflower seeds. The bowl is from a thrift store, someone's failed ceramic experiment but one of my favorite dishes and it sits on a sustainable bamboo chopping board. All these details matter to me and for this reason I find it an appropriate image for this post. I think this is what Alice is about. Somewhere in the middle of the NYTimes video anothe fan asks her Are you? You're not. She says, Who? Alice? Yes. He says thank you.......for everything.
I've decided to work on a series of garden inspired abstract paintings. I've already explored it a little with a couple of studies, one of them pictured above. Its one of two studies I made shortly after an encaustic workshop I took a couple of years ago to study the proper techniques of working with this medium which I love. I love that its ancient, non toxic and most importantly has a denseness of surface and color depth that I'm drawn to. The studies only explore the medium on panel, with slight additions of oil paint and don't really show what I intend to do which is to combine it with mixed media- namely torn images of the subject. Hard to explain but here's an example- the subject in this case being night traffic. The medium is well suited to doing this as printed images can be layered and are preserved by the wax. It makes perfect sense to me to track this series here as part of the material I will be using is all the digital images that I've captured this year in the garden. It will be a new twist on harevesting things from the garden to preserve and enjoy in the winter months.
I'm sure I share this fantasy with a few other gardeners- designing a themed garden for a major flower show. One theme I know that will be on my list of possibles will most definitely be some kind of coastal natural garden. What would be my inspiration? The first thing that comes to mind is Derek Jarman's Dungeness Garden, but I also have mental notes for the clumps of fennel that grew wild on the edges of the beaches in Spain when I visited the Andalusian coast or the wild Sweet Peas and Rugosas on the dunes in Rhode Island. But most of all it would be what I see on this bike trail that takes you to Herring Cove Beach.
It would be easy enough to stage the sand and the bleached skeletons of trees, the lichen and moss and strewn pine needles, the fiery red of the devils ivy, but so much of it is also the movement- the nodding grasses and swaying seedheads and berries, the sunlight behind the leaves, sparkling through the branches and most of all the thing that struck me most the first time I came here a few years ago - the incredible smell of pine and salted air.
Soundtrack: Grizzly Bear, On A Neck, On A Spit from Yellow House
A still life of Marigolds grabbed from the flowerbox on my deck, a snapshot of the slanting afternoon light, a medley of textures- wood grain, dull brass, peeling paint, rustic ceramic, organic petals.