(this entry is dedicated to my niece Chandler, who loves this song and who I like to think of when I write silly things on my blog)
The North Ogden Art Festival is a little over two weeks behind me. I started writing about it a week ago, while I waited in the Salt Lake City Airport (doesn’t that make me sound cosmopolitan? I hope so). Tried writing more of the story later in a hotel in San Antonio. How romantic and writerly is that. There was even a cricket under the bed, who came out to visit me while I took a break from my laptop and did a few pushups on the floor (that was me doing pushups, not the cricket). We (he and I) could have been the new archy and mehitabel*, but sadly for him, his adventure ended in imprisonment and in the loss of one of his legs, rather than in unlimited access to my keyboard. He sat for a day and a half in his transparent jail (a hotel glass), wishing he was a dragonfly (if he were, I’d have let him go—he knew that, because I told him). All of which reminds me of Snow White’s fate, minus her universe-altering kiss. I don’t know if she lay quietly dreaming about dragonfly escapades while she slept under glass; her dreams will forever remain mysterious, but with that kiss, it is certain she lost her head. Who ever was happy living in a cloud castle?
Ah, writer’s block. I know it isn’t a literal thing; it is a state of mind that anyone can easily talk themselves out of, if they know the right words to say. But still. If I knew the right words to say, I’d type them and then I wouldn’t have writer’s block, literal or figurative. Anyway. Close friends make queries about how the art festival went; I have to write something. Plus I promised people who walked past and through my booth (whether they wanted the promise or not) that I would post my latest paintings that very week. I also told people (more than two weeks ago, remember) that my website was fun to visit. Oops.
In my earlier attempts at writing this, I wanted to include also the adventures that followed the art festival. They all seemed relevant to me, because I am a Woman, most comfortable and happy with the whole picture. Doesn’t every day add to the whole? Isn’t there beauty in panorama? But written down, my more holistic account looked schizophrenic and disjointed. And since I’m no Shakespeare, the reader’s inevitable suspicion that the work was written by a suite of writers would only detract. So I’m letting go, allowing the blog to do its magical thing: lend cohesion to a gaggle of disparate entries. Today, it will be the two-and-a-half-week-old art festival.
(Pictures of the new paintings will be posted forthwith. Without further ado, asap, post haste and anon.)
The story does have to be told in the context of a conversation with my sister Leah though. I can’t let go of that. I can’t explain why, beyond the fact that Leah and I always tell the best stories together.
Before San Antonio, before Salt Lake, exactly a week after the art festival, I went for a morning run with Leah on a dirt road in Oregon’s Blue Mountains. My routes in Utah are all flat; I was surprised and exasperated when my arms and hands started to tingle as we took on a long hill close to my parent’s farm. “You so have asthma! You sound just like my friend Michelle” my sister exclaimed as I wheezed up the hill. She tried to comfort me, telling me about her friend (who is in marathon shape) with exercise induced asthma. Sigh. Will it take an inhaler to keep up with my sister? Do inhalers even work that well? Still concerned, she asked me about the art festival, and we slowed down so I could talk.
(I love this about Leah. Eighteen months apart, we spent our growing up years either as best friends or worst enemies. Sibling rivalry was intense. I think it still exists in some of the nooks and crannies of our personalities. But when she says, “tell me”, it is like someone has opened a door and let in a flood of sunshine and asked me to come out and play. Of course I want to tell her absolutely everything. So I did).
I told her about the exhausting weeks before the art festival. How much I painted (I’ve never had–or taken– that much consecutive painting time before!). How I would be pleased one minute and dissatisfied the next with my work. I told her about my intense self-doubt as I looked at my collection of paintings, worried about exposing myself as an artist (would people think I was a fake? would they see through whatever I’d done, recognizing my insecurities and ineptness and inexperience?). How the night before the art festival, as I tried to install paintings in their frames, I shot right through two newly finished frames with the power nailer. The nail tip exposed in the otherwise flawless front. How I had to ditch most of my grand ideas for staging in the interest of time and space (I wanted tubs of flowers or at least ferns and swaths of mosquito netting type fabric, reminiscent of “Out of Africa”—and I wanted my paintings perfectly placed so they’d set each other off). How I’d begged Frank to support me in abandoning the day altogether, both the night before and the morning of (“I just want to stay home. I’m tired; I don’t have to go; no one will really miss me. I’m not ready. I don’t want to do this.”). How hot it was the Saturday of the show, how Frank and I were completely drenched setting up (even with Maurya’s help)–this, before nine thirty in the morning. How imposing the clock seemed (we had fallen behind schedule in our set up; we didn’t have enough hangers; the thumbtacks for the background fabric kept bouncing out of the wood and disappearing into the grass; I couldn’t decide on painting placement).
But especially, how surprised and delighted I was by so many people’s interest in my art once the festival actually began, how very fun the conversations were. How I’d like to repeat that, the meeting people, the conversations. By eleven or so, I was having a great time, hosting my sauna-like art-filled booth for the curious or appreciative passerby.
And how very, very surprised I was when two women walked into my booth and noticed my little sign with my name on it. You’re Lynaea Brand? they asked. Yes, that’s me, I said.
Well, you just won something, one told me. Won something? I never win anything. Yes, I think it was the grand prize, she said. No, I didn’t, I said. I couldn’t have. Impossible. Yes, we heard your name. It was just announced, just a minute ago.
But it turned out to be true. I’d read earlier in my info about the competition, that a piece from each artist in the show would be judged (regardless of medium and genre), that there was a grand and a first and second and third prize, but of course I hadn’t thought it was relevant to me. I hadn’t even selected which of my pieces I wanted judged. I didn’t know who the judges were when they passed by my way.
They had chosen a painting of Maurya in glasses, liking that it was monochromatic, seeing that there was a connection between artist and subject.
How validating! One of the judges (he introduced himself after the fact) bought a small painting from me for his wife (who I think was another of the judges). The painting was of my sister Andrea, looking pensive on her wedding day (both paintings are already in my gallery). I was touched; he was quietly sincere in his appreciation, honoring me as a real artist.
And so, I told Leah, I am excited about continuing to paint. I still want to be an artist. I don’t think I’ll ever get rich, but I love sharing what I’ve done. I love getting a response, and talking with people about what they like and what they think.
Here is something else I love about Leah. Less reserved than the judge but no less sincere, she made a point in our conversation-on-the-run that resonated with me. “Isn’t it cool how when you push through those moments that seem like imminent failure, the moments where you’re filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, you learn such good things about yourself? What you’re really capable of, what you really want, who you are? Even if pushing through doesn’t lead immediately to success, it always leads to discovery.”
Yes indeed. And thank you, Leah. And thank you Frank and my children and all the fun, interesting people who wandered through my little hot tent at the art festival. Thank you Marilyn for inviting me, and Gloria for organizing the event. And thank you, all my dear friends out there in the big world, who asked how it went.
*note: archy and mehitabel are obscure characters that I discovered in an essay/review by E.B. White, who is one of my favorite essayists. Yes, he did far more than write “Charlotte’s Web”; for years he contributed to the New Yorker magazine. Anyway, apparently a weary journalist named Don Marquis found his voice again (somewhere in the 1920‘s) when he invented archy, a cockroach, and made him his ghost writer. No, reverse that. Made himself archy’s ghost writer. mehitabel was another supportive invention, a cat (I gather)— and a racy source of philosophy and conversation for archy. archy had glorious and wonderful things to say, but he couldn’t capitalize any of it because he couldn’t reach the shift key. I quote White here:
“Archy has endeared himself in a special way to thousands of poets and creators and newspaper slaves, and there are reasons for this beyond the sheer merit of his literary output. The details of his creative life make him blood brother to writing men. He cast himself with all his force upon a key, head downward. So do we all. And when he was through his labors, he fell to the floor, spent. He was vain (so are we all), hungry, saw things from the under side, and was continually bringing up the matter of whether he should be paid for his work. He was bold, disrespectful, possessed of the revolutionary spirit (he organized the Worms Turnverein), was never subservient to the boss yet always trying to wheedle food out of him, always getting right to the heart of the matter. And he was contemptuous of those persons who were absorbed in the mere technical details of his writing. ‘the question is whether the stuff is literature or not.’ That question dogged his boss, it dogs us all.”