Friday, March 19, 2010

The Many Roles Art has Played In My Life

I mark the milestones of my life with art.  When I look back at the various ages and stages I have been through there is always some form of art as accompaniment on my soundtrack.  I have been enthralled by, curious about, dabbling in, experimenting with and pursuing art in its many forms as long as I can remember.

At the age of 5  I first asked to take piano lessons.  I played up until about the age of 24 when work and family and finally everything else became bigger priorities.

I drew horses both real and imagined all through elementary school.  

My great-grandmother showed me how to crochet a granny square (and play solitaire) when I was ten.

I was immersed in horses for all of my pre-teen years (drawing, riding, and reading horse stories). I read  (more than once) every book Marguerite Henry (author of  Misty of Chincoteague) and  Walter Farley (author of The Black Stallion) ever wrote.  I figured out how to turn a granny square into a blanket for my model horses by adding chains of stitches to act as the belts that hold a blanket in place.

In my teenage years I taught myself to play the guitar  and played keyboards in a high school band.

I discovered boys early in my teen years.  Flirtation is an art that I excelled in naturally. As an aside there is an expression I heard long ago that rings very true with me.  It is: Girls use sex to get love.  Boys use love to get sex.  Neither is satisfied.

I wrote a lot of poetry in high school and college.  Very heavy on the angst of that period in a young person's life, very light on actual talent or craft.  Lots of whining.  Lots of grand theatrics about trivialities.  But like every person between the ages of 12 and 32 I didn't know what I didn't know.  I was my own person who knew best for me and I know everything so screw it all and get the hell out of my way.

Reading has always been important to me too.  When I was in first grade and my mom came for a parent-teacher conference I was told to wait out in the hall.  They left the door slightly ajar and didn't realize I could hear them.  The teacher told my mom that I would always be a slow reader, below or just at grade level.  I was in the remedial reading group.  The teacher just sort of shrugged her shoulders at the whole of me, what could she do?  It wasn't until four years later when a family friend gave me the first six books in the Nancy Drew series that I began to read.  The books were brand new, the spines hard and firm, they had that 'new book' smell, and Nancy Drew with her pumps and cardigans was so cool.  Then in seventh grade I had the opportunity to take a speed reading class.  I jumped at it.  The memory of my 1st grade teacher's words came rushing up out of my subconscious pushing me to improve myself if only to show her. (note: I have never remembered her name or her face and we moved away from there when I was ten but I have never forgotten her words!). [ Note: Choose your words carefully.  You never know what will stick in someone else's soul and once said, can never be un-said.]

Through my teens and twenties books have always been a huge part of my life.  I haven't read most of the classics but I am OK with that.  I do love Shakespeare (even took a course on the bard when I went to Penn State).  Emily Dickinson, ee cummings, William Blake are among my favorites.  My dad lent me "From Here to Eternity" at the age of thirteen.  The sex scene on the beach was shocking and amazing.  It opened my eyes to the power of words and sexual imagery.  From there he gave me The First Deadly Sin, The Second Deadly Sin, and so on.  I have loved detective stories and cop fiction ever since.  A boyfriend in college insisted I  watch "The Osterman Weekend".  Of course, I then had to read everything Ludlum ever wrote. 

I got hooked on photography in college.  Eventually earning an Associates of Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degrees in the subject.  The kinds of photography that speak to me the most are documentary, sports, nature, and portraiture.  I love math and science so of all of the arts, photography presses more of my buttons at a single time than anything else.

I combined my fascination with "the boys in blue" and photography while a senior at the Moore College of Art.  I was stumped for a topic for my senior thesis and out of frustation started thumbing through the yellow pages.  I got to the "public safety" section and a lightbulb went off.  I had seen a book of black and white photos taken in New York City where the photographer (sorry, I don't remember the photographer's name or the title) followed NYC beat cops and took some amazing photographs.  I called the Philly police dept and  amazingly they said, "Yes".

That was the coolest 6 months of my life!  I spent the bulk of my time with the mounted unit.  I even rode one of the horses on the lawn in front of Independence Hall!  I also spent a fair amount of time with a K-9 training class.  Then there were the two beat cops who worked "Jeweler's Row".  Maybe now that we have a scanner I will take the time to scan some of those images in...

When my husband and I were still just dating he took me home for that all important panic attack inducing meet-the-parents visit.  I was delighted to find that his mother's obsessions are quilting and cross stitch.   I learned both of these arts from her.  I stopped doing cross stitch out of frustration.  Frustration that I do not have the drawing talent needed to create my own intricate patterns.  Frustration at the necessity of always refering to a pattern (I'm a wing-it kind of person).  And, finally frustration that it aggravated my carpal tunnel syndrome so terribly.  With quilting I know the mechanics but I don't enjoy doing it.  I do, however, enjoy the design process associated with quilts.  Gayle (my MIL) and I are currently finding our way in this area.  She loves the actual making of a quilt but always works from someone else's pattern. So we are a good fit together except that she prefer the much more traditional style of quilts whereas I love quilts that are more modern and abstract.  Oh well, it is just another beginning.

I have gone on and on about knitting, dying, and spinning.  I won't bore you here with more of that.  If that is stuff you don't, in fact, find boring then try this link for my Dyed Bright Here blog.

I am  a HUGE fan of Twitter.  The previously promised post about twitter is still stewing in the back of my brain.  I will serve it up when it is ready....soon.  I have stumbled upon a huge number of writers.  Some of these people actually earn a living (or part of one) with their writing.  But, most pursuit it either as a part time job or just as a hobby they would love to earn a living with.  A few (like me) just find the ability to string together words in such a way as to tell a story, convey emotions, make the reader feel something fascinating to say the least.  Writers use the same words as you and I.  Or should that be you and me?  There is an art and a craft to choosing better words.  The best words.  And putting them together in such a way as to impart feelings.

Lately, I've been writing a lot.  Mostly because I've been forcing myself to.  It reminds me of the time I used to spend sitting at the piano practicing every day.  I had to make myself go through the motions.  The scales.  The arpeggios.  The sonatas.  The etudes.  The preludes.  And then, once or twice a week when I had the time and the inclination, I got to riff.  To just let go and play anything and everything that I wanted.  To create music that fit my mood for the day.  I used to play most of Elton John's greatest hits and they were good for letting go.  Sometimes I just composed on the fly.  Back in the day, we didn't have computerized, digitized keyboards that would take down your work as you played it and put in on the staffs for you.  If I wanted to keep something past it's initial birth I had to memorize it.  Play it over and over again, and painstakingly transcribe it to music paper.  Yea, that didn't happen much at all.  To continue the comparison between practicing the piano and writing everyday, I have found that poetry, specifically haiku, is the type of writing that I can just let loose with.  A sort of written riff.  Something tells me you may be seeing a lot more of that here in the future.

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