Tuesday, 03 July 2012

Chapter 7: Moving to Dorman Street Studios

Around June 1995, Mary had located a studio in Dorman street round the corner from the Labia theatre in Oranjezicht.
Thus began a roller coaster period in my life. At night I was attending rehearsals for CAPAB opera company, sometimes only getting home after 1am in the morning. I would have to get up early to get the boys ready for school. William was 8 and attending the little co-ed school up the road from us- Rosebank Primary, and Luke was still at a pre-school in Rosebank.

My mornings were free till 12.30, so I could go into the studio. I would go in on Tuesdays and Fridays. Mary usually provided a live model for the Friday morning class. There were about 5 or so regulars who attended this class. Sarah Campbell, Twinky Laubser, Gloria  and I formed the core group. Lionel Davis, Velile Soha, Tyrell Tyson, Billy Mandini, Bongi Bhengu and various other Michaelis art students used the studio to store their drawings and would sometimes attend a life drawing class. Sometimes on Fridays we would have a boozy lunch with an invited speaker, like Gus Fergusson or Lionel Davis. I really enjoyed these sessions - I was being challenged visually by confronting a live model for the first time and I was beginning to feel like a real art student.

I worked a lot, almost exclusively in pastel at this time.
yin and yang: pastel 700x500mm
This was a pastel drawing I did at that time.

Painting the body was quite a challenge. I found flesh tones quite difficult to master and I was often surprised  that adding green to the mix gave a more realistic flesh colour.

 It was a tumultuous time. Often at 5 o'clock on that same day I would be off to Opera rehearsals for more excitement. We were rehearsing for Puccini's Turandot- I was so enthralled by the theatre- that peculiar, powerfully evocative backstage smell, the feeling as you wait offstage in the dark, warming up for the chorus entrance. Never before or since have I ever felt so alive, so turned on really. Listening to the tenor solo, Nessun Dorma while the chorus crept below stage back to the dressing room,  made my soul soar. I felt almost orgasmic, listening to it and being part of this incredible energy. I felt so privileged, honoured to be experiencing this life.
Of course there were plenty of gay people in the company. Being with them in such close proximity made me realise what a tenuous grip I had on my own feelings.

Back at art class I even imagined I had a serious crush on Mary. Even though I was over forty, at times I felt like a teenager. I tried to dismiss my feelings as the precursor to peri-menopausal hormonal imbalance. I decided to go for therapy to try and resolve some of the inner uncertainty I was feeling. I found a good therapist and we began some serious internal work on my tumultuous relationships with the significant other females in my life, my mother in particular. It was a very difficult time for me- going through some rather old buried anger towards my mother was like lancing an old wound and I would be tired and emotional for hours after therapy. The situation was not eased by dealing with 2 young boys, and a husband who was frequently away on business trips leaving me to handle the fairly stressful situation of taking boys to school, doing all the housework and shopping for the family and then carting the children backwards and forwards for all their sporting and school functions.

I was also starting to work seriously on my voice, taking vocal coaching lessons. I was often extremely anxious before these lessons.  I was desperate for my teacher  to like my voice in order to secure my place in the Opera chorus. She was getting my voice to connect to parts of my body- getting me to feel my voice down deep in my belly, correcting my breathing which was always my weak point. I felt I was doing soul work and accessing a part of myself that had gone missing at some crucial stage.

 I often felt very vulnerable, like a snail without a shell. Learning to sing was like being an onion, having the layers of oneself peeled away bit by bit and exposing a new raw skin beneath each layer. I made some terrible noises and felt so embarrassed at times.


Both my painting teacher and singing teachers were "opening" me up in some way- reaching into the  true source of my creativity- the real essence of me. I felt that I was at last being what I was meant to be after all these years. I was at last an artist in the making.

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