Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Watcher Woman 1, acrylic, 24x18

In early July I was re-reading The Celestine Prophecy, a book that pretty much says there's no such thing as a coincidence and that memories pop into your head for a reason.

A memory had popped into my head--I recalled a woman in a park in D.C. My children and I had visited Whistler's Butterfly Room exhibit and were taking a people-watch break, sitting on a bench in a small park. An older woman, using her hands as binoculars, constantly turned in a circle. Each time the "binoculars" landed on me I was very uncomfortable; we left the park.

I thought of painting the woman and drew a sketch.

Then I read Harry Kent's blog from July 25. He said "I believe the elderly, because they've seen so much, have a particularly important social role to play as reviewers and commentators."

I agree--I think we should be training our eyes on what's happening in our small towns; what's happening off our shores or on Wall Street, what's happening to our old forests.

Then I read Donna Iona Drozda's blog from July 26 that said look back to July 12; what were you thinking of during the solar eclipse? (I was thinking of watcher woman and taking photos of my local landmarks.)

And then I later followed Donna's Luna See newsletter to her "What's up?" article and it showed a triangle--the shape of the arms and head of the watching woman.

I couldn't decide whether I should jump with joy or hide under the covers--I felt I had tapped into something beyond coincidence.

With the exception of the "Celluloid Man"detour, due to wrong-sized canvas, this painting has been in the works since early July. This is the first Watcher Woman and she's looking East towards my home town. When I was six and needed a vaccination before entering first grade I screamed from this overpass to Dr. Winston's office in town (maybe two miles) and I was riding in the back of a neighbor's truck!

Watcher Woman is a tough-looking broad and I think she looks like the woman from the park 35 years ago (maybe a bit like my friends and me) and the painting is 95 percent complete. The binocular stance is fun--try it.

* * * * * *
There is sadness on my street. My next-door Summertime/weekend neighbor passed away unexpectedly last week. She sat on my porch earlier this summer and read my blog on her laptop. Bess would have enjoyed this entry and would have said "That's Jack's yard!" I see her front porch from my kitchen sink; she'd be surprised at how much she's missed.



  1. So sorry about Bess, Hallie.

    As a birdwatcher, I appreciate the stance. When you stand for too long with the binocs help up, craning the neck, the pain and discomfort kick in leading to what I call 'Birder's Neck'. Not a good feeling, but worth it to see the bird.

    Have you ever considered writing a book? Your wealth of memories and gifted way of telling the story are the stuff of fiction.

  2. Hi Indigomar. I don't think I could stand like this for very long. I stood for a self-photo--needed someone like myself with short arms to form a triangle (to match the sign). I craned the neck so the eyes could be seen--didn't think about bird watching. But, she's definitely watching the birds in town. (On my porch, story-telling is fun and we especially love telling embarrassing ones about ourselves.) And, my friend Carol and I sat on the porch yesterday and used our pretend binoculars!

  3. A memory came to mind immediately when I saw your painting. When I was a youngster we had a secret salute, we turn our hands upside down on our face to form goggles. (Hard to explain)We called ourselves 'jr.birdmen' I guess I was a tomboy back then. Love your painting and the story.

  4. Hallie, I too am so sorry to hear about Bess. She sounds like she was a warm loving person. She will be missed.
    Your story about the conception of this painting is so intriguing. I agree with Indigomar, you could easily write a book full of your memories and ideas about painting.
    I am endlessly fascinated with how you look upon life and connect to the elements within. I will check out all those blog links too.
    Now then- your painting is beautiful. The sky is lovely, the shadows from the bridge, the trees on the side. The woman looking through her hand constructed binoculars makes me wonder what she is seeing.
    Another fantastic post!

  5. WELL. I love everything about this post...it is just packed with everything I love love love. Weird memories! Old people! Links! Screaming for 2 miles, it's all here!

    ...I remember the book Celestine Prophecy, but I stopped reading it..something about my being worried that I was a "melancholy". But the book's here somewhere, and maybe I will read it again, because I really enjoy the idea that there is meaning for the "inexplicable brief thought".

    I could feel the discomfort with you when you described the binocular woman. That you would paint that memory just completely fascinates me. I love how the sign and her arms are the same shape. This is a remarkable painting!

    It is sad indeed to lose a friend. My condolences to you for losing your friend, Bess. {{{{{{Hugs, Hallie}}}}}}.

  6. Hi Eva. I tried your secret salute and probably would not have made it into your club--with short arms I can't turn my hands upside down for goggles.

    Thanks Pam. Somehow, I always find connections. I love reading Donna's blog; although I usually feel out of step, it's uplifting. I suspect Watcher Woman is seeing empty storefronts, for sale, and for rent signs--much like other small towns, and she's keeping an eye on Town Hall.

    Art Trip, thank you. You've painted some beautiful landscapes.

    Celeste. Thanks. The story in Celestine Prophecy was a bit hokey but I liked the insights. I would guess that you, like me, are probably an "aloof." I don't know why Binocular Woman showed up, but she was right for my painting--I have trouble painting just the beauty of a landscape. The actual sign has a firetruck on it but I'm waiting for the right symbol.

  7. A stunning painting laden with meaning. You are a 'really truly' artist - your creations are inspiring. I thought often about your sculpture with the copper-wire hair, and now this one will haunt my dreams too.

  8. Thank you, MM. You paint beautifully with words. Your stories stick with me; I can still see you hanging on the gate.

  9. Hi Hallie, Wow! This seems haunting and surreal to me...most appropriate for a painting based on memories, connections and coincidences. I'm glad you didn't put any lettering on the sign; it keeps it surreal. Most amazing!

    My condolences..your tribute is nicely said.

  10. Peggy--Wow. I had not thought of leaving the sign blank. I considered just a diagonal line--meaning "no" or "don't," and I need to tone the yellow down a bit, add its shadow, and sign it. I always have trouble completing that last 5 percent.

  11. Thank you for sharing
    This fabulous work with us

  12. I was caught a little off guard with this one! I think this lady was on the Boise greenbelt doing the same thing a couple of years ago. She watched my husband and I walk by, and then kept watching as we walked off into the distance. What a surreal feeling it was to come here and see this!

  13. I have just read a book on the surrealists, and you have much in common with them, I think. This piece, though entirely realistic in style, is eerily surreal. It seems to have meaning beyond what you see. I think it is great. You have the woman facing the viewer which has us share in the discomfort you felt, and that you so successfully conveyed. Just wonderful! (whoops - just read Peggy's comment - see?! I would leave the sign blank too.)

    I am so sorry about your dear neighbor. Death seems to be dancing all around me this month as well, sometimes teasing, sometimes not. I will leave it at that, for now.

  14. Raena, it's nice to hear that we have watchers all across the country. (It is a very uncomfortable feeling.)

    Hi Dan. When I was sculpting an art consultant was curious about why each piece had a "message." Until that time I had never thought about it--I do think art is a way of conveying our thoughts and feelings.
    I live in a small town and death seems always close--we usually know the person or the family.

  15. Hallie, you've made me shiver for more than one reason. Your talk about no coincidences rings so true. Also, I was so saddened about the loss of your neighbor. A little part of us dies with that person, and we carry a little part of them forward into the future.

    I await another Watcher Woman and the story behind it with great anticipation. The bridge in this painting holds a significant memoryfor you. More messages will be revealed.

  16. Okay, Mary--here's another one. I left it out of the post because my story was getting long. After reading Celestine Prophecy I considered looking for the follow-up book, The 10th Insight (pub. about 15 years ago). I walked into a thrift shop--it was standing alone on the top of the book shelf.
    I have a couple of art exhibits coming up and I'm not totally organized (too much reading)--I'm now going to visualize that young assistant. Maybe he'll show up with a mat cutter, a mitre box, and a saw.

  17. Surreal is a great way to describe the story that goes with "Watcher Woman". But, I would suggest that the painting itself is more along the lines of American Realist. It makes me think of Edward Hopper's work with the rural landscape, stark lighting and lonely, disconcerting figure. Coincidentally, I had a similar reaction earlier tonight to Dana Cooper's latest painting - which is quite different. Maybe it's not a coincidence after all. Maybe I should get down one of my books on Hopper and do a little studying... Maybe it's time to paint something Hopperesque... Or, maybe I should just up and move back to my rural roots... But, enough about me...

    This painting is excellent on so many levels. Everything about the composition draws me into her eyes. But, interestingly enough, she doesn't freak me out. She makes me curious. I want to turn around to see what she's looking at. I agree with Peggy and Dan about being intrigued by the empty sign. Anything you put in there will become part of the story. I'll be curious to see what you decide.

    I'm sorry about the loss of your neighbor. It's good to know that she leaves behind fond memories. God bless.


  18. Hi Don. Hopper! I love Hopper. I didn't think of that. Earlier this year I had taken a photo of a house at the top of my street because it has a Hopper-look. Rural roots--I've been eating scuppernongs all week.

    Thanks for the eyes comment; I was trying. This is pretty much a painting of omissions and triangles. And I found Dana Cooper--I like her work; I'm glad you mentioned it.

  19. call me crazy, your painting somehow reminded me of "The Scream"

  20. Robin. Call us both crazy--I had the same feeling. In fact, I looked at a copy of "The Scream" just to make sure I hadn't repainted it--it's not even close. I almost mentioned this in my response to Don's comment but thought I was getting off-subject. (In our brains, maybe woman + bridge = "Scream.")

  21. Maybe "The Scream" is the reaction to this woman's staring at them with her 'binoculars'... :-)


  22. Hi Don. Maybe you're right--it's the "Binocular Woman" effect.

  23. I have so enjoyed this painting AND all the comments ! I can't add anything intelligent.
    I'll be waiting for your book.

  24. Sue--Where the Heck have you been. I've missed your blogs. I guess you felt "Binocular Woman's" stare--I'm glad you're back.

  25. What a thought-provoking post you have woven together, Hallie. I love this exploration of troubling memory, of recalled events that leave chills down the spine but their full meaning eludes one's grasp.

    I am discomforted by the intense gaze with no-one else around. It leaves me feeling somehow exposed and potentially vulnerable in some indefined way.

    Maybe part of that effect comes not just from the staring figure, but the expressway landscape that is empty, leaving me feeling isolated and alone - with HER.

    And yet maybe all she is doing is trying to get her own bearings, alone on a road to somehwere/nowhere.

    It is eerie and surereal, reminds me of Jeffery Smart's work (eg the first Smart image Stephen's blog www.screenstreets.com/2010_04_01_archive.html).

    And sorry to read of your loss of a neighbour and friend.

  26. Thank you, Harry. Actually, I think we humans should feel a bit of discomfort; I wanted that in the painting. I should feel discomfort when I fill my car with gas, then ride around with the windows down and a/c on; when I clean my refrigerator and find food beyond the expiration date; when I hand-wash dishes, then run them through the dishwasher. I'd probably waste less if I knew someone was watching.

    Yet we had a local woman who sat on that overpass (train) several times--she tried to get her bearings unsuccessfully.

    Thanks for pointing me to Screenstreets. The images seem familiar, particularly, the balcony painting. Reminds me of the 17th floor in both Ocean City MD and Boston MA when I stepped out for a cigarette (though I don't like heights).

  27. oh my, I haven't checked in with your blog in ages! sorry to learn of your neighbor's passing; what a great memory you have of her. This painting is powerful made more so by your story about how it came into being.

  28. Hi Gail. Thanks for checking in. Some paintings take decades--we just don't know it. This was fun because I got to include local landscape.