Y3 Art Resolutions is the third year of an evolving resolution to elevate every day by looking at art and creativity as a life’s philosophy.
At year’s end, even those who avoid it, ponder the meaning of life–if only for a few brief moments before the onslaught of football and the distractions of beer and tacos overwhelm. This is not my way. There are those who may say I have an aversion to moderation. Yes, I have spent every unencumbered moment of the holiday season reflecting on a very strange and intense year. A year testing my core optimism and sense of hope.
2016 will forever be marked by my Mother’s death. Losing a mother creates an existential maelstrom. Who was I with her? Who am I without her? What did her life mean? What will mine? Where do the answers come from?
As an artist, I turn to design. For me, it is the bedrock of understanding. It is the plan, the elegance and precision with which pieces fit together, the whole, life’s map–a blueprint for the movements of creativity–like this blog. For 7 years, this has been one of the ways in which I can observe and learn about those life elements which informs the picture or scheme of life. I come back to what I had hoped to achieve in writing–establishing an exploration of philosophy through the lens of creativity.
Seeing design–beyond the obvious.
In 2016, I could accomplish only 24 days of translating my resolution into a concrete output. In 2016, finding art, beauty and creativity everyday was often a solitary pursuit. There was not the time to share it, but it happened nonetheless.
The daily exercise of elevating life took many forms that helped me survive an unimaginably difficult year. Creativity often dovetailed with meditation and reflection, music, nature, and losing myself in writing or changing things in my home and my life.
Of art and craft.
It is impossible to close 2016 and begin life on the planet of 2017, without looking at the different creative muses Mom and I followed. Like many children, I both wanted to be and not be my Mother. I admired her talent but heard a different drummer. The ultimate difference was our different relationships with two things: art and craft. Mom dedicated her life to building the skills to make the finest creations she could. I cared less about pristine corners and perfectly blended edges and more about the intellectual journey in art and the rush of innovating.
As I reflect on her work, she brought more than the perfection I often got stuck on. She made things that elevated daily life — clothes, bedspreads, quilts, upholstery, mittens, cakes, pies, and Christmas stockings. I will care for and cherish forever the handmade lap blankets and quilted potholders — the recipe scrapbook and handcut Easter basket tags.
Channeling the Chuck and Alice.
From this place of reflection, I have channeled not only my parents’ skill but their sense of humor and playfulness this first holiday without them both. I have commemorated a family tradition that seems specific to the Van Bogaerts–Tripoly.
Mom and Dad were card playing people of a card playing generation. Many times, I have recounted stories of the aunts and uncles collecting at our house on a weekend night. They would play cards. The men would drink Blatz beer out of quart bottles and smoke White Owls and Prince Edwards. The women would sip lime vodka and 50/50. They all would snack on cream cheese and onion soup dip on chips and revisit family history and the latest. We kids listened through the second floor register until someone heard us and ordered us to bed.
Somewhere along the way, Tripoly showed up. I suspect Mom found a game mat at a rummage sale long ago. Wherever and however it came to our house, I am not sure, but I can’t remember a time without it. As kids, we began playing it on holidays. As we grew up, it was a standard activity when everyone came home. Big kids, little kids, card players and those who did not play — all could come together for Tripoly. Everyone collected at the family dining table and Dad brought out an old plastic container filled with petty change. For an hour or so, the decibel level leaped. Cards were slammed on the table. Accusations of cheating were charged and we laughed–hard.
In this year when so many have been able to find so little which they can share, Tripoly seemed like the great uniter. This profound realization came too late for Amazon to deliver, so I channeled my mother and bootstrapped two Tripoly mats–one for the Neal family and one for my son, Thomas, and his Cassie. I confess to being humorously proud of the Neal mat, at least until my son, Philip, cruelly informed me that the “kitty” and “10” spots were missing in my rendition of the mat.
The Thomas/Cassie board was the greater bootstrapping accomplishment. Packing cardboard, duct tape and black marker. Primitive. Certainly having a character of its own. We tried it out last Friday night and it played well. If it survives, I like to think that future generations will wonder about it’s curious personality — but, more than that, be inclined to hang on to tired board with its own rustic charm and bootstrapped history. Appreciating something of art, craft, and family folklore.