A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


A Nostalgia For Women In Skirts, Dresses & Nora Patrich
Thursday, May 08, 2008

Some years back I spent lots of time at Juan Manuel Sanchez and Nora Patrich's house. My wife started suspecting something and asked me bluntly. I responded in a way she was not expecting and I wrote about it here. Rosemary then accepted my daily mate journey to Nora's and our constant telephone communication. Rosemary knew it was good for my soul and for my artistic morale.

But these good things ended when Nora and Juan divorced and both moved to Buenos Aires. Juan has an younger mistress and Nora has found a man in politics who shares the leftist leanings of her "causa". Nora and Juan don't see each other and rarely communicate.

When I have Rebecca in the car and I am taking her home the route passes by Nora and Juan's old house. One of Nora's daughters still lives there. Rebecca notices Juan and Nora's paintbrushes (in bottles) by the windows and a couple of little Argentine flags. Rebecca knows and doesn't ask. She knows how I miss them because she misses them, too. She also misses sipping the hot and bitter mate, the smell of paint and the "alegría" of our conversations. Juan said he would not attempt to teach Rebecca to draw and paint until she were 11. Juan believed children should be allowed to paint with freedom and without adult restrictions until that age. It would be about now that Rebecca would have walked the two blocks for her lessons with Juan.

Nora was a different kettle of fish. She was impulsive yet calculating. I always made fun of her leftist philosophy while dependant on her Visa card to get Airmiles points. I called it "causa de tacita de thé" or a leftist cause while holding the delicate tea cup.

As a young teenager on her way to school Nora would pass by the taller (studio) of the famous Grupo Espartaco artist (Grupo Espartaco was a group of Argentine painters who protested the military juntas of Argentina with mural art) Juan Manuel Sanchez and she would spy at the paintings. In the mid 90s after marrying two previous men she finally married Juan Manuel Sanchez. She brought him to Vancouver where Juan, not able to speak the language became a penguin the arctic.

He was out of his element. As he looked out of the window of his taller on to Douglas Park he felt alienated in not being able to understand the game being played. I tried to explain but Juan never did understand or want to understand what baseball was. Juan is back to the city he loves but after having experienced some the the benefits of Canada and Vancouver like our health system or the fact that electricity is constant and communication dependable he is now perhaps a polar bear in the antarctic. Nonetheless he is able to walk down from the taller to the nearby pizzería El Cuartito and savour a porción with his beloved moscato (a very cold and very sweet wine that tastes like fine grape juice).

As time passes my disdain for of Nora's causa and her constant praise for the Cuban health system and her criticism of Bush (Bush was singlehandedly the cause of global warming) is fading. I think it was all hot air. Nora had suffered terrible face cancers and our Canadian health system had been kind to her. She and Juan had a wonderful show of joint murals (painted in my studio on large rolls of canvas) that went from one town to another in all the major provinces of Argentina. The tab was picked up by "the culturally disadvantaged" (as Nora and Juan often complained) Canadians. It was the Canadian embassy in Buenos Aires that promoted their art. The Argentine economy was much too poor and in disarray to fund culture.

And so I miss Juan but I also miss Nora. My bitterness at their ruining of my artistic life by leaving me alone is fading a bit and I am beginning to seek out other outlets. But that does not prevent me from basking in the memory of those wonderful times.

Here you see Nora Patrich and Linda Lorenzo in Nora's living room. That smile! Nora had props. "I need a violin," I would tell her and she would fish one out from somewhere. She had a collection of fans and old dresses. Dresses that made Linda look fabulous. Being in Nora's living room was inspiration enough for anything. Nora had some original Goya engravings on her wall, a Picasso on another. A whole wall housed art books in Spanish. The other photograph shows Nora's painting in her paradoxical style. She had a causa yet her paintings never showed what was wrong with the world. Her women seemed to be ideal women who had no cause and just stared out of the canvas in wonder at the beauty of our world. The position of her woman's hands represents the female sexual organ. Nora was very frank in her discussion of sex and political correctness was not part of her causa. The photograph attempts to display a Borgesian obsession with the labyrinth.

Linda is wearing a Mexican rebozo that was given to my mother by her sister Dolly in 1951. It is made of raspy and rough cotton and the red dye is a brilliant vegetable dye. It smells of the Indian sandalwood chest I store it in.

And below is a photograph that combines all the paintings and the labyrinths we could muster.


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