Last night, I had a dream that a seal-creature hauled itself out of the ocean beside a private, bayside resort where well-dressed people sipped drinks on a green lawn.
It pulled itself out of the water and made straight for me. It wanted me.
This seal-creature was grey and had glowing eyes, and it pulled and tugged on a door that separated the outside from the inside, which is where I was. I was scared, because I know from my childhood in Newport Beach that seals can be aggressive and territorial. If you see one, my Dad told me, get out of the water. Seals are like dogs. They bite.
Seals bite, I thought. Seals bite.
The seal-creature pushed and tugged persistently on the door as the well-dressed people congregated on the overly manicured lawn. The lawn bothered me: why was there a green lawn next to a bay? Why the well-dressed people? Why was there an urban edge that separated me from the water? Lawns don’t go with bays. County clubs don’t either. Neither one had blocked the seal. I watched it trying to get inside with consternation and fear.
And then the seal was though the door. What it did was this: It swarmed into my arms, as if it belonged there and would never leave. It was fast and fluid and didn’t maintain shape, but it was a seal, with those glowing eyes. It molded itself to me, to my body. It wanted to be held. It wouldn’t let go.
I was confused, walking the halls of the glossy suburban space with the creature clasped in my arms. How could a seal, I wondered, which needs the sea live in an artificial atmosphere like this? I grew less fearful, and more concerned with each passing moment. It needs water, I thought. It can’t be outside of the water like this.
I put it down, tentatively. It flopped around, helpless, unable to move.
I thought perhaps putting it down would force it to do for itself somehow; make itself an environment of water, out of itself, out of sheer will. I thought it would make for itself an environment that would enable it. Help it to navigate and move. But that didn’t happen. It didn’t work.
So with some new tenderness (i don’t think it will bite me) I picked it up again.
“I leave myself as open as I possibly can. There’s been very few times in my life when I’ve really planned out a painting and then put it into form. The reason for that, is that by the time I’ve put it into form, I’m bored with it! I was tired of it…I’d already worked it out. Done and over with. I was just doing the mechanical work. So I try and leave it as absolutely open as I can and I start putting some color down, some paint, and let, uh…whatever it starts to say, come into form. And develop it from there.”
Joan Brown, in an interview from 1979
October 26th, 2017