Thursday, January 3, 2008
The Tenth Day of Christmas: Some New Art
The thermometer nailed to the fence by the garage is so covered with snow that I could just see the news. It's zero and sunny this morning in Janesville. The forecast is for a warm up during the week, but today is another day I'm grateful to be here inside with a cup of coffee and the last inch of eggnog in the carton.
One of my biggest projects over the last year has been the scanning, cropping and restoring of thousands of family photos. Part of me here is playing historian, trying to understand the family history my mother assembled and passed on. Part is preservationist. Many of the oldest photos, some going back to 1900, are scratched or damaged by tape or water. The snapshots from the 1970's, including the candids from college and our wedding are just faded and dim. Many of the pictures are strangely off kilter, with a horizon tilt that makes the viewer a little seasick. Part of me is editor. The really terrible pictures, those so out of focus that nobody is recognizable, those unflattering ones of people's well-padded behinds or truly terrible hair, those with closed eyes, or those with a finger half way over the lens, take a fast trip to the trash can. Anyway, the end result is a pictorial history of our family and friends that I treasure.
I've been thinking about some of the photos taken before my birth in 1950. There are no candid indoor pictures, no Christmas mornings, no birthday cakes. I imagine that has to do with the development of indoor flash photography for the amateur photographer. I wanted to assemble a little book of birthday pictures, and I discovered there were none of my parents or aunts and uncles. But there are wonderful shots of people outdoors, on the farm, posing with automobiles, having picnics, fishing. All are black and white.
One of my goals is to use some of these photographs to inspire my art. This watercolor is my first attempt. The original photo is of my aunt, my mother in the center, and her dear friend Patty on the right. It was probably 1943. I think they were sunning themselves at the house in East Troy, where my grandparents lived for a few years. I love their obvious happiness, posing in their bathing suits, and their easy affection for one another. So, for a couple days, I'm abandoning snowy now for sunny then. I hope to do several more this month.