Creative cross-pollination

During the past week we had the privilege and good fortune to have Brooklyn artist Meghan Keane stay with us and include us in her new Pas-de-Deux project of painting couples and their surroundings. I confess to a certain reluctance at first. The idea of a stately couples’ portrait, Claude and I staring grimly at the viewer, did not appeal. Then I saw some examples of what she had done with some other couples, and was intrigued. Postmodernity at work: Meghan paints her interpretation of the lines, colors, shapes of you and beloved. We poured some crisp rosé, put some dirty soul on the stereo and riffed on life and love and 25 years of marriage. We all laughed a lot. I don’t know how Meghan can multi-task like that, drinking wine and laughing and painting all at the same time, but after a very quick two hours, she had us close our eyes, and turned the easel around.

Claude&Ellen

The impact was tremendous. There we were, in our coupledom, in our living room, in lines and shapes and colors of divine and passionate harmony. No face detail, or just a bit, and yet we were instantly recognizable. It brought tears to my eyes. There we were, on canvas, with an intimate warmth and at the same time a step away in interpretation. We both deeply, deeply love it. I’m pretty sure our children will fight over who gets it when we go.

Meghan went on to paint five smaller vignettes of our house:  an arrangement of plates on one shelf, Mexican and Spanish tiles on another shelf; a front view of the house, a corner of the living room and the dining room. These are lovely, and the timing is incredibly good, because we’ve just put the house on the market and are looking to move to an apartment in Paris. It is wrenchingly hard to leave the house where we raised our children and grew into middle age (that’s all I’ll admit to, sorry). Neither of us has ever lived anywhere longer (20 years!), invested more energy, time and money in anywhere else we’ve lived, and we won’t ever do so again. This is the house of our lives, and memories, and our kids’ childhoods. Now, with Meghan’s paintings, we can take it with us when we go. We are grateful.

Blue_shelf             Chairs

I especially enjoyed as well our conversations about the creative process, her painting, my writing. What you see around you, and how that emerges in your vision. She doesn’t paint much face detail; I don’t describe how characters look. Both of us instead are interpreting shape and movement. It’s a Florida thing for me, when that gray fin cuts the surface of the Gulf, the only way to tell if it’s a shark or a dolphin is the way it moves. I translate that identifying element to characters in my books, that’s how you can tell who they are. Meghan is using light and angle and color to do the same thing. Her work is vivid and original and engrossing; every time you look at it you see something new. She sets a standard of excellence in creativity that I aim for in my writing. In sum, Meghan and I share the philosophy of the very wise Mississippi artist Elayne Goodman:  Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

That is how creativity comes alive.

See Meghan’s work here: http://www.pasdedeuxproject.com/