Cadmium red and some matchbooks.
My grandmother would be so proud of me these days. (Well, that is a given; She was always proud of me.) She wished that I would pursue a life filled with art. During my childhood she praised all of my creative pursuits and she proudly hung my art in her home. One piece hung across from a Chagall (no really – a real Chagall) and the other hung next to a Calder (yes really – a real Calder). During my adulthood, she frequently asked me why I barely made anything anymore. I shrugged it off, but the real answer is that I did not (and still often do not) think of myself as “talented enough” to make anything. Unfortunately, one my greatest flaws is a quickness to give up rather than to perfect or simply be satisfied.
It was not until the last few days that I realized that my grandmother really thought of me as an artist – she was not just paying me lip service. And now that I am finally tapping into anything creative as an adult, she is not here to see it. That thought makes me deeply sad. So sad in fact, that I am crying all over my keyboard right now.
That said, I am finally pursuing a mixed-media project I have been mulling over for weeks. When I was going through my grandmother’s belongings I found a sizable match collection for a woman who quit smoking before I was born (and denied ever smoking). I did not know why, but I felt compelled to keep the matches, so I bagged them up and brought them home. A few weeks ago I pulled them out and realized that they each were connected to a story I may never know. Many of them were from businesses in her neighborhood, but there are also matches from the Holiday Inn in Wilksbarre, PA. If you knew my grandmother you would probably wonder what she was doing at the Holiday Inn in Wilksbarre. There is a matchbook that is so old that the restaurant’s telephone exchange reads circle 6. That is not old for a person or old for many objects – but for a book of matches – that is old.
While thinking about the matches, a piece of art started to form in my mind. Today, I began to work on it. As I painted my canvas cadmium red and got lost in the simple and broad brush strokes, I felt as if I were an artist. Now sitting here, typing, I unfortunately just thought to myself “don’t be foolish, Laura.” Hopefully this process will help me see what my grandmother saw – if not for me, then for her.