Author: P.W. O'Reilly

Pamela is the author of "The Kandinsky Project", a time-travel espionage story set during World War II. She is a WWII history buff, and has an Art History degree from the College of William and Mary with a minor in French. Willem de Kooning is her favorite artist, and she is currently working on a sequel. She lives in the Washington DC area with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

Winter and Writer’s Block

It’s the dead of winter in Virginia, and I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. My dad was sick, and then passed away just before Thanksgiving last year. I’ve been in the doldrums since then, buried in a punishing full time job and dealing with grief, burnout, and absolutely NO creative motivation. The last few days felt like Spring was coming! And then…it was 35 degrees yesterday. Ah, Virginia, how I love your weather. So I quit my job at the beginning of February–said no, thank you to the grueling pace with no time off (since July, unless you count my dad’s funeral…which I don’t), disrespect and other frustrations–and said YES to self-care and life and family and creativity. Yes, I’m looking for another job, but it has to be the right job. For the right company. And I’m writing again, working part-time on the Kandinsky sequel, and part-time on a little pet project about a woman who builds a glass house at the beach. (Because I’m an architecture nerd, it was inspired by Mies van der Rohe and the house he built for Edith Farnsworth in Pennsylvania).

I was in Boston a few weeks ago for work, struggling with anxiety and depression and generally feeling overwhelmed, when I thought of Rebecca. She was sent away from her safe, comfortable life into a world of intrigue and uncertainty, and she managed it in spite of her fear. I figured the least I could do was leave my hotel room and go do my site survey. There’s something to be said for the growth that comes from being pushed out of your comfort zone–it makes a lot of things possible. But I think there’s definitely a balance–outside the comfort zone isn’t someplace I can live full-time. Living with chronic anxiety, I need a home base, a nest that I can retreat to when the world gets too scary–and that can be my home, or my job, or the people I interact with on a daily basis. I think that’s okay. It gives me the strength I need to go back out and attack the world again, to live up to the next challenge. Just like Rebecca did. For now, I think she’s probably regrouping, learning more about code-breaking so she can take over the training from Mr. Baumgart when he retires. So she (and I) will be ready for our next adventure.

Welcome Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and not just because my birthday is around this time of the year. For me, fall feels like a rest break from the busyness of the summer–vacations, travel, trips to the pool, camp, etc. I always feel compelled–obligated, really–to spend as much time as possible outside in the bright sunshine before the winter arrives, and for someone with anxiety, that can feel like a lot of pressure. (I know, it’s weird). The fall weather gives me an excuse to wrap up in my favorite sweatshirt from Elly & Grace, put on my big fuzzy slippers (which I have been known to wear out of the house), and catch up on my reading. I always read “Outlander” in the fall–I first read it in October of 2017, when I had bronchitis and broke my foot. I remember having “Dragonfly in Amber” in the hospital with me, and every nurse that walked in commented on how much they loved those books. Once it gets chilly, I love to wrap up in my lambs wool Outlander replica tartan stole and throw my Outlander-themed blanket on my bed. (Yes, I’m obsessive).

My nesting habits that start in October are probably different than what Clemence would do in the fall in Paris. I think she would nest a little, too–but she would do it in some fabulous pink wrap with marabou feathers, and her apartment would be filled with mink throws in her favorite colors. Max would, no doubt, have purchased her a beautiful full-length white mink coat (for his darling dove), and she would help him off with his long camel-hair coat, or his gray uniform coat, whenever he visited.

Rebecca would nest like I do–even though her life as Clemence left her with a new love for the color pink and a thing for feathers on her clothes. (She may have gone out and purchased some marabou feather slippers once she got back to DC). Life in the bunker is isolated from nature, so anytime is a good time for a cozy blanket, a good cup of hot cocoa (or tea–she loves tea), and a good book. She and Julian do like to go to fall festivals and visit the wide variety of wineries that can be found in Western Loudoun County.

I wish fall lasted longer–but winter will soon be upon us, so it’s time for me to go grab “Outlander”, a blanket, and a cup of tea, and settle into some reading. Happy Fall!

Why Kandinsky?

Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists, but the reason that he ended up in this book was the correlation between math, formula, and art. I’ve always loved abstract and non-objective art–it was one of my favorite periods in art history to study; I spent several years as a docent for the Muscarelle Museum and the Denver Art Museum, working to make modern art accessible to the public.

Kandinsky didn’t start out to be an artist–born in Moscow in 1866 to a wealthy family, he studied law at Moscow University and ultimately became a law professor. He had always loved making art; he recalled in later years that when he was a child working with a drawing coach, “drawing and a little bit later painting lifted me out of the reality”. His early art consistently focused on very specific color combinations, where “each color lives by its mysterious life”. He noted two events that changed his life work from that of law to painting: Visiting an exhibition of French Impressionists in 1895 (particularly the work “Haystacks” by Monet); and seeing Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Kandinsky founded several artist groups, including the Phalanx and the Blue Rider group; he was also associated with the Bauhaus, first in Weimar and then in Dessau, until it was closed down by the Nazis in 1932. His work consistently examines the play between color, line and figure, and those works–his Compositions from the 1920’s (particularly Composition VIII from 1923) were the perfect paintings to use for Rebecca’s coded information. The Nazis hated art by Kandinsky and his associates, and sought to eliminate as much of the “degenerate” art they could find. As such, it makes perfect sense that the codes were hidden under a layer of paint depicting bucolic landscapes and idealized towns and villages. Unfortunately, as it happened in the art gallery where Rebecca worked, many paintings were destroyed and a portion of that history has been lost.

Some information for this article is courtesy of wassilykandinsky.net, which is a wonderful resource for the artists work, life, and associates.

If you’re interested in reading/learning more about Kandinsky, the Blue Rider, and the Bauhaus, the Guggenheim has a great site related to their Kandinsky Research Project.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble also have a lot of great books on Kandinsky, including “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, and “Klee and Kandinsky”. There are also a number of good books on the Bauhaus.