The Story of CanCan

Creation is the mysterious occurrence of something from nothing, from out of nowhere. What is this? This is a miracle (that happens all the time)! This is what nature does. This is what artists do when they make art…


The story of CanCan is a story of something from nothing too…

I was living in California, newly moved from New York, away from my first marriage. I was amazed at the softness and warmness of the California air! My thought was “This is allowed?” …I was at loose ends, living on the floor of my friend Jeffrey’s dining room. Jeffrey was a devilishly handsome black haired 23 year-old make-up artist. His favorite colors were purple and black. He drove a black 60’s Thunderbird. He had a house with pretty much no furniture, there was one chair completely wrapped in silver duct tape. He was expansive and generous. Several people lived there: Jeffrey, his lover David, his niece Kathleen, 18 at the time, me, and my intermittent boyfriend Kline. I was 31 or so. We were a motley group. The younger ones and their friends Danny and Morag were out clubbing every night, doing make-up and big 80’s hair in the bathroom and later passing out like puppies in a pile on the shiny bare wood floors after nights of dancing and ecstasy. I was the oldest, and I mostly stayed home on my futon in the dining room.                                       130817_0011

I was a painter. I painted portraits and I painted landscapes, painting what I saw. I always wanted to connect more deeply with what I saw, and this was my motivation to paint. I think everyone paints what they see, it’s just that some of us are looking out there, while others have inner visions that they want to capture. Anyway. I was looking at faces, looking at landscapes. A brown eyed regard is different from a blue eyed regard, it feels different. A warm California landscape feels different from a Northeastern landscape. Why? I asked myself. The difference is color… shapes… color is relative… shape shifts…

so what to do?

I remember taking a walk in Ojai one evening, looking up at the trees, lit by the low sun, seeing how the leaves made a lacey yellow green screen against the rich blue sky. I looked at the mountains beyond, coral pink against the rich blue sky… kind of Maxfield Parrishy…1913Maxfield

So different from the maroon and navy blue distances in the northeast, the silvery sky of fall… like O’Keeffe in Lake George…                                     Okeefe2

My mind expanded, something came in. I could make a system…. a system of increments that expressed every possible two-color combination, using the six rainbow colors plus brown, gray, black and white. I could create a minimal framework of shapes to drape the colors on…how about the four elements… earth air fire water

I sat down with a pad of Bristol board and a bunch of art markers, and I started to paint, I painted and painted….I painted the entire array of tiles, it took many weeks… Each two-color combination got eight tiles, one group of the four shapes being, say, red with a yellow background, the other group yellow with a red background. In art parlance we call this positive and negative space.  The shapes came quickly, fire water earth air….I started out using three values of every rainbow color, so there was dark red, red, and pink, dark orange, orange and light orange, and so on. Phew!                         130817_0004   130817_0002

The result was over a thousand individual tiles. The completed uncut template for all the tiles was over forty feet long.  I laid them out in my friend Lily’s hall in Ojai

130817_0006 the picture is dark, but you see what I mean….

So I made the first set, and I showed it around                                                                               130817_0012

Years, many years…passed.

I simplified this original array down to the six clear rainbow colors, and black and white only. I let go of brown and gray because they made the set too heavy, and they weren’t necessary to the basic alphabet…(but I love the soft earthiness of brown and gray).  Now the set is the clear bright happy colors of the rainbow

cancangame2withfill , and there are still plenty of tiles to illustrate…what?

…All the nuance of atmosphere… how we can feel so many things at the same time… how one feeling affects another feeling…how rich and non-linear it is… how psychedelic and uncontrollable it is…how overwhelming yet reassuring it is…how colorful it is… how fun it is to play amongst it…

and the story continues.


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