I have been working on an archive of my art inspired by the Joan Mitchell Foundation pilot program named CALL, which is short for “Creating a Living Legacy.”
I have always wanted to do this because my mother died in 1954 when I was a little girl and she was an artist.
In 1967, when I was a sophomore at Smith, I had more than a sophomore slump. What I had was a breakdown or breakthrough at Dawes House during final exams. All of a sudden I started to cry and couldn’t stop when I was supposed to be studying. I had this delayed grief about my mother being gone. I had finally gotten it.
In 1971 I moved to Eugene, Oregon to get my MFA Degree in painting during the era of Vietnam War. It was a popular degree at the time. Afterwards I moved to Los Angeles thinking it would just be a brief stop. It was harder than I thought it would be living in Los Angeles. I didn’t have any jobs skills and I didn’t have any money.
My big break came when my maternal grandfather’s corner property on the North Side of Pittsburgh sold, and his lawyer sent With that money I bought my house in Venice, California. I will be forever grateful to Mr. Southcott who told me about it. The seller was on his way to jail for dealing pot. I had never had a safe place to live before and I am still here in this same house.
I am a person of ones—one husband, Jeff McGrath, one child Cassandra Violet Wolken McGrath or Cassie for short.
I flash forward to the present time moment . There is a new book by Mary Gabriel, called “Ninth Street Woman,” about woman artists in the era during which my mother lived. When I was a little girl my mother was the only artist I knew.
My work is narrative and fed by a network of women friends who I have had for many years. Many of them are linked together by my birthday gathering that I have had for more than twenty years.
For my seventy-first birthday I had this annual gathering in the early evening just as the sun was setting. I didn’t have time to get fixed up, to wash my hair and put on some make-up. I took a short walk and by the time I got back some of my friends were already there. Magic seemed to be conjured up by the ceremony of my friends making offerings – prayer flags, a poem of forgiveness, a handmade ceramic bowl as well as plants, coffee, candles and offerings of shared support.
The most recent period of my life has had a spiritual focus.
We all shared a short meditation, and I thought with gratitude of my meditation teachers over the last twenty years; Erich Schiffmann who said, “death isn’t real;” Jim Finley who said, “You are loved so much;” and Mathew Brensilver who said, “Practice should never feel like pretending.”