Artists can never predict what materials will inspire them.
These green and brown squares are sliced from a block of Aleppo soap I bought as a brush cleaner. The world's oldest soap with a reputed history of 4000 years, it's handmade of pure olive and laurel oils near the Syrian city of Aleppo.
When the soap arrived a few weeks ago it smelled so good I wanted to hold it tight. The fragrance brought up memories I didn't know I'd kept: nights hand-washing clothes in a Brooklyn sink, the French boyfriend who smelled of olive soap he used in his hair.
The soap's slices show its original olive green, and the oxidized exterior after a year's drying. They remind me of the vibrant pixellation of Chuck Close's paintings, of irregular mosaics in Mediterranean hues, the colors of the earth and trees in the place it was made.