615: The Studio

615: The Studio

615: The Studio


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

My mother is a painter. She’s graciously created the paintings for the covers of all six of my poetry books. When I grew up, her studio was on the first floor of our apartment building in Sonoma, California. I loved spending time in her studio. For forty years now, she has been a part of the LaHaye Art Center, which is a collective of studios and a walk-in gallery off the plaza. Anyone can wander into the gallery and studios whenever they like.

Walking into someone’s working art studio is like walking into someone’s mind. In one corner, she’s working on sketches or some felt animals that have grown into a handsome and delicate collection of dogs. In another corner, canvases are being readied for a new painting. The walls are full of paintings in various states of half-finished and finished, some that are just figuring out what they are, and others that feel done — at least to the casual viewer.

What always intrigues me the most are the little snippets of inspiration pinned to the wall. A painting of a blue donkey, a dream scrawled in her large looping handwriting about riding a horse as fast as she could, a hawk wing, a picture my older brother took of an old barn. All of these small visual accumulations that seem to expand as you get closer and closer to them. Even the materials themselves. The paint brushes, the sink splattered and stained with paint, the little space heater that keeps her warm. I love all of it.

As writers, our offices can’t compete, even if we try. Our material for the most part exists in our minds, in our hearts, and in our piles of books and overflowing shelves. I have stacks of paper which aren’t nearly as colorful and inviting as the palette box in my mother’s studio, with its swirls of colorful oil paints. Try as we might, we writers only have words. And breath.

In today’s poem, we see the idea of the artist studio and how each item — each visual clue — leads us to a deeper understanding of how art is made.

The Studio
by Cedar Sigo

Coyotes on a torn paper hilltop howling at the sun, a blaring red stamp

A circular pond with animals feeding in droves around it, brown, pink, yellow cheetah,
bare trees full of lime colored birds

A wooden ladder that swings down off its hinge

A huge room without bolts or nails, full of ghosts of friends (makers of poems)

Turquoise and black at battle in square shapes and ends of blades interlocked off-screen

Reams of paper in boxes (perfect, blank) next to ladders leading out the roof

Rodin’s sink crusted over with plaster, dry wrinkled hands resting on threshold

Seafoam green door, withered markings, golden deadbolt, depression glass tomb

Spilled green wine teased into gargoyle, his eyes are seething, his ears are burning

"The Studio" by Cedar Sigo. Used by permission of the poet.