Several years ago, the front door of my house was falling off of its hinges. The door was sagging, rotting, peeling- returning to dust. One day, when the door looked like it was drawing its last breath, I let out a sigh as I entered the house and decided to look into buying a new one. Half moon doors, however, are typically custom doors. They cost ten times as much as you might imagine. After extensive searching on the internet, I let out another sigh.
And then I thought about all of the doors that caught my eye throughout my life. As a young boy, when I lived in Ireland, I remember that the doors in Dublin had such character, and would often say something about the people that lived behind them. I remembered Florence, and how I rambled through the alleyways taking photos not of the cathedrals, but the doors of people’s homes. I remembered Rome, the classical grandeur of its doors having a wonderful dialogue with the wasting efforts of time. Thessaloniki, Greece… Tallinn, Estonia. But most of all, I remembered Valparaiso- the city with the most beautiful doors in the world.
In one of our east end excursions on Long Island, Margaret and I came across a man who tears down barns and then sells the wood. Margaret said “Don’t you dare start another project. Don’t you dare.” This fellow in Baiting Hollow had thirty or so salvaged timbers from a 150 year old barn from upstate New York. I bought seven planks for 100 dollars, and threw them in the back of my truck. Problem was, I soon found that the doors had 150 years of lead paint on them. I had to remove all of the lead with a chemical peel system- excruciatingly tedious work. That alone was spread out over the course of six months…
Once the planks were ready, my father in law, Dever, and I set to work. Over the course of months, we sawed, chiseled, drilled, (cursed), hammered, and varnished. The looking glass in the door is actually the bottom of a wine bottle, cut off. The gnarled door knocker is from an antique hawker outside of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Dever and I spent so much time, I can’t remember how many days it took- I couldn’t have done it without him. When it was done, we both stepped back in amazement- it was beautiful. It was art.
One of the most moving artistic experiences I’ve ever had was my visit to Sorolla’s house in Madrid, this past spring. He built sunken pools, fountains, tiled benches, columns covered in wisteria, carved dining room tables, murals… his home was art. And then I noticed that many of his painting were actually done in his home, his daughter is seated in front of the tiles found on the walls of his home. His lived in art became his painted art. He lived art. As I stood in Madrid, I became eager to return to Islip, to my home.
Here is a cropped image of a painting that I began in the summer, but wasn’t able to get far into. It is a scene that takes place every day in our house. Margaret plays the piano with the front door open, and light streams through the doorway into the room. No matter what I am doing, this scene always manages to stop me and glue me to the floor. I might consider the world of music to be able to transport the human spirit in ways that the visual arts never can, though I’m not entirely certain of this. Anyway, it’s become obvious to me that I am trying to paint music.
I have to wait for the warm weather to come around again, before I resume this painting- I have to continue this painting in warm, spring and summer light. Margaret hasn’t even been put into the painting, so I’ve cropped the image, and left out the raw canvas, to give you an idea of where the painting is headed.
I once heard an interview with James Taylor in which he said “I was enjoying playing the music so much, it’s a nice coincidence that other people like it too.” I couldn’t agree more.