Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Creative Legacy

I've written a great deal about my mother over the past several years, especially in this past year as I adjusted to her physical absence from my world.   As she lost memory in the last few years of her life she began to collage.  She used her newspaper for material and pasted it into lined spiral notebooks.  Every day she did this like a job, following her eye to where it took her, creating meaning for her days. Once I interviewed her about her process and she told me that these albums were part of her legacy.  

When she passed away, her collage cutouts filled her kitchen table and her kitchen chairs had albums piled high. I took a photo of her work space before I took her clippings and put them in an envelope. I couldn't quite bring myself to throw out this last vestige of my mother.

 We were delighted that she had found this pursuit, grateful that she had found an engrossing activity.  I had another feeling, pride. So many people dismiss someone as they lose memory, their presence diminished in the eyes of the world. My mom did some beautiful creative work and it reminded me that the same person was still in there. I had admired her in all the different stages of her life and that continued into this final stage, creative and purposeful to the end.


After her death, as we divvied up the accumulation of a lifetime, I took the 21 albums.   Now they occupy a box in my studio and we have considered framing some of her work to exhibit in conjunction with work I am doing on memory.  I also have begun to use them for inspiration as I work on a series called Through Her Eyes.  I am always motivated by the idea of a series with a theme and it occurred to me that I had some great source material.  I'm not sure if it is a series yet as I only have two done, but I have so often felt as if I were seeing the world through her eyes, that I may well continue in this vein.  

 I started by painting what I recalled from her imagery.  She had a definite color palette and often used flowers and fruit, butterflies often made an appearance as well.  You can see some of her work above.  As I used paint instead of collage, it created an image with echoes, but a different feeling.

Another interesting feature in her work was crowns of fruit. I had once brought down printouts of family pictures and on one of my visits we made family history collages together. I left her with the surplus of images and on my next visit found imagery of my sister and my grandmother crowned with fruit (see below).  I was regretting not including pictures of myself after that.

I decided a painting of my mother similarly crowned would also be fitting.  It is an interesting companion to a piece I did on the wisdom of mothers, drawn from the notes on wisdom that she kept on the many books she read. The theme of that was apples as well.

So below are two of the paintings I've been working on using her collages as inspiration. 

You can find more on how my mother's collages developed at Always an Artist. It is an interesting exploration about how creativity remains even when memory flees.

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