Art Resolutions is a self-imposed initiative to create an art study every day for a year.
More than a study.
I have been quiet but not uncreative. Quiet but not idle. Quiet and accomplishing a behemoth artistic goal. For a year, I’ve been working on a book describing and collecting my Mother’s fine art. This has been a significant undertaking and a bit daunting in that it is a legacy project. Getting it right has only been one aspect of an endeavor which I will remember as beset by ridiculous missteps. The complications began a year ago and continued all the way to delivering the finished book this weekend.
The back up plan.
Ten years ago, I wrote a book of stories about great memories of my Mother’s creativity as I saw it growing up. Pulled together quickly, it wasn’t the ultimate product I’d wanted to deliver. But at the time, doctors thought she had lung cancer and I wanted to create something — a testament of sorts, to the gift of creativity modeled for me growing up and, in thanks of so many things she ‘s given me. I’d written about her clever practical application of creativity in the earlier book. But few people, even in the immediate family, had seen the contents of a big portfolio buried in storage. During high school and a few years after, Mom created model studies and still life drawings, a pastel, and several watercolors. This is the extent of her fine art which became the focus of the book I gave her when I went back to Wisconsin at Christmas.
Last Christmas, I took the portfolio home on the pretext that I would have it professionally photographed for posterity. I had hoped to do the book for Christmas, but didn’t have time. Instead, I made a calendar of some of the collection and tucked the Zip drive of expensive scans in a safe place to use for the book which I now planned for Mothers Day.
I felt good about the extension as it would allow me the time to complete the second piece of the project–interviews with her about her art, studying at the Chicago Art Institute, and her thoughts about art in general. So I traveled to Wisconsin in January and recorded an hour of her reflections on these pieces, her Chicago adventure, and assessment of the great masters. Then came home to misstep #1. There was no interview on the tape. Not sure what happened, but I was disgusted with myself and now behind schedule. A big expansion of my program at work kept me from getting back before Mothers Day to retape the interview. Then business travel in early summer got in the way. In July, Mom was in and out of the hospital. I interviewed her again As she recovered from the last hospital visit, but she wasn’t yet back to being herself. I decided to forego using interview transcripts for the book’s text. Instead, I chose to write a narrative based on what she said in the interviews.
With Mom’s health uncertain, I felt I needed to move as fast as possible to finish the book. With the draft narrative written, I went up to the office to find the scans. My one recollection of putting them away was that I was putting them in a she place. You will have guessed by now that I was not successful in figuring out where that really safe place is. I cannot convey the depths of my self-loathing. Suffice it to say, I had doubts about my abilities in personal growth and development. After some vile internal dialogue, I was able to recognize one redeeming personal characteristic–contingency planning. Life’s 2×4’s have taught me to trust Murphy’s Law. Planning for the unlikely, I had taken large format photo with my iPad of all pieces I had scanned. Though not the quality of the professional scans, I would place money on the average person being able to see the difference. Well done, iPad! My dark Belgian side also reminded me that the only good part about Mom’s macular degeneration is that her once critical eyes would never know the difference.
The Amish see making a perfect product an affront to God. And, so they incorporate a flaw in everything they so diligently work to make the highest quality. Not so with Mom. In the book I so quickly put together 10 years ago when we feared she might not survive lung surgery, there were several typos. These were the first things she commented on. I produced the current book using Blurb, an online publishing company. I worked every free minute for several weeks to get the book done before my November travel schedule started. Long hours are not good for proofing. Actually, there is innately a certain blindness in editing your own work. You guessed it. The first book had two typos. That book will live in my house as a reminder of my own imperfections. (It joins many others, but is, perhaps, the most expensive).
We both had tears in our eyes when I read it to her. She had talked about being forgotten when she is gone. I told her that all the memories she has built, all the live she has given through quilts and things she has made–and this book would live on to introduce her to generations who will follow. I think maybe that struck a chord. I hope it did.