Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dear Merilyn

Yesterday I finished an amazing book called Dear Merilyn by Barbra Leslie, an Australian artist who must have led one of the most eventful/traumatic lives I've ever known. Growing up in a typical Aussie family her life changed completely when she was sexually abused by the school gardener when she was five. Although the man went to jail her family hushed up the incident and never spoke of it to her which led to major emotional trauma later on. A few years later an accident when she was twelve (a motorbike knocked her off her bike) led to a life time of severe back pain. Her teens were spent in rebelliousness and a backyard abortion at age 19 led to years of mental anguish from guilt. Add into the mix an abusive marriage and relationships with some of the most drop kick idiots in Australia it's a wonder the woman survived.

Well she did although she had to go through some major upheavals before she came out the other end. Yes there's more- she lost everything to two bush fires so have to start again with nothing, she had a breakdown when she was 29, her youngest son was severely traumatised by the breakup from her abusive husband, plus there was constant illness, pain and poverty ala Frida Kahlo.

Despite all this Leslie never sees herself as a victim. Instead she writes movingly of her joy in her art, in nature and in her friends. It is a great record of the struggles a working artist goes through with galleries, with exploring new themes in their work, in trying to make sense of it all. The book is also illustrated with a great selection of Leslie's art so that you realise this is a woman of great talent and passion who has been literally been burnt in the fire of life but has come out stronger than before. The book is actually searing and scorching. It's not a comfortable read but it is a compulsive one.

As for me I have finally finished the Summer painting in the four seasons series for TLC. I have found I enjoy working with a palette knife, for the textures I can build up and the effects I can make by mixing colours directly on the canvas. Unfortunately the picture is too big for me to fit on my scanner so I'll have to wait to get a photo of it before posting it here.

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