a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Giving thanks

'Tis the night before Thanksgiving and all through my studio are scattered paper remnants, jumbles of pens, half-cocked scissors, saturated brushes, hardened lumps of glue.  Somewhere on the floor beneath them lies the detritus of creating.  I've spent nearly all day on holiday cards, one of which took nearly the whole morning.  Now, though supper and the news are finished, I find I'm still thinking about them:  what materials to gather for the next round, which recipients to work toward, what thought I want to impart to family and friends.  This year, crazily, I've vowed to produce a different holiday greeting for each of the people on my list.  That's fifty and counting.  (You may receive yours well after new year, at this rate.)

I love making these miniatures of art, not only the easy ones, water-colored scenes or crosshatches or collages in airy washes, but the more contemplative, as well.  Doing the former, I let my hand be taken by some idea that hasn't reached my brain yet, the image coming together shade by shade or shape by shape.

But the latter, that's where brain and intuition conspire, knowing there is a purpose to create for, making a notion or a need, realized or unrealized, into a vision.

That's where I was all this morning, trying to imagine a message of consolation at the beginning of a festive holiday season.  For sometimes the cheer, the overindulgence of emotion and frenetic exertion of these months leave those who are trying to bear up under loss or disaffection without anchor.  I know that feeling.  But I wanted to shed light, too, into those absent spaces in the heart, and I thought to myself, I'm glad Thanksgiving comes first.  You can bring gratitude to the surface of even grief, knowing that what we mourn for is the life vanished, but realizing how much a gift to us that life has been.  How what we are, because of that sharing, has changed or challenged or smoothed or roughed our way, and how we see (and feel) so much more because of it.

In the act of art, everything you are rises to the surface, no matter how simple the image it expresses. There seems little difference between what we feel and what, because of that, we bring into being.

rising to the surface
I am lucky to come from a family of makers, who know what it is to take an idea or vision and make it real.  My mother, who liked art much better than any other subject at school, used to sketch in pencil on whatever scrap of paper was at hand; her art classes often interrupted by family needs or travel, she took her pencil and pads on the road and left a treasure of small landscapes, faces and still lifes behind.  

Gilda's barn
My grandmother, who possibly never held a paintbrush, painted lives both fantastic and real to us in her stories.  My grandfather was an engineer (as was his father before him and his son after him), an inventor of machines versions of which are still working under my cousins' direction.  He was also a musician.  We have all inherited those proclivities.  My sisters, with otherwise good heads for the technical, dabble in painting or color and music; my brothers in music as well. Like both my grandmothers, my mother, aunts and their aunts were expert needle-workers.  Everybody cooks.  My sons and not a few of my nieces and nephews took to art, but they are also builders and inventors and fixers of everything from roads to films to funds.  They work at thinking, designing, translating purpose into practice.  There isn't one of us who doesn't know the feeling of putting hand to substance and turning it into something that feeds body, mind, or soul.  In so many ways, it saves us.

a tavola

As it happened, both the visual and the verbal unfolded into the piece I created this morning.  As I sat back to consider what my work had wrought, I seemed at once empty and fulfilled, grateful for the art that allows such lifting of the spirit and to the people who, over more than three score and ten years of my life, have become so much a part of who I am and of what I make, for and because of them.

river of life


                                              May your Thanksgiving be rich in thanks.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for once again, bringing me into my wonderful memories - they are golden and remind me of much that I am blessed by this Thanksgiving day. xo