Saturday, March 3, 2012
friends to affinity
My friend Geraldine was already an excellent artist when we met in Vancouver many years ago. Amazingly adept at drawing, I'd be aghast when she threw away nearly completed illustrations that didn't meet her ideal, a habit that lead me to collecting several wonderful examples of her work from the trash bin in her room. Her art training, including a meticulous attention to detail I envied, had been honed in Ireland, a place that's quite synonymous to me with the word magic. Geraldine's artwork was always elementally whimsical, and very captivating.
She and her family returned to Southern Ireland at about the same time as I moved to the US with the result that although we didn't completely lose touch, there have often been long periods without much contact and I never got to see what she'd been painting and making. Just recently she emailed me some photographs of work she's done over the years. The one posted above came as quite a surprise since it's a painting of one of the world's little known famous female pirates (if such a term be allowed), Gráinne Ni Mháille, Queen of Umaill and chieftan of the clan Ó Máille.
Also known as Grace O'Malley, her story reads like a wild adventure fiction but there's history as well as myth in the legend of the Irish noblewoman who led a band of 200 sea-raiders from the coast of Galway in the sixteenth century. Twice widowed, twice imprisoned, fighting her enemies both Irish and English for her rights, she was condemned for piracy, and finally pardoned in London by Queen Elizabeth herself. Gráinne was one of the few sea-raiders to retire from the sea and die in her own bed as an old, respected, and very rich woman. Geraldine's portrait of her captures the sea queen's power and determination most vividly.
Among the dozen or so images was a cryptic painting titled 'Sherrach'. It's a beautiful picture in colour and form, but not knowing what story Geraldine was referring to I decided to see if there was a definition to be found in the name. The only word that came close was a Scottish one meaning rumpus or a noisy squabble. The painting may not have anything to do with arguments but the clash between water and sky seemed a fit setting for the two beings sheltering from the tempest.
Like many artists Geraldine was never one to stick to a particular medium so it was great to see some of her sculptures. This one, called Con Gái (daughter in Vietnamese), was carved during an art for peace festival held in Hanoi more than a decade ago.
Then there's this little beauty that left me speechless. Nobody other than my dear friend Geraldine could have envisioned this deeply aware yet innocent goddess.
Such is friendship that sometimes our best conversations contain no words at all.
♡ Erin go Bragh