Monday, July 14, 2014

Amelia V Fields - What's in a Name?

A few weeks ago I was in Brooklyn, NY.  We regularly walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and back to get some good exercise.  This day my husband, Jack, and I kept going when we got to the other side.  Our destination was Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial.  The Memorial Gardens are open to the public and the 9/11 Museum opened a couple of week sago.  For several years after the 9/11 attacks we watched periodically from a nearby hotel window as heavy equipment moved earth and debris from the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood.  We read of the competition among architects to be awarded the commission to commemorate this tragedy and tell the story of that day.
On this visit, we decided to just visit the gardens and fountains.   We'll come back to the museum at a later date.  It was a beautiful day, just like 9/11/2001. The garden was  full of people but there was a quietness in the area.
The two pools, which represent the Twin Towers, are filled by water rushing down each of the 4 sides and then emptying again into a smaller pool using the same waterfall concept.  Everything is crashing straight down.  This is a very powerful concept.  It recalls the sight of the towers dropping to the ground within seconds, it seemed, just like we all watched on our televisions over and over in those September days.  
I grieved like our whole country grieved.  I grieved for the lost lives profiled in our newspaper everyday for months  and the left-behind families and friends.  I grieved for our country that had been violated. But we did not suffer a personal loss.  We had our close-enough call on 9/11.  Our daughter was living in New York and working in Soho, blocks from the World Trade Center.  We were one of the lucky ones to receive her call before we knew about the situation.
In most ways, we moved on.
At the memorial fountains, names of those who died in the attacks have been laser-cut into the metal surrounding the fountain.  I chose a name from the few thousand and made a rubbing in my sketch book.  Amelia V Fields.  I don't know who Amelia V Field was or what she looked like.  But she is the name and person I chose.  She will represent for me everyone who is remembered and memorialized at the 9/11 fountain. Some days she is a young woman tackling her first job.  Some days Amelia V Fields is a kitchen worker in the Windows on the World Restaurant whose legs hurt after a long day of standing.  Amelia V Fields will be my touchstone to the greatest national tragedy I have ever lived through.  Amelia V Fields will make this sacred park and fountains come alive in meaningfulness for me.
Art and creativity have many jobs.  They enable us to speak and be spoken to through symbols or impressions..    Through the artistry of this beautifully conceived architectural space of commemoration, the creators tell the story of our loss and our grief.
Isn't it human nature to want to be remembered after we are gone?  I am sorry you lost your life this way, Amelia V Fields.  I will always remember you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Receipt of a Gift

"The Visit" by Julia Zollman Wickes
Art and artistic people have always been around me.  I suppose I have always taken it for granted that that was just "what we do" in my family.  With the recent death of my Aunt Mary Rose and our memorial gathering, I would like pay tribute to a great artistic influence in my life.

My memories of Aunt Mary Rose are very colorful!  

Mary Rose was my first Aunt.  She was 20 years older than I.  She was married to Uncle Frank.  When I was a little girl, we lived next door to the Aunt Mary Rose and Uncle Frank and shared a huge emerald green back yard.  They had a wonderful, fluffy, lovable collie named Trouble who was my best friend back then.  

Young Mary Rose had long black hair, which she wore pulled back in a chignon with colorful clip on earrings and colorful clothes.  She wore high heels, even for a day of shopping at L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis.   She had a warm wide smile and a little space between her two front teeth, which I loved, because I did, too.  Her mother, my grandmother, whom we called Dandmama, called our teeth Butter Teeth. 

Although Aunt Mary Rose worked as the bookkeeper/secretary at the Bedford Auto Company, our family's family business, she was an artist in her soul.  After high school she headed to Chicago to attend art school to become an illustrator, commonly called a commercial artist in those days.  She left school to marry Uncle Frank and they moved back to her hometown of Bedford, Indiana.  Like her mother, she expressed her artistic talent mainly in her home decor and her clothing.  While my grandmother incorporated light or turquoise blue to  accent her home and her standard uniform of gorgeous black dresses,  Aunt Mary Rose's home and fashions danced with a full spectrum of bright colors. 

Aunt Mary Rose liked to entertain and she was a great cook. The family had moved to a new home down along the White River and they had the biggest round dining table with the biggest Lazy Susan I had ever seen always filled with delicious food served on FIESTAWARE OF EVERY COLOR.   I have a vivid memory of my cool Aunt Mary Rose wearing short shorts, a colorful Mexican ruffled blouse and big red earrings to one of her parties.  

Several years ago, I made a special trip to tell her that I had enrolled in art school.  We talked a lot about art and artists.  Some time later I made a painting of her entitled "The Visit", which recalled a lovely luncheon with my mother, Aunt Mary Rose and me at her giant banquet table in her 3rd home, which I always thought of as The Castle The table was always set for the next feast with colorful dishes, napkins, goblets and centerpieces.  Little clusters of interesting objects or groups of furniture were arranged throughout the house, like in a painting.  The sun, hitting the prisms from the chandeliers cast rainbows on the walls and the mirrors reflected the array of colorful dish ware.  It was like a fairy land everywhere you turned.

When Aunt Mary Rose was at the end of her life, we traveled to see her and say a final good bye. She asked me not to forget her.  

How could I ever forget my Aunt Mary Rose?  

She, with her deft hand at spotting a colorful object and knowing just where to place it in her home, has given me her gift.  She is in every painting I make, every decision about which blue to paint the lamp next to the green chair, which shade of purple for the shadow to place on a yellow floor, which green to lay in under the chin.  We both just knew these things from having art and color be the filter through which we see so much of the world.  

The painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, once said:
"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for.”

A couple of weeks ago, family and friends celebrated Aunt Mary Rose’s life.  The table was set in The Castle for the last special meal and the food was delicious. .  And I think that for those who took the time to look around the rooms in this house and let themselves listen, they heard Aunt Mary Rose speaking to them in her special colorful words.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Great 40th Anniversary Escapade, Part 3 or, Baby, It's Cold Outside

Well, baby, it sure wasn't cold outside at the beautiful tea house in Shanghai in July of 2013.  It was at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  But jumping ahead to January, 2014, it is a wonderful day to fix yourself a cup of tea, sit in your favorite chair and pick up that book you have been trying to get back to.
We sat down to a tasty and educational tea ceremony/demonstration in a lovely Shanghai tea house. I spent my time at the table tasting 7 teas, taking notes on the various properties of teas and painting the tea host.
p.s. If you know where to buy Lychee Black Tea, let me know.  A cold winter night is a great time for a cup of tea and "for romance", according to my notes!