Monthly Archives: May 2017

[A Little]Timeout for Art

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I managed, this week, over the course of two days, to watch two old movies. On VHS. In my studio. That’s how I know that, in between other jobs, meetings and obligations, squeezed in between loads of laundry, housework and yard work, I spent about four hours there…in the studio.

I did a little neatening and organizing. I did a roll call of finished pieces and works in progress. And I brought one piece back from the brink of destruction.

It was first a painting that lacked interest, that became the background for a collage of handmade and painted papers. It was too busy, and I’d added layers of translucent color to unify the surface. I went too far, and ended up with a heavily textured, almost monotone piece. Then, too long ago to remember what form of crazed logic caused me to think it was a good idea, I used a dowel dipped in paint to cover the surface with rows of polka dots.

I had actually polka-dotted several same-sized pieces. I think my “vision” was to combine them all in a large grid reminiscent of primitive wall art. I had four 2′ x 2′ panels, which was not enough, even, to see if it would work out…if I had many more panels, each with several years worth of texture under the eventual dotted surface, and the space to assemble it.

So, there it was, an often-changing fixture in my studio. I pulled it out again the other day, and started moving collage elements around on the surface. What did I have to lose?It held my interest. Over the course of about four hours divided between two days, I gave it a new life. All of the previous incarnations are present as layers of texture and color, adding subtleties and interest to the surface treatment. All told, I have about a hundred hours invested in this one panel, now completed in less than four. I can live with that!

Artifacts to Memories: Things I Can’t Let Go

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There is a lot of stuff in my life. I was hoping for a more delicate term, but “stuff” seems apt. Gifts, purchases, hand-me-downs and inheritances. Sixty-four years worth of accumulated belongings. Enough to divide into several categories.

There are the things I hold on to for their sentimental value. Ranging from drawings and cards that my young daughters made more than thirty years ago, to photographs, to little gifts from friends and family, to my very first hard-cover chapter book, to my dining room table. The table was a junk store find that my Dad brought home, that was used as our clothes-folding table and extra-seating-at-holiday-time table for most of my life. Then, moved out to the garage, it was my brother David’s work and party table (the surface gained a few cigarette burns and saw marks from that phase), my sister Sheila’s table to relax with a book and a beverage…and finally my dining room table.

There are things I keep because they are necessary, or because they seem necessary to me. Most of my clothing fits this category…but so do many books, plants, baskets, candles, art supplies, art work, and a large collection of flat, round stones. I know there is too much. I go through periods of purging and paring down. These “necessities” are spared, because the thought of losing them gives me heart palpitations.

Then, there are the items I hold on to, because of an – often unrealistic – idea of the person I would like to be. A collection of beautiful yarn waits, in a basket with crochet hooks and scissors, for the day when I am transformed back into the woman I used to be: a young mother, making gifts and treasures from bits of yarn. Other baskets, boxes and suitcases hold fabrics, embroidery floss, needlepoint canvas, rug-making tools and accessories, and quilt squares. My life doesn’t have room for the activities associated with all of this “stuff,” but I can’t give up on the idea that it will.

That young woman that I was, along with a Katherine Hepburn/Jo March/Martha Stewart-esque vision of a person I would like to be are evident in excesses throughout my house, from bookshelves to closets to kitchen cupboards. I would like to be someone who drinks tea, does yoga, listens to cool jazz, wears hats, raises chickens, grows all of her own food, reads the classics, and hosts lovely dinner parties…including trifle for dessert. I am not, but many of my belonging would lead one to think so.

That is the crux of the problem, when faced with getting rid of things I don’t use. I love that young woman that I used to be, with a dozen projects going and a whole lifetime ahead to finish them. I can’t seem to let go of her, yet. I still picture myself with chickens and a big garden, doing yoga, jazz music coming from the stereo, James Joyce on my nightstand. Until I give up on the person I was, and the person I want to be, I can hardly give up her accessories!