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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer distilled

One of the things that I liked best about my grandparents house was the amount and variety of reading materials. Besides the Detroit papers, Grampa had the Smithsonian, Scientific American, National Geographic, Reader's Digest and Modern Maturity as well as Prevention. My tow favorites were NatGeo and Reader's Digest.

I loved the maps in the National Geographic. But I loved the writing as well. It was somehow more entertaining than the Encyclopedias but it had the same kind of narrative quality. And the animal pictures made you feel like you could reach out and pet them, which is only appealing when its the big cats; ocelots, jaguars, Bengals and the little African guys that are the size of a German Shepard. The tree frogs and toads I could have done without.

The Reader's Digest was great for humor. But it was the vocabulary quiz and the occasional fictional pieces that I liked most for reading material. The most special part of the Reader's Digest was the part that almost no one ever looked at... the back cover. For whatever reason, the publisher didn't put an ad there. Instead the whole cover was a piece of artwork from a classic or contemporary artist. Everything from floral watercolors to Impressionistic landscapes, Klimt patchworks to Mondrian minimalism, photos of sculpture, architecture, collages and assemblages, blown glass, portraits... everything was there at some point. To be honest there was a lot that I didn't like. But there was also a lot there that I would tear off and save in a file for leafing through on a rainy day at home without the exposure the art that I got at Gramma and Grampa's.

What made me think of that? I finally got to look through the last issue of Somerset Studio that I bought. The July/August 2010 issue feature's Anahata Katkin's work on the cover. There is a whole feature article on her work in the middle. When I saw the cover I thought "Wow, this feels familiar." You know, in that nostalgic this is what Summer used to feel like way that I've been having for most of this Summer. But it wasn't until I got to page 47 that it really struck me.

The collage on page 43 is something that comes straight from the inspiration on the back cover of reader's Digest circa 1976-77-78. Oh it is new work to be sure. Nothing stolen from some long lost issue. Its that it has, in my mind, a direct connection to the imagery from my youth. I remember in terms of color, smell and music. The more the senses are involved in an experience the better the recall later. And in the piece on page 47, the pastels are the same intensity as the colors I associate with humid Summer days in the back cottage or the lake cottage at Gramma and Grampa's. The sepia black diagrams are so much part of the charts and maps in the books and magazines that Grampa used to teach me about the world. He grew red roses and there were birds every where. The was bright against a pale background. But the pale wasn't washed out it was vibrant, just not audacious. If you were to distill everything about Summer at my Grandparents house to one or two collages... this would be it.

Funny thing about that. I couldn't handle collage work when I was in school. It seemed messy and chaotic in the juvenile way that it was explained and encouraged. I could never quite figure out how to unify elements the way that they felt unified to me when I conjured the thoughts in my head. I could never figure out how to make the elements blend as organically as they did in my head. Anahata's work is fabulous. I think she is my new favorite person to watch for in Somerset Studio.

I need to go sit by a lake in this humidity and absorb this collage for a while. The only people who think that is a weird thing to do are the people I work with. It may be time to quit trying to fit in there.

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