This post is #30 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.
The same grandparents who instilled in me a love of reading and writing also gifted me with my deep and abiding love of real, honest-to-god art.
Not posters or reproductions (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but art: Paintings. Statuary. Sculptures. Bas-reliefs. Lithographs, woodcuts, silkscreens. Mobiles.
I spent a good part of most weekends during my childhood with Gram & Gramps, reading or writing or making art, and hearing the stories behind the many, many, MANY paintings and sculptures thoughtfully arranged throughout their beautiful apartment on the Near North side. You grow up with an ear for words and music or a eye for color and shape by being immersed in the stuff, and I was: living with art made me an artist, albeit one more facile with words than music, color, or shape.
There’s an energy that artist-made art is imbued with. We get a hint of an echo of it in dead-tree books, which is why it’s so hard for those of us who grew up loving them to let go of them entirely. But fine art vibrates with the energy of the artist, the energy that flowed through the artist and into the medium. The paint, the metal, the stone, the wood. My grandparents had art of all kinds surrounding them at all times, all their lives. Their very first painting (which I own) they bought on their honeymoon, in 1928. The mat and even the matboard have yellowed, but the painting itself, of a village street somewhere in the tropics, looks like it could have been painted yesterday. It is timeless. It is a wormhole through time, connecting me to my grandparents, to that island (which they most decidedly did not visit for their honeymoon), to the artist, to a sun that shone on an Earth that is my Earth and not my Earth, on people who are like me and not me.
My grandparents had paintings like they had books: everywhere. The kitchen, the bedrooms, the hallways, the bathroom, not just the living room. (Their personal photographs, on the other hand, actually were personal, tucked away in discreet leather frames on the dresser, or on a corner of the desktop. Or, you know, with a magnet to the fridge, just like everyone else in the known air-cooled universe.)
Which is how I have my artwork, everywhere, just like my books. Above my desk, in my hall, in my bathroom, in my kitchen. By my front door, where they’re the last things I see when I leave. In my bedroom, where they’re the first things I see when I awake.
Art makes my writing possible, inspiring me out loud when I can’t have music on, putting into two- and three-dimensional form what floats around in my head.
Which is why I was particularly delighted when a fellow writer, Geoff Barnes, outed himself to me as a fine artist, and offered to contribute to the 50-for-50 Project not only his dollars (which he’d already done, and generously, thank you, Geoff!), but his artwork. Or, to be precise, his original, custom, one-of-a-kind-made-for-a-supporter-of-50-for-50 artwork.
You can see one sample of Geoff’s delightful work above. You can see a number more in this Flickr gallery. And you can (and should) most definitely hear Geoff talk about them in this video. He’s charming and self-effacing and all the things one should be in general in life, and specifically on video.
Now, come on: what better holiday gift can you imagine than painting created on behalf of a good cause by a writer/artist/father-of-three? “Pony” doesn’t even come close.