Art For The People

What I might lamely describe as rain and the middle school girls laughingly referred to as moistiness, we stopped at the two painted silos. Beautifully painted with agricultural scenes, these two silos stood empty by the side of Route 15 for years.

I walked through a puddle-ish field. The girls, impetuous, ran.

I’ve been aching for weeks now for some brightness of color — and here it was — art transforming the landscape.  Around the back of the further one was a barred owl I hadn’t seen. The girls wandered over cement pad around the silo, talking about what might have once been here.

Four more cars had parked around mine. We took one last look and headed off into the mist and rain — the moistiness — again.

In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we have forgotten, and some of the terrible things we were asked to endure…

— From Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water


No Fear

I’ve heard authors read work from mesmerizing poetry to an essay about a colonics session – but the Argentinian cartoonist I just met likely ranks at the very top. Incredibly famous outside the verdant realm of Vermont, the cartoonist sat on the floor with the kids and told stories and made the little ones laugh, and assured them they could all draw, too.

Even after the adults tried to close the hour, he kept on answering the kids’ questions, saying, This is an important question. This is good.

At the very end, a boy asked how he could become a cartoonist. The cartoonist said, Like this. Tell your parents you will need a book without these things – and here the cartoonist drew four parallel lines on a piece of paper – those are not helpful. You will need a black marker. And then you are on your way.

Great rule of thumb: when in doubt, get rid of the lines.

In my opinion, childhood is one of the most intriguing phases in life… For instance, when they (kids) draw, they do it with such freedom…! We adults can’t ever experience that level of freedom again, simply because we are scared of looking ridiculous or failing or making mistakes. When they draw, my kids have no fear. And that’s the hardest trick for an artist.



Magical Realm

As the kids and I drove into Barre, Vermont, this afternoon, the little boy in the back seat said,  I really don’t like Barre.

I’m with the kid, I’m reluctant to say, for reasons no doubt wholly different than the boy’s. We were headed to The Nutcracker, in the gracious Barre Opera House. On the way there, I drove behind the county courthouse, repository of windowless hallways and claustrophobic rooms, countless tears of human misery.

But I trusted ballet could rewrite my experience of that city, and the magical dance did not let me down. At the performance’s very end, high up in the balcony, I realized  – in what should be a, well, duh, moment – that ballet was all about the transformative might of imagination.

All the way home – and here’s yet another driving story, yet another journey – we drove on icy roads through the smokey blue-black twilight, and then arrived in our own home town with full darkness ringed all around, velvety and deep, and the village lights twinkling white. The town itself might have been the opera house stage, lit-up and beautifully arrayed for the holidays.

When I was twenty, I worked nights for a summer. I loved driving at night as a young woman; the darkness around my two Volkswagen beetle headlights felt ripe with possibility, and I believed myself invincible with youth. In an odd juxtaposition, nearly thirty years later, possibilities stretch out even more infinitely before me. Although I now know the illusion of invincibility, I think I’ve traded that for something deeper and far more valuable in those sparkling lights.

Unamuno might be describing the artist as well as the Christian as he writes, “Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”

– Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art