the i in self

Black and white self portrait by Karri Allrich ©2015

In a culture steeped in self documentation, the urge to be seen has become the air we inhale. And seeing is not believing. Our audience is numb. Bored by the surface of things.

What freedom!

my last oil

Current - abstract painting by Karri Allrich
Current - oil painting by Karri Allrich

Wrapping paintings and stowing brushes. Selling every stick of furniture. Weeding out books that will never be read (in spite of intention, obligation, or desire). Honing and paring and whittling it all down. This marriage. This life. These years together.

The things we carry get heavy.

And often fail to feed us.

This is the last painting I will ever paint in New England. Somehow I know that. Or at least believe it. I am done here. And turning West. Aging not in place but somewhere unfamiliar. I am not even sure where yet. Art, and soup bowls, and boots will be packed. And we will fly to the left coast again.

We have a cabin for two weeks.

Beyond that?

Fate and luck will have their way with us.

And more will be revealed.

Cape Cod, May 2014

ghosts in the wheel

Karina Allrich Self Portrait ©2014 All rights reserved.
Self portrait, art school. Washington DC.

The turn of the year's wheel inevitably stirs up ghosts. Last night we walked after dinner. Curled paper leaves scuttling the uneven side walk. Something in the air reminded me of New Mexico. And I remembered a day we drove to Taos, just to get out of our heads and escape the particular tunneling isolation of the artist's life.

The autumn afternoon was golden and soft, almost balmy. The kind of day that lulls you into believing winter is still far off. The trickster wind spun burnished leaves and pinon smoke around us with fingers warm and cool and so dreamy we almost floated along the crooked streets of Taos center, bumping elbows with straggling tourists in beaded earrings and adobe hued scarves, and locals in scuffed cowboy boots barking Spanish into cell phones.

We wandered through empty galleries and a well-stocked kitchen store. I spied a set of engraved silver measuring spoons but put them back on the shelf (too expensive to justify). Steve ordered a cappuccino to go, and we drove home along the Rio Grande listening to Steve Earle and watching the late afternoon sun dart down the canyon walls, back-lighting the almost bare cottonwoods, grayish brown and silver.

That night I dreamed of Russell Crowe. He was in town that month, filming 3:10 To Yuma up in Abiquiu. In dreamland we spoke about our fathers. He listened with his eyes, I wrote in my journal, grasping the loss of never knowing my father with a depth and muscle that held my pain. Fiercely.

This morning I woke feeling less heavy, and relieved of my usual east coast bruxism. For the first time in a long time I felt the urge to pick up a paintbrush. To smooth a raw canvas with palms, flat and expectant.


But in the meantime, I wait.

To wait, to surrender to this thing, this process, this road home to myself- it's not an easy thing. But if you offered me a pill to swallow, some cure, some promise, some magic bullet, I doubt I would be tempted. Because there is a part of me- some stubborn, rusty, ancient part of me- that understands I must go through it, not around it.

I must go down.

Not up in a flight of fancy.

I must get muddy and singed and hollow and exhausted.

I must tunnel through and scrape away with the tiniest of tools- my will- toward some small, shy truth. Excavating, digging past the illusions, the Resistance, the denial, the desire to please, to be light, to be pretty, to be approved of.


It is my Holiest Grail. And why it is so hard to find it, I don't know.

For some of us, it just is.


Looking toward Abiquiu by Karina Allrich #sky #photogrpahy #newmexico
Looking toward Abiquiu- New Mexico sky

I used to paint skies like this. Moody spits of land against an oceanic space. Luminous horizons. Blue almost violet against a startling spill of pink (almost orange). Or thick deep grays infused with glass greens and flannel soft lavenders. I loved it at the time. It felt liberating. As if I was breaking new ground. I was breaking new ground. Not in the world of art. Or painting. But new ground for me. I was breaking open my vision. My idea of what was possible. Painting in joyous strokes, letting go of detail and storytelling. Flirting with abstraction and simplicity and essence. Fooling around with the juice of paint. Its silky slide across the canvas. Its buttery invitation to let go.

My heart couldn't get enough of it. I was drenched in the idea of it, the wide open endless offering of it. Painting skies and clouds and thunderstorms. So of course I did it to death. Then the magic faltered. I lost it. The urge to paint, that is. To conjure skies. Rain. Trees in twilight.

I am stiff fingered now and unmoved to pick up a brush. The one closest to me softens his voice in reassurance, dovetailing words and images into my silence. Waiting, he explains to me, is part of my process. He's seen it all before (my paralysis).

He looks away without sighing and touches my clenched left hand. He brews me peppermint tea. He washes the dinner dishes and stacks plates and bowls in a bamboo rack, whistling a Neil Finn tune. He does not judge. I am astounded by this kindness.

I draw a bath and swim in tub water. Clear aqua liquid, almost blue. My body looks pale and girlish floating in the fading light. The window glass above me loses the sky. The world outside turns piney and dark. Two coyotes yelp in the distance. I find great comfort in their wildness.

My husband knocks on the bathroom door and opens it a foot. Want me to read to you? he asks. I see he grips a copy of a Kathleen Norris book. I smile and unclench my hands beneath the water.

Sure, I tell him. I love it when a man reads to me.

~New Mexico 2008

past season

Past Season (peaches) lomo iphoneography by Karina Allrich ©2014  #iphoneography #peaches #stilllife
Still life- peaches. Lomo style iphoneography by Karina Allrich

crooked light

crooked light photograph by karina allrich ©2014 #iphoneography
Black and white iphoneography, California

skaket beach, cape cod

Black and white photograph of Skaket Beach, Orleans, Cape Cod by Karina Allrich. Taken with an iPhone 5.
Sunset in black and white, Orleans, Cape Cod by Karina Allrich

The Winter on Cape Cod was cold and raw. And long. These old bones are aching for some California sun.