A child sitting on steps looking out. I just adore this work of Margi Larlham’s. It was created from a photo of her when she was much younger. It reminds me so much of a photograph I have of Emily, her daughter, taken in 1982. Excepting this is a picture of the child from the front. I wrote to Margi asking if her painting was for sale. She told me she had already given it to her niece but sent me a beautiful print. It now sits in pride of place in my lounge.
Looking at her works online, I was both delighted and moved by what met my eyes.
The spray of water jets towards you, making you want to duck!
This amusing yet masterful painting, Gleeful Spray, by Margi of her mother takes me back…back…back… to 1981 and 1982.
I was at University and I stayed in a cottage at the back of the Larlham’s garden. Margi was my movement lecturer and her husband, Pete, was my Drama coach. We became great friends and I adored their children, Daniel and Emily.
I loved the way Margi danced. She dipped, twirled and stamped her body into graceful spirals that leaped upwards towards the sky. Indeed she seemed to freely embrace the air around her. Jil Hirst was my other movement teacher and together they formed the Barefoot Dance Company. I found an old photograph of me and two other members doing a dance at a shopping centre with harmonicas in our mouths. Seeing that photo bought the taste of that Dance Company into my mouth, into my mind. I couldn’t help smiling.
I initially knew Margi as a dancer. It was only as I got to know her more intimately, that I discovered another side to her.
Margi was an artist.
In Margi’s first year as a student at KwaZulu-Natal University, she took a course in architecture. This simply blew her mind because she was introduced to the art of Cezanne, Picasso, Gauguin, to name but a few. Naturally she had heard of these creators but to study their paintings in depth was electrifying.
The seeds were sown!
Margi has restless hands that are never still. They need to be occupied. I often walked into her dining room and found her seated at her table sketching or painting. Apparently she began painting simple watercolours while her babies were sleeping. I have this image of Margi at 2 o’clock in the morning enthusiastically discovering the joys of watercolour whilst all around her the world slept.
“I think my painting was not a sudden decision on retiring but an ongoing process,” Margi said. “I took opportunities to learn more about painting in my free times. In between classes at KwaZulu Natal University, I attended a painting course at the Tech in Durban. Between semesters, visiting England, I did an Intensive Watercolour Course. While waiting for my green card in America, I took classes in the Art department at San Diego State University. For portrait and figure, I learned recently from master painters in short courses at the Florence Academy of Art. I now finally have my own studio in the garden – so I paint all day!” Margi finished with delight.
This was one of her first paintings. While at University, I remember Margi painting this chair with the pale mauve shirt thrown over it. I was totally amazed that such a simple thing could be made into such a beautiful creation. I remember their wonderful kitchen floor which comes to life in the painting. When I left to go overseas for six months, Margi gave me this painting. It now sits in my room and is a radiant part of my past.
About eight months after my fall, the Larlham’s returned from America where they had settled and came to visit me on the farm. Whilst there, Margi did this painting which she gave to me.
I call it: Two Figures. It depicts our farm with the clementines ready for picking. In the centre, are two figures. At the time, I didn’t understand the painting properly. I do now.
One figure is lying face down, her arms spread as if she has just had a fall. The other figure has her arm reaching towards her and seems to be running in a carefree manner, almost beckoning. I think Margi was painting the two Gaynor’s. The one that fell and the one whose spirit she knew. I am so fortunate that I am no longer the first figure, barely able to walk, talk and hear. I look at the painting and I think it was prophetic. The second figure has risen to take the first figures place.
Margi’s paintings are uniquely incredible!
This is what the eight year old Daniel from my past has grown into. There is an alert watchfulness about this beautiful portrait. It is done in pastel. As Margi says: “I love all art mediums but I seem to be more adept at pastel. It may be the old movement bias – holding the pigments in one’s hand and applying it in various energies – a dance on paper.”
I love that! My eyes move on to other ‘dances’ of Margi’s.
I have often looked at the bark of trees and so wished I was able to paint. The colours are often indescribable to me. Margi feels the same way about her world. Only she is able to capture and translate onto canvas. Last year, during the Borrego Plein Air Invitational, Margi did a painting in the Anza Borrego Desert. It was an incredibly intense week, painting from dawn till dusk. She created a wild and unruly whisky tree that flowers magnificently after rain. She was painting amongst artists of high renown and was totally delighted to win First Place.
This word so aptly describes Margi. At University I was exposed to her imagination and vision. Her choreography was inventive and stimulating. I was in the first production for children that Margi ever directed, Old King Cole by Ken Masters. I played this hilarious character, Twoo, who was dressed in a long coat comprising of a mass of pockets. Everything came out of those pockets!
The Larlhams moved to California and Margi taught dance and directed numerous productions at San Diego State University. There her painting flourished, truly taking off when she retired from teaching.
She is one of those people who will be creative until the day she dies. She is made that way. What is so unparalleled is that she is creative in the friendships she forms as well. She and Jil Hirst had an unusual and unique relationship. I am just so sorry that Margi and her wonderful family now live in America.
I miss them all.
Maya Angelou’s words are so appropriate:
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
I look at ‘The Shirted Chair’ Margi’s first work and contemplate one of her latest paintings ‘Wild Spring’.