Two in Arcadia
Biography of Lucine Finch.
When I was growing up no object was more revered by my mother than a book given to her on Valentine's Day in 1915 by her father. He died just a year and 9 months later when she was five years old. Some of my earliest memories are those of her reading poems from the book and showing me the pictures. The poems were full of longing , an emotion written on my mother's face as she read them out. I would learn many years later my grandfather killed himself with a razor drawn across his throat, gruesomely facing a mirror. He was distraught over the divorce papers that had been drawn up against him. By the time I learned of it, I had seen the single photograph of my grandfather at his wedding to my grandmother, and noted the strong resemblance to my own features. Perhaps because of this, my mother shared the lurid story as a special confidence between us, never mentioning it to my sisters.
When my parents' estate was settled, we six siblings bequested the book to my sister Virginia, the only artist in the family at the time. But the book continued to lure me and I bought my own copy. In 2011-2015 I volunteered at the Printing Museum in Houston, and slowly typeset each poem with Della Robbia lead font purchased for the project. It lay fallow for 6 years until I could get around to reproducing the images as well.
In this homage replica, I alter the images to conform more with how I remembered them, sometimes playing with the colors to improve the contrast of values and heighten the figure-ground separations. For some of the pages I re-envisioned the subjects to resonate with my own internal history. I rendered setting sun behind a palm tree to resemble a memorable red moon at dawn as it set into the Pacific Ocean in Guerrero. For Lucine’s lilies I substituted yellow flowers I had seen at El Charco outside my new city of San Miguel de Allende. I reinvisioned Lucine’s hollyhocks as Delphiniums I had loved when I lived in a”painted lady” cottage in Houston Heights. For the seagulls on the title page I substituted Black-Fronted Ibis that fly over my Mexican home by the hundreds in giant V’s. I brought in tall fir trees that were so prominent in my fathers photographs at Holden Washington from the 1940’s.