I live in a Confluence of Creativity that inspires me every day. The people who work with children’s books, creating them, teaching them, promoting them, putting them in the right child’s hands … they are dedicated to being creative. It fills me with awe when I hold a book, when I hear a teacher’s enthusiasm for a book they’re reading out loud to their class, when I observe a librarian telling a book’s story with puppets and suggestions of scenery. This is creativity … and we’re blessed when the next generation is inspired to follow in their creative footprints.
I have had three Carl Larsson prints hanging in my home since I first lived on my own. I love his intricate line, his colors, but most of all his subjects: home, family, and everyday life. The book Carl Larsson’s Home was first published in the 1890s and there are still versions of it in print! He had a rough childhood, but he persevered, creating a lovely home life for their children with his wife, artist and interior decorator Karin Bergöö. His art helps me recognize when I am content.
The Poetry of Puppetry! A roomful of enrapt children listened to the poetry of Langston Hughes, Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, and many more poets read by a caterpillar, a polar bear in a refrigerator, a talking wall, a mail snail (oh, the delight of receiving mail), and other characters brought to life by the Loki Puppet Players at St. Paul’s Central Library. I am grateful for the gifts that talented librarian Kim Faurot and her fellow puppeteers share with all of us. They’re performing this show three more times in April. If you’re near St. Paul, you’ll want to go (and maybe bring a child or two with you).
Last night we watched Episode 1 of Season 3 of The Art Detectives. Art expert Dr. Bendor Grosvenor and social historian Emma Dabiri examined what was thought to be a copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait, hanging on the wall of Knightshayes Court in Devon, UK.
Bendor walks us through the scientific investigation and consultations with experts to find out if, instead, it is a study, done by Rembrandt himself, for the final painting.
Emma interviews various people and travels to pertinent locations to place the painting in its time and culture. (We learned that the last owner was one of Britain’s first female golf champions, not widely accepted by male golfers.)
For us, these episodes are an hour of absorbing art and social history. I’m grateful that this kind of learning opportunity is available. We learned more about Rembrandt than we’ve ever known before! And was it an original or a copy? Suspenseful.
Did you read album liner notes? (I know, what’s an album?) Many of my album covers are worn out because I read through those notes over and over, especially those that had lyrics for all of the songs. I appreciated knowing who the musicians were for each song. I used to imagine their studio sessions and how they interacted. If you look up “liner notes” online, you’ll find articles mourning how liner notes placed the album in a specific time and place. They were recording history for the future. I even dreamed of writing liner notes when I grew up. I’m grateful for the people who did write them … and the artists who made them beautiful. CDs often included liner notes (in miniature) but now, with streaming music, we need a website that has readable images of all of those liner notes of decades past … and going forward.
I have long appreciated how the search for knowledge begins with one specific hook. As a young reader, I set off on some wacky journeys to learn everything I could about any number of topics, absorbing as much as I could, sometimes writing reports so I could do something with the knowledge, making my interest fit the assignment, but always feeling a hunger satisfied.
I am grateful to “Woman in Gold,” a good, not great, movie with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds that follows the attempt to recover a stolen work of art. The movie led me to find out everything I could about artist Gustav Klimt. I had been been aware of him but that’s different than purposefully researching his life and learning about the influences on his art. This is the “Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer,” finished with gold leaf. Isn’t it beautiful?
I was saddened to learn that David Palladini passed away last week. From his illustrations for Jane Yolen’s early picture books to his renowned Aquarian Tarot deck, he was an artist I admired. I am grateful for the images he created for the world to keep.
Yesterday, Steve and I sat down with our newly washed collection of dish towels, deciding it was time to cull those that are too thin to be effective after decades of use. We don’t use a dishwasher, so our dish towels are crucial kitchen equipment, as they were for generations before us. The aspect for which I’m grateful is that so many women chose to display their embroidery talents by telling stories with these towels, thereby turning them into art. We have towels stitched by my mother, my grandmother, and two aunts. Each time we use them, we feel that connection. Quite often, the stories they tell are funny: vegetable musicians, naughty kittens, and Mother Goose, as well as a set that depicts dishes in the colors of the pottery Steve and I collected when we were first married. Those that we set aside because they no longer have a practical use will become part of a fabric art project I have in mind … their stories will stay with us.
I am grateful for the people who inspire me, many of whom I have never met, but they have given great gifts of art, music, exploration, and innovation to the world—and I’m grateful to the people who write about them. When I read The Secret Kingdom by Barb Rosenstock and Claire A. Nivola, my world and my heart opened to encompass Nek Chand, a man who was homesick after an enforced move (the Partition of India). In the woods near his home, he hid the statues of people and animals he made out of reclaimed objects and stones. Eventually, people discovered his artwork. The government tried to shut him down. His neighbors protested, for they had come to love his art. Today, the 25-acre Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India, holds more than 2,000 statues, waterfalls, amphitheaters, and works of art. People visit from all over the world. Sadly, Nek Chand died in 2015 and now the Rock Garden is struggling to stay open.
If you need a rest from the day’s challenges, enjoy the creativity of Charley Harper (1922-2007), an artist who celebrated nature with his “minimal realism.” For me, his compositions are joyful and reverent. Here’s a video about his work and here are illustrations from The Giant Golden Book of Biology. I am grateful for Charley Harper’s commitment to expressing his connections with nature so we can enjoy them forever. [below, “Red and Fed,” by Charley Harper]