Happy Spring ! Here in New England it has been a long winter - even for those of us who love the snowy season. It seems she is finally here and green things are starting to poke through the brown leaves in the garden.
I've been continuing to work away at my business plan and goals for where I want to take my work in the coming year.
I've been considering storytelling and it's importance in not only my life but in all our lives. It binds us together, helping us to learn from one another's experience and to realize our similarities. When I was young I remember wanting to be an oral storyteller, using puppets to tell stories from all over the world. I collected folk tale books from many different cultures and traditions. When I was in college I went to the University of Wales, Cardiff to translate the written Welsh folktales the university holds in it's collections. My senior exhibition was completely illustrations from stories I had written and some that I had brought back from Wales. When I had children I loved to introduce them to the stories I had loved as a child, some that my mother had shared with me from her childhood library. Some of her books were no longer being published so we read from the copies of the books her mother had read to her. Passing down stories, whether folk, fictional, myth or family history are the stuff of connection between elder to child and between friend to friend, stranger to stranger. Stories can be shared through an oral tradition or through the written text, around a crackling fire or on a bar stool. They give our life stories meaning and a means to make sense of them.
When it comes to my work, storytelling plays a central role in my intention. It's important to me that when someone views my work that their imagination immediately begins to weave a story about what they see. In the Imagined Still Life series I want the viewer to imagine the person who has set that particular table and what the objects mean to them: did that mushroom pot belong to her grandmother? Was that pottery bird brought back from a back packing trip across Europe? In the Beasts series my hope is that when a viewer looks into the eyes of these animals they are immediately brought into it's soul and it's story. I want the viewer to ask why that honey bee looks so unhappy and cramped or why that Tapir has been so rude as to upset the civilized ritual of a tea party. Story draws us in and connects us to the why of the narrative; whether in a folktale or a portrait.
In the "story seed project" conveyed in my Gumdrop Hill Series, the title starts the tale spinning with a suggestion for the narrative. This concept was pushed even further when a friend, who teaches third grade at a local elementary school, showed her students the image above and asked them to write stories about what they saw. The results were varied and wonderful! The circles in the sky became snowballs flying in a snowball fight between siblings. The ferris wheel itself became an alien ship from an unknown planet. I was able to visit the class and tell them how delighted and inspired I had been by their stories. I was able to demonstrate the use of tissue paper layers in my work as they created their own gumdrop hill scenes. So fun!
And finally, when a client commissions a piece for their home, I get clues from them that I can weave into the piece which allows the viewers of the work to play a sort of treasure hunt, finding the pieces of the family's history that are meaningful. I hide important dates, names, quotes, etc... into the composition. The intention with these projects is to set the table (so to speak) for conversations between the family members and the friends they share the piece with as it hangs in their home. During the commission brainstorming conversation itself I hear many stories of the client's children, family and the meaning of their individual shared histories.
Story is important - what story do you tell with your work, around your camp fire, in your head?
Some of my favorite artists whose work uses story to bring the viewer into the work: