An artist, simply by being honest to the sense of the world, can tap into future realities. – Makoto Fujimura, Art + Faith (77)
Purchasing a scanner and digitizing my work has me going through all the pieces I have created since that fateful day three years ago when I noticed in a box of free stuff left on a stoop in Fort Greene a lightly used pad of watercolor paper. I’d never painted before, nor ever had a desire to try, and it had been years really since I’d done any drawing. But I took the pad. It had something to tell me, it seemed. And for whatever reason, I decided to listen.
On my walks around Brooklyn in the months leading up to that day, I’d started taking pictures of the creatures and animals and humans I was perceiving in the stains and splatters on the sidewalks and the sides of buildings. They were everywhere, just like they always had been; it’s just that the idea of paying attention to them had never occurred to me before. Like the pad of watercolor paper, these things had something to tell me. Again, for whatever reason, I decided to start listening.
The first watercolor I ever created from a stain is titled Femme promenant son chien, ses oiseaux et sa petite baleine enragée. Looking at it now all these months later, what intrigues me most about this painting is the little dog attached to the woman’s outstretched arm. That dog looks very much like a little beagle; that dog looks very much like my little Sophie.
Sophie was born on 27 February 2020, which is to say two days before I painted this piece. She would spend the next 13 months of her life in a medical lab before being brought to live with me in my apartment on Adelphi Street only a short week after I’d signed up to foster a dog in early April 2021. It was a spectacular fail; I knew I would adopt her as soon as I saw her little face through the window of the rescue worker’s truck.
In the months between Sophie’s appearance on that first painting and her arrival in my life, she showed up again and again in the stains I was seeing on my walks. This one, which inspired Bain, for example.
The woman who created Femme promenant son chien, ses oiseaux et sa petite baleine enragée was in dire need of healing. Art had looked into its magic ball and seen what she needed to imagine a future in which she would not feel so broken and lost and sad and angry, a future in which she would understand that she was indeed worthy of love. Sophie was waiting for her at the threshold to that future, to teach her patience and kindness, to encourage her to live more fully in the moment, and to help her face and eventually rid herself of the little angry whale attached to her back. She would also become the artist’s muse. But that, dear reader, is a topic for another day.