Paintings on the Ceiling

Paintings on the Ceiling

Every now and then an odd artistic idea drifts into my head and I have an overwhelming impulse to turn the idea into something real, beginning immediately even if it takes several weeks or months or even years to complete.

I think most creative people recognize this feeling, and I think most can also identify some of the emotions that trigger it.

For me, some of the most common creative emotional triggers are also some of the saddest or most negative: loneliness and sorrow, frustration and stress.

toothpicksFor example, one time after a particularly stressful and irritating week at work, I hand-painted a few hundred toothpicks and then arranged them in a pattern I then glued together and hung on my living room wall. When I was going through my divorce, I spent several months refurbishing an old farmhouse window pane by mounting decoupaged family photographs (including one of my ex-husband) in the panes; I did this to remind and redefine family for myself.

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But it is not depressive thoughts or sadness that compels me to creative; rather, it is creativity that helps me work through those emotions. The work I’ve created in these states is meditative, highly personal, and ultimately very therapeutic.

The most recent example of this is something I’ve been working on in my head for quite a while but put into reality this weekend.

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The idea is a series of 1×1 acrylic paintings on stretched canvas, each of them with some sort of 3-dimensional embellishment (a table and chairs in one; a mirror in another, etc.), mounted onto the ceiling in a grid in my library.

I made four of the paintings this weekend. My intention is to continue to add more to the ceiling as I paint them, eventually covering the whole room. I think that will take about 100 paintings, total.

As I said, I’ve been thinking about this sort of idea for awhile – toying off-and-on with the thought of building a miniature “set” of a room in my house and then mounting it from the ceiling in that room, so that when you’re sitting in that room and look up, you’re looking at an inverted tiny version of your environment. And I might still do that one day.

maproomBut then I thought I could go ahead and do something interesting to the ceiling, including with 3D elements, in a simpler format using paintings. My daughter and I went to Rome this summer, and my favorite part of the Vatican Museum was the Map Room, where the ceilings are inlaid with a series of encrusted paintings and priceless frames. It’s a different, more extravagant look than the austerity of Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel.

NOT that my paintings are anything remotely like the Vatican! :)

paintingsMy paintings – at least the four I made this weekend – are abstract representations of my grandmother, who is in hospice care in Auburn, Ala. One is blue and green squares in a post-modern pattern that makes me think of a couple of rooms in her house on the lake, including one our family calls “the green room”, which is furnished with an avocado green bedroom suite from the 50s. This painting has a little coffee cup in it. In my mind, it is spiked with Tia Maria, which was our custom when my grandmother was well. The second painting has a table and two chairs and a painted woven rug like the one in her living room. The third has flowers and a gold mirror. She told me last weekend a story about looking at herself in the mirror and having a conversation with her mother, whom she resembles more and more every day. And the fourth is a tree of life with a clock mounted in it. I think the oldest antique in her house is a clock that belonged to her great grandparents and is one of the few items of value that remained after a long-ago family property dispute. Like many elderly people, she repeats this story, and all of her stories, like it’s the first time we’ve heard them. But that’s okay. One day we will miss it. I think we already do.

Working on this weird little project has been a way to be close to my grandmother and work through some emotions I have about the journey she is on. Art can most certainly be therapeutic, and even if you are not an artist (I’m a creative person, but certainly don’t consider myself an artist), spending some time creating with your hands can be intensely helpful. For me, it’s usually painting or crafting of some sort, though I know others get this same release from cooking, woodworking, sewing, etc. Whatever your preferred medium, I hope this post offers some value to folks who might be looking for productive ways to deal with complex emotions.

Unpopular Choices for the Right Reasons

Bravery comes in many forms, but “people who made unpopular choices for the right reasons” is apparently not a common Google search term.

So says my daughter, who – for a family project about dealing with peer pressure – put together a research paper on people who have made such decisions.

Her choices are both historic and very modern.

AND she built it in PowerPoint, which is all the more awesome.

Here it is – with a blog title optimized for the next kid who’s asked to write such a paper.

The Inherent Hope of Uncertainty

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Like many in the South, I grew up thinking that faith required conviction, and that uncertainty, or doubt, was what we experienced in moments of duress or weakness.

Like many here and everywhere, the older I get, the more I realize that I (and everyone else, particularly those with the most unyielding beliefs – about religion, politics, how we ought to live, whose football coach is the biggest cheater, whether Coca Cola or Miracle Whip makes a more moist chocolate cake – you name it) am utterly clueless.

I will be 37 next month. My daughter is 12, and every year she can remember, one of the teachers in her public school has asked the class to raise their hand as she reads off a list of Christian denominations. Because teachers when I was growing up did exactly the same thing during history units about “religious diversity” or the Reformation or the Puritans, I believe this is for the most part innocent if not completely ignorant, disrespectful and borderline unconstitutional.

And when she tells me she raises her hand for a different “random” denomination each year because she doesn’t want to feel left out or – worse, be called out – my heart aches because I know exactly what it was like to feel “othered” because, unlike the kids who were unquestionably BAPTIST! or CHURCH OF CHRIST! or raise-your-hand-if-you-are-CATHOLIC!, I went to a tiny Lutheran church where I constantly questioned and even fought against most everything we were taught. Continue reading

Things Thought and Mostly Unsaid at the End of the Year

A dog went for a walk before the sidewalk set, and left his impression in the wet concrete. A little boy noticed this and etched his initials nearby.
The boy enjoyed the moment, but I wonder what the dog thought.
Among the things I think about on when walking alone at the end of 2013: It would suck to step barefoot into wet cement.

Also…

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12th & Broad Memberships Open Dec. 9

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Work-related post, y’all. Using my personal blog because we are still putting the finishing touches on our website. I do love my job, but writing about it here is atypical. Anyway!…

In ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, we officially open memberships to 12th & Broad. What does that mean?

It means that for $14 a month, members get:

  • Tickets to our events (at least one a month, held in unique spaces in your favorite neighborhoods with wonderful local creative and business partners)
  • Home delivery of our quarterly glossy magazine about Nashville’s creative and entrepreneurial culture
  • A digital subscription to The Tennessean
  • Perks like free drinks, ticket giveaways, and exclusive experiences with our partners.

Everything we do is designed to celebrate the talented, inventive and thoughtful people, organizations and businesses collaborating to make Nashville the place we are so proud to call home.

Become a member next week and you’ll get in free to our “Christmas Staycation” party on Friday, Dec. 13. Tickets for non-members are $25, which itself is a steal considering:

  • We’ll have My So-Called Band playing 90s covers in a motorcycle shop / vacant gentlemen’s club in the South6th District, which is emerging as a new arts scene we know you’ll want to support. (Thank you to our friend Shelby Smith for letting us use his awesome building between Music City Center and the Nashville Rescue Mission.)
  • Our non-profit creative partner, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, is helping us with over-the-top Christmas Vacation-themed decorations.
  • Everyone will get at least one free drink (members get two), complements of Lipman Brothers.
  • And if you bring a new or gently-used winter hat (think Uncle Eddie from the movie), we’ll be sure it’s donated to the Mission across the street.

This whole party – like Nashville – will be at least 15 shades of amazing.

Tickets to Christmas Staycation – as well as memberships that will get you into a year’s worth of similar events with topics ranging from music and literature to art and fashion to food and rec sports – will go on sale on Monday, Dec. 9.

Memberships and Christmas Staycation tickets will be available on our website, which launches Dec. 9.

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY!

Things That Keep Me Up At Night: From Bro-Oprahs to Convenience Marriages to Feminists’ Daughters

Here is a partial list of themes I keep thinking I’ll turn into a blog post, novel or at least a Facebook rant. Maybe you all can help me figure out what to do with them.

In no particular order:

1. Whether people in a position to hear other people’s secrets (priests, therapists, flings) have a more compassionate, or more jaded view of mankind. Related: whether you need to know someone’s secrets to really know them.

2. Young, bro-Oprah types who seem to be trying to “help people” as writers / speakers who talk about themselves a whole lot. On Twitter, at conferences, in blog posts about blogging, etc. (Are they underemployed? Looking for girlfriends? A mystery.)

3. Writing a performance review for your life. Not your work life. Your whole life. What would your goals be? How would you measure success? How would your kids, friends, doctor, neighbors rate you?

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On being photographed with a cocktail in hand

In her family, people fought bravely with addiction and depression. They made gut-wrenching personal decisions and accepted tough financial times with graceful humility for the good of their children.

His family was full of drunks and crazy people. They had abortions and lived off food stamps. Continue reading