I have this memory: I’m very young, maybe 3 or 4, and I’m in the ocean in my mom’s arms. The water is maybe chest-high on my mom. I’m not frightened, despite the churning, rushing bar of whitewash heading toward us. She tells me to take a deep breath and to hold on, and together, we duck beneath the wave. A moment later, we emerge on the other side and I feel happier, giddier, brighter than words can really describe. To this day, each time I dive beneath a fast-approaching wave – a sight that sends so many people scurrying for shore – I emerge with that same elated feeling.
I should back up. I grew up in Orange County, where it’s usually sunny and pretty much always beach weather. Our family didn’t go on fancy vacations because we didn’t really need to. Every weekend, we were fortunate to be able to hop in the car and be on some of the most beautiful beaches in the US in under half an hour. Tourists flocked in every summer, but we got to spend all year in that oceanic paradise. The ocean has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can’t be away from it for too long without feeling oddly smothered. Up in the San Francisco/Bay Area, the ocean is a bit less welcoming: often freezing, strong currents, and part of what is known as, “The Red Triangle” due to the Great White population. All that aside, I venture in from time to time, but more often take my dog for long walks around the bay.
There is something inherently soothing about the ocean to me. The way it ripples and shimmers is mesmerizing; the way a wave builds, curls, and breaks with such power and elegance; the mist coming off the top of the lip; that strange-salty smell; the wealth of life it contains. It is where I go when I’m feeling disconnected from the world. Looking out over that big, open horizon line is so grounding. And, on the flip side, there’s the exhilarating feeling that comes from playing in the ocean. Swimming out to where whatever below fades into darkness; back-floating feet first over waves about to break; ducking deep beneath those poised to destroy you… all of these things make me feel so alive!
I’ve been pouring myself into a series of paintings lately, I suppose they, along with that I’ve rambled on about above, are love letters to the sea. They’ll be on display at 4th Street Fine Art: 2000 4th Street, Berkeley, California from now until August 30th. The reception is this Saturday, July 20th, from 6pm – 8pm. In addition to my seascapes, my studio mate, Prabin Badhia, will be showing some really phenomenal figurative pieces. Please join us!