The Goodness

I recently went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw an installation by William Kentridge called The Refusal of Time

I don’t know about you, but when I go to museums, which are like candy shops for me, I give myself an ‘out’, which goes like this, “Go ahead and wander around until something ‘sticks’.” This version of ‘candy’ takes up mental space, I figure I should not apply my full attention to anything in particular until my internal bells and whistles begin firing. I really do not want to give my energy away before I have had my moment.

So I wandered around, predominantly on the second floor, where I stumbled on a show called Jewels by Jar. I like sparkly things, not a lot, but I do, I meandered through the gallery, which was very dark, I looked at the amazing jewel encrusted sculptures, they were really neat, Jar has major talent and imagination. But what I really liked, was seeing the New York dames, elder women, neatly dressed, holding the print-out closely and trying to figure out what metals, jewels and fibers were used in each piece. I have always loved elder people and I fall in love easily. 

I fell in love that day.

Then I stumbled into a furniture exhibit, centered around the dressing table. This was a low key gallery as far as I was concerned. It held my interest long enough to take a fun selfie.

But soon after this, I entered into the installation by William Kentridge ( the top most phot in this post). I really like the art this man makes. Every piece I have come across satisfies me, touches me deeply and this installation did not disappoint. Surrounded by projections on all three walls, sitting on a chair affixed to the floor along side an active bellows of some sort of machination, while listening to some really ingenious music, I became immersed in this 35 minute experience. 

It brought tears to my eyes, I was amazed. I love that. I love when good art makes me cry. When good art makes me think and pulls me away from what I think is true and relevant and fills me with wonder and anticipation. 

I want to see it again.

And whenever I go to the Met, I always seek out the gallery just outside the Antonio Ratti Textile Center which had an exhibition of William Morris fabrics and wallpaper. This is just food for the soul. This textile lover, up and coming textile designer, loves William Morris. Being able to lean in and really look at printed cloth and wallpaper? Being able to see the ‘thuck’ of the block printed paper (the texture that the ink leaves), oh my goodness. That was a treat beyond measure.

I left the museum with a lightness, an airiness that had not been there previously.

What museum, show or gallery have you been to that has rocked your socks? Tell me in the comment, please.

Love and Happiness, filling the well.

DSC_0084My creative efforts are paying off in more than just the physical manifestation of cloth piling up and asking to be pieced. Making stuff calms and centers me. It helps me to remain true to myself, and it gives back in numerous and often, immeasurable ways.

Having been diagnosed with cancer, going to doctors appointments, settling into life post-treatment is an interesting endeavor. When I was going through treatment, I used writing Dreaming from the Journal Page as a focus to keep me steady, grounded and open to Melanie as a whole, healthy, well rounded individual. Cancer and its treatment can be all consuming, and I imagine that without a grounding force, it could be quite easy to give yourself over to your diagnosis and start identifying as a patient and survivor. I knew from the start that focusing on myself, my whole self, commiting time and energy to making artwork for the book and to writing it, was going to help me get through the difficult bits and help prevent identifying too closely with being a patient.

I will always be a ‘survivor’, but I find this sort of label to to be just a single facet of a broad and sparkling life. I am also a wife, an artist, cat mom, a woman, a friend, a human being. Life can be overwhelming. The trauma of treatment, worry over recurrence can be debilitating or even just plain distracting. When we say things like, ‘art saves lives’, I can honestly say, yes, this is true. In the last 8 months, I have been actively applying art to my daily regimen of getting used to being flat chested, taking Tamoxifen, getting Zoladex shots, healing my body, mind and spirit.

Printing cloth, steaming and ironing it, sorting through it and seeing the results of my efforts is a serious dose of Self Love. 

IMG_2513Loving what you do and refilling the well of the self is truly important and can do as much good for the body as going to museums. Last week, I went to  The Morgan Library and Museum with my friend Kailey (see photo below) and I did this as a celebration of my birthday.

What you see here is the imprint of an ancient seal. Seeing the minute detail in these seals and knowing a human, at one time, held, carved and used these little pieces of magic is amazing. What you see here is the seal itself, not the carved cylinder that creates the impression (that can been seen as a tiny bit of red at far left, but I did not capture it in photograph).

While I was at that museum I also saw the illuminated manuscript show (photographs were not allowed). I love illuminated manuscripts and this collection was amazing. I like to ingest illuminated manuscripts as if watching a movie, I want to see every detail, I like to think about the monks who painted and wrote out the pages, I wonder at the symbols, the scrolls, wonder who held and used the book. This time I was able to see an illuminated manuscript owned by Pope Leo X, and there, tucked into the scroll work on the outer left edge was a unicorn…

Sigh.

That book was almost 500 years old… maybe even older.

I am a mere 44 years old. 🙂
IMG_2515Wait a minute now.

Who is this gorgeous girl? Why, it’s Kailey, a woman who photographs things with real film. Huh? I love this young woman. I can say she has interned for me, but better still, I can say we are forging the bond of a friendship that will last a lifetime. Friendships heal us too and finding people you bond with is a gift beyond measure.

Kailey reached out to me as she was finishing high school and forging a path for college and beyond. She had a final project that required she reach out to people in an area of interest to her hoped for, eventual profession. I was one of those people. You might say I mentor Kailey, And I do, but there is so much more to our friendship.

Again, this is a relationship that fills my well.

IMG_2524And in order to fully celebrate my birthday I needed some girl time! Cricket and her girls, Elliot and Alex, came over and I took this as an opportunity to get the girls sewing and quilting. You can’t start too early! (I must say, Cricket has a jump start here and her girls see her knitting, quilting and making stuff often). Afterward we went to Farmacy and had ice cream! Vanilla with caramel sauce… Yum.

IMG_2526I guess the real point of this post is to say, I am writing a perscription to broaden and expand what fills  my well. I love hanging out with friends, going to museums, walking, lifting weights, making things, hanging out with my man and loving on a certain Peach colored being. These things help heal the rift caused by the traumas of cancer treatment and they help me leave the trauma behind.

One would think that after almost two years, I would have this aspect of my life wrapped up and tucked away, right? In my experience of cancer, the fight starts just after treatment ends. But we all know, even if we have never faced a diagnosis like cancer, that the only way out of a situation is through it. When we ‘stuff’ the effects of daily life, it only seeps back into our present through back channels.

I read an article in the New York Times called The Trauma of Being Alive, it’s quite a good one. It helped me. It suggests that you lean into your trauma. I like this term, I like the image of ‘leaning into’, it suggests being in control-being able to back away, but it seems gentle. I would push it a bit further though and say, ‘Lean into the trauma’ but also look to your passions and invest in yourself through them. 

So what do you do to fill your well? How do you regenerate, slough off  the ‘trauma of being alive’. Do you lean in, as the article suggests? When you are faced with difficult times, do you invest in yourself and your passions? Take naps, go for walks? Exercise? Bury your head in the sand? Drink some awesome beer?

How do you fill your well?

IMG_2540Maybe you lay on the rug and take salacious photographs of your furred friends!

Breath of Fresh Air

Last week I took myself out for a much needed day on the town. I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I stumbled upon what is probably the smallest exhibit there, Gems of European Lace. It took me about 5 minutes of trying to locate room 599 before asking a guard where the room was. When I finally found the room, I was quite pleased to be alone in it.

OMG. Usually when I go to a museum or gallery, it is my hope that something will affect me deeply. I hope to be able to have a physical response to what I see. I shed some tears, I was so deeply affected. 

One of the pieces on display was presumably used and worn by Marie Antoinette. I took photographs of every single piece. I tried to imagine who might have made the lace, man or woman. This needle lace piece? Those hexagonal supportive stitches that hold the piece together? 7 stitches per bar. Um. Wow. 

Ever since I was a child, I have held textiles, lace, embroidery, crochet, cloth, the items that are considered ‘feminine and female’ in the art world, in high reguard. I mean, just look at the story told in the lace above. Angels, a fountain, birds, flowers, tassels, bugs. All the good things, represented as a story and wearable too.

Experiencing a hand made item like this, one that is as old as it is, makes me want to be a better artist. It gives me something to  strive for. It might also suggest that I need to employ an army to get all the things I want to, done!

I am dyeing threads and trying to work all of the kinks out. See the threads in the box? The manner that I dye threads creates these white undyed spots (that show up as lightly colored flecks), which occurs every 6 inches or so. This week I am working on eliminating that undyed spot. It takes alot of time, because I am dyeing thread in groups of 48 colors. I think I figured it out, but, I need to wait for this last batch to soak and dry before I can confirm this.

And because I need something to embroider, now having gads of colors and thread options available to me, I started making what I am calling Breastplates. The rabbit from earlier this week is part of the Breastplate at lower right. I will stitch, sew and print these plates for some time to come.

The party begins.