November 22:  We read to each other in the Bedroom

Reading books in the bedroom, with someone you love–either separately, with separate books, or together with the same book is a wonderful strange feeling of being together and being in completely different worlds or sharing a world and leaving this one behind.  You can be engrossed, fascinated, spellbound by a book, and it can also shield you from the outside world for awhile. We probably all learned that as kids.

“Yukon and Bumble Reading in Bed” is an acrylic painting I painted in April or May of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic.  It was one of the last big paintings I painted for several years (certainly the last I would complete –at that time–in the unfinished Yukon Cornelius set). My goal for the original set of Yukon paintings had been 10 acrylic paintings, sized 36″ x 48″!  But here I am, switching to one slightly smaller at 24″ x 36″—on my way, in late 2020 and early 2021, to the tiny 4″ x 5″ postcards I used when I created my fairy garden.  There was just no room for big grand things in a house you are sharing with two others, no money for resupplying paints, but also, suddenly, in a world that seemed to be chaotic, our immediate worlds got smaller, more confined.  I felt the need to go very small…and the need to complete something in a day.  I needed to be pulled in to a fairy garden.  Like one is pulled into a book.

Gardens are not so different than books—both are curated spaces, carefully cultivated, designed even, to produce feelings in someone, to create moments.  Both pull the viewer/reader in, engross them, fascinate them, and keep out the outside world–through boundaries, rules, thematic arrangements for aesthetic reasons.  Books talk about events, people, things and are similar to the real world but in different configurations–fictions; gardens have plants and flowers in different configurations than you’d see in the real world, while keeping the wildness outside the garden. They too are fictions.

Perhaps then, reading is a garden we create in our minds to keep out the wild world. The anagram of “reading” are the words “I, Garden” (or iGarden, if you’re Apple!). We get lost in the carefully planned garden of a book, forgetting what lies outside around us, and we are happy to stay there safe within HUGE walls of dramatic plot and cool characters that block out the rest of the world.  

Look at Bumble in that painting.  He is HUGE, probably 14 feet or more.  As you’ve probably noticed in my paintings of Yukon and Bumble, there is no consistency of size for Bumble. I say Bumble is 10 feet to Yukon’s 6 feet… but the Snowmonster’s body seems to change size with every picture.  However, the Bumble from the Star Wars cosplay painting is about 10 feet. And sometimes, in other paintings, it looks like he’s just 8 feet tall;  his size changes to the needs of my painting and the scene I’m trying to convey.  Just like my paintings moved from very, very large to very, very small to reflect my move from giant, loud, bold feelings to the collapsed, tighter, confined spaces of a small fairy garden in a pandemic–Bumble here reflects my need for peace and safety. He grew like a wall.

There’s a shift in this painting from the others.  All my first paintings of Yukon have him Encountering the Wild, his arms thrown back in wonder and surprise at these amazing “monsters”–a werewolf, a sea dragon, moth men, the Loveland Frogs, or the boisterous Eagle Bar on stage singing with Bumble!  They are loud!  Dramatic!  But here–at the beginning of the pandemic– is a different visual theme, away from large encounters and wonder—to the bedroom—into the arms of Bumble–to reading quietly–to a soft lit room that seems to be presented from multiple perspectives at once, as if the edges are still touching chaos but the center is safe…  we are confined (look at Bumble’s hands almost locking Yukon in place) but protected, in this welcome, warm, loving, plush space of peace.

In 2020, I needed to be in Bumble’s arms, reading a book in peace.  So Bumble was the size I needed him to be– large enough to be a wall, to surround Yukon with his arms, and let him escape the world. Reading can be an act of preservation, of protection. Reading to each other is a heroic act— like the Fellowship of the Ring resting in Rivendell, Mole and Rat at Badger’s House, Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden, Enola Holmes at her brother Sherlock’s house, the House Madrigal…oh look, you came with me to these places. We are there together. Safe for awhile.

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