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Artist's Notebook

Of Honeybells and Blank Canvases

(CNN)—A campaign using text messages to raise money for the Red Cross has tallied more than $21 million for relief efforts in Haiti.
The electronic fundraiser, boosted in its early days by widespread posting on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, has outstripped the organization’s expectations and is showing no signs of letting up, an official said Monday.
“It’s blown me away and it continues to,” said Wendy Harman, the director of social media for the Red Cross.



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At the same time as my family sent me a big box of honeybell oranges I just happen to be in the middle of stretching canvases for a new series of paintings I will start this week. If you don’t know honeybells, they are unique among oranges. You shouldn’t really peel them as they are too juicy for that. Better to slice them with a sharp serrated knife and suck the juice and flesh right off the peel. The company that sells them coyly sends plastic bibs with them like the kind that people use when they eat lobster. Ice cold from the fridge they’re particularly refreshing.
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Somehow they are linked with my blank canvases for me this year and all the new beginnings inherent in them. Also I’ve been thinking about color a lot, and how I would like to work with color in a different way than I used to - more for an emotional response than a literal one. I’ve also been thinking about light, and those oranges just seem to radiate that southern, warm light where they hie from. They’re so juicy and fresh, and so are the blank canvases, ripe with possibility. I look at the oranges and think of orange cake, of the deep orange of Indian silk pungent with incense, of Joni Mitchell singing “There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too, and the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses . . .” The blank canvases are intriguing to me because they remind me that the surface of a picture is flat, something that artists have been making art about for decades. No matter what we put on the surface - an illusion of depth or one that asserts the flatness - the canvas remains an object to be reckoned with. How mysterious it is that for centuries artists have been fascinated by this simple problem of arranging color, form and line on a plane that hangs on the wall.
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My brushes, though well used, are all newly scrubbed and ready to go. All I have to do now is drop down, like a diver, below the surface of everyday life, to plumb the depths of the ideas that have been rolling around in my head for a month. Ideas about poetic, glowing color, about images that elude definition but rather hint at places or things, leaving room for the viewer to enter. I hope I can express it.
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In the exuberance of an orange, clues reside . . . intense hue, light, inspiration.







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