Covering the Waterfront



“I Cover the Waterfront”
©2020, Molly Larson Cook
36″ x 24″
Acrylic on Canvas


It’s a fallow season and I know from my days in farming country that this is a good thing.  A productive thing.  We all need to rest at least a little.  Rest, relax, refresh, reflect. 

I’ve been using the time to look through my older work, reconsider it and wonder if I might make better use of those canvases – gesso them over and just start again.  It’s a possibility.  How often in life to we get such an easy “do-over?” On the other hand, there’s historical memory.  How do we see our progress if we can’t “look behind at where we came” as Joni Mitchell put it in “Circle Game.”

I’ve also been looking at OPA (other people’s art) in search of some answers.  I subscribe to three or four art blogs and newsletters, so I have a supply of OPA close at hand.  The work ranges from flat out realism to flat out abstract expressionism with a few side detours here and there.  I say this knowing that you and I both agree that you cannot really put art in boxes or categories or “schools” without getting ourselves in a lot of trouble.  And given the state of things today, we don’t need any more trouble! 

Of course, the pandemic and current lock down where I live are playing a role here.  I can’t indulge myself by visiting galleries or cruising through the library.  I can browse my art supply store in my mask and dodge other people in their masks, but I don’t linger the way I always did, considering all the new supplies as if I were eight years old with a dime in my pocket in the local candy store.  Nope, these days, shopping is just “get in, get out.”  And a kid needs more than a dime.

But the fallow time could happen with or without a pandemic.  Rest.  Restoration.  At first I told myself I was just not motivated.  But that’s not true.   I’ve been motivated to work on my art for years and that hasn’t changed.  I visit my studio and move things around.  Recently, I got all the paintings from the October show out of my SUV and home where they still belong.  The place feels warm again as if some favorite old song has just come on the radio – people still listen to radios, right?

And I look at the work in my “pop up” gallery on the main floor, a gallery which is mine until it isn’t, whenever the space is rented to someone else.  I’ve put some new pieces there and will add more next week. 

I think about how the art world has changed and about all the new technology like Instagram and Facebook neither of which I use.  I think about how we used to advertise our work and our wares and try hard to face the reality of today.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it just makes me frustrated.  Reality is sometimes a daunting thing.  But thinking too much about those things takes away from the relative peace and value of the fallow time. 

Yesterday I ran across a folder titled “Pending” that had notes about both my art and my writing.  Things I’d forgotten.  But in the fallow time, we can find old folders and other personal guides that will get us back to the work we were meant to do.  In the fallow time, we can get past the immediate distractions and find ourselves, find our way once more and see the world with new eyes.  Hear it with new ears. 

No matter what else is going on, the music of the universe continues, one chorus after another.  Whether we know the words or not, we can sing along.  Humming is good and so is any melodic “la la la.” 

And if it happens to be Billie Holiday singing “I Cover the Waterfront,” sing along with her…Every voice counts.

Billie Holiday – I Cover The Waterfront (1944) – YouTube







4 thoughts on “Covering the Waterfront

  1. Janice – thank you for this lovely note. That painting has generated a lot of feedback and is likely going to inspire a slightly new direction for my work. You are, in turn, an inspiration to me – your energy, writing, life and – of course, – love of Billie! Let’s hear it for the GREATS!

  2. Love the painting.
    It has been a time for reflection and some minor creativity. You, Molly, continue to inspire me and urge me to write. Thanks for your thoughts, and of course nothing like Billie Holiday, one of the GREATS.

  3. Yes, we can make of it what we will. We can rail and refuse to wear masks or we can live with it and use the time well. And the word “fallow” is close to my all-time favorite word “willow.” Gentle words. Thanks, Don…Your files are likely holding some good memories….


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