The 70273 Project

with a side of Jeanne Hewell-Chambers

Tag: nancy drawing

It’s All About Choices, Y’all

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It’s all about choices, y’all. Choices and consequences. A pretty simple concept with pretty darn important repercussions. Too often we let somebody else make our choices for us and we are surprised or unhappy or cranky with the results. Or we go through every single day with a nasty, negative attitude and we wonder why we are so miserable. If these remarks resemble you, thunk yourself up side the head for me, will you? We learn a lot about ourselves from the choices we make and the consequences that ensue, and we learn a lot from life in general when we stew, thrive, or wrestle in life lived in the aforementioned consequences. Making our own choices, accepting responsibility and/or asking for help living the consequences, and making different choices when possible and necessary are the keys to living a self-determined life, and if you ask me, there’s no finer way to live.

Too often we take away the choices of others in the name of expediency or ease. Take dying people, for example. As life wanes, all too often opportunities to choose do, too. I’m not talking about drastic measures – that should already be spelled out in the living wills and such. I’m talking about things like what to eat and what to wear and what would you like to listen to now.

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We spent today with Nancy, and we fiddled with cloth because I wanted to give her the option to do something besides draw. If you could see the video (I am, for the first time ever, traveling without my computer, and let me tell you: there’s a rather steep learning curve when blogging from the iPad, so alas, no video.) hear me in the background of the video asking Nancy what color cloth she wants to add next. (Though I don’t have to admit it here since you can’t see the video, I will nevertheless tell you that I am surprised and embarrassed and disappointed at the way I kinda’ rushed and overwhelmed by offering 3 color choices instead of waiting for her to process and decide, but that’s the value of video, and now that I’m aware, it won’t happen again.) She chose to fiddle with cloth; she chose which colors she wanted to add; and eventually she chose to pick up her crayons. 

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It was, as all days spent with Nancy are, fun, worthwhile, and thought-provoking. What say we make our own choices instead of abdicating our power, and what say we strive to gift others with the opportunity to make their own choices every chance we get. It’s a quality of life thing.

Scratch

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This weekend,
I suffered a flare-up of the ever-familiar
doubt,
fueled and fanned by the never far away question
“Do I even have a voice to call my own?”

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Having spent my life as a teacher,
a mother,
a wife,
a daughter –
having written plenty of personal histories
been a freelance graphic designer helping folks look good in print
edited books penned by other women
now stitching Nancy’s drawings,
I can’t help but wonder:
do I lose my voice by giving other women their voice?

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Is my voice one of back-up,
second string,
bridesmaid?
Is that as good as it gets for me?

My maternal grandmother made biscuits from scratch three times a day.
Folks devoured them enthusiastically (even when cold)
and praised her name with reverence and awe.

Do I have anything original and worthwhile to say from scratch?

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Having finished In Our Own Language 3 (shown in photos above),
I begin stitching In Our Own Language 4.
95 drawings made in November 2012
in which Nancy wrote her name
then covered it up,
camouflaged it,
hid it.

in the home stretch . . . well actually, sliding into third base is more like it

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as i stitch, i wonder what nancy’s thinking as she draws.
what she’s trying to say.

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i marvel at how most of her drawings are one stroke.
she puts the pen to the paper
and doesn’t pick it up till she’s finished
with that particular drawing.
the “x” tells me which side is the top.

i have 37 of the 271 drawings left to stitch
on In Our Own Language 3.
if i stitch 4 drawings a day, i’ll be starting on the border before the end of the month.
join me in a squeal of excited anticipation?

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miss luna moth came to visit my studio last week.
thank goodness she stayed on the other side of the glass
cause you know: moths and cloths don’t exactly go together like a horse and carriage.
but then i guess that depends on whether you’re asking me or the moth.

///

susan lenz, one of the most prolific artists i know,
tagged me in her blog post today. go here
to read more about her process and what she’s currently up to
(she really does turn the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse.)
and stop back by next monday when i’ll answer the questions
about process and productivity.

getting organized and taking stock

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where other girls wore pretty necklaces and lanyards they braided at summer camp, i wore the cutest little brownie camera you ever saw. you know, the kind you had to lick the base of the flash bulbs to ensure they’d go off when you snapped a picture. i guess i’ve always been the family historian, and once upon a decade, i earned my living as a personal historian, recording stories about a person, then sifting through their photos and documents, eventually pulling everything together into a book.

at the suggestion of several people i met at that workshop a few weeks ago, i’ve started writing a book about nancy. one day last week i took stock of her drawings. turns out i have 11 sets (remember, a set = the drawings i bring home from a visit with her), and the numbers look like this:

set 1 – 6/2012 – 167 drawings
set 2 – 8/2012 – 454 drawings
set 3 – 10/2012 – 271 drawings
set 4 – 11/2012 – 94 drawings (we were with her only one day that time)
set 5 – 3/2013 – 162 drawings
set 6 – 3/13/2013 to 7/13/2013 – 366 drawings (these are drawings she made at her day program
set 7 – 7/2013 – 35 drawings
set 8 – 7/2013 to 11/2013 – 279 drawings
set 9 – 11/2013 – 102 drawings
set 10 – 12/2013 to 6/2014 – 889 drawings (yes, really)
set 11 – 6/2014 – 257 drawings

i ordered binders and page protectors to store them in instead of the rubber band method currently in use. next week, i’ll get them in the binders, and i’ll scan the sets i haven’t yet scanned. i’m kinda’ excited to be able to look at the drawings while slipping through a book. every time i look at them through a different lens, i see different things.

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meanwhile, i continue working on In Our Own Language 3. last week i figured i could have it completed by the end of july. now that’s funny and proof that i live in a fantasy world.

The Same . . . But Different

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(Above photos of kantha stitching by Dorothy Caldwell herself, used here with permission)

Dorothy told us about the women of Bihar, India and how they were under cultural house arrest until one day they decided to go outside and talk to each other about their stitching. The men were nervous – very nervous – until they began to hear the whispers of ka-ching, ka-ching. Once the women huddled-up, they set about changing their lives, their families’ lives, their future’s lives.

For example, knowing that the dwindling profits from fishing were dwindling, they came up with a solution and every day for three months, the women entered the river and pulled the overgrown plants by hand, allowing the fish room to grow and multiply. They tell this story and many, many other stories in stitch using the basic running stitch – in and out, up and down. The kantha stitch they call it, and they use it brilliantly to record their history artfully.

After hearing about these women and seeing examples of their glorious quilts, I set about using the kantha stitch for one of Nancy’s drawings from In Our Own Language 3. I usually use, well, I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s a basic stitch that I use to trace each drawing, to recreate Nancy’s drawing as a line drawing in stitch. I found using the kantha stitch with colored thread a playful way to stitch Nancy’s drawings, and I ‘spect you’ll see more of the colorful kantha pieces in the future.

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Presented here, separately then side by side, are two stitched versions of the same drawing. Same drawing, different looks. The plant? It’s a moon flower, a little something my husband surprised me with from this morning’s pre-workshop romp through the New Albany Farmer’s Market.

Before we thread our needles this morning, Dorothy invited me to talk about Nancy and how she draws and I stitch. I showed them In Our Own Language 3 which is not even half finished yet, and let me tell you: the open, loving reception and the ensuing stories they sprinkled on me throughout the day will warm my heart for a long, long time.

The women of Louisville Area Fabric and Textile Artists (LAFTA), who made this workshop happen, are some of the most hospitable, engaging, talented, interesting, supportive women I’ve happened upon in a long, long time. Mega, uber thanks to Kathy Loomis, Dorothy Caldwell, MJ Kinman (who will soon have a blog for me to direct you to), Rosemary Claus-Gray, Joanne Weis, Linda Henke, Linda Fuchs, Sue Yung, Marti Plager, Linda Theede, and Debby Levine for making this such a marvelous, magical time. And, as I told Dorothy as I hugged her ‘bye, I’m not much of one for sheri worship, but if I was, she’d be The One.

look closely and you just might catch a glyphs of it

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Judaculla Rock, a boulder covered with petroglyphs is not far from where we live.

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We had trouble finding it . . . probably because it is right out in the middle of a field. Hidden in plain view.

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Archaeologists estimate that most of these glyphs are between 300 and 1500 years old. It is thought that this petroglyph is on the site of a council house mound and served as a boundary marker for Cherokee hunting grounds which were closely guarded by the legendary giant and master of animals, Judaculla.

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(In Our Own Language 3.79)

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(In Our Own Language 2.2)

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(In Our Own Language 3.102)

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(In Our Own Language 2.2)

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(In Our Own Language 3.56)

As we walked around the rock, I was taken with the similarity between these drawings and Nancy’s drawings, finding both evocative and an invitation to introspection and wonder.

I am tickled beyond description to be participating in a two-day workshop with Dorothy Caldwell exploring human marks and expressive stitching. I’ve long admired her work and though our work varies in its theme, focus, and purpose, I am hoping to conjure ideas (as in be inspired) for faster and creatively intriguing ways to present Nancy’s work. In her talk tonight, Dorothy showed photos of petroglyphs she saw while working in the Outback of Australia, many bearing a striking resemblance to those on the Judaculla Rock.

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(In Our Own Language 3.260)

Most petroglyphs tells the story of the people who lived there; some offer directions, warnings, or blessings. often wonder what Nancy is saying with her drawings, with her marks. My theory is that she’s expressing her emotional response to what’s happening around her.

In Our Own Language, indeed.

what makes us smile

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Maybe she’s in a bad mood, but then Nancy doesn’t do bad moods, so who knows why she’s not smiling.

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I pull out the sketchbook and pens, always giving her a choice since she gets to choose so few things in her day-to-day life. She selects the purple pen (because purple is still her favorite color) and without saying a word, she begins to draw. She doesn’t stare at something, wondering how to recreate it on the page; she doesn’t think about what she’s going to draw, she doesn’t ask me what I want her to draw. She just puts the pen to the paper and draws, our Nancy does, and it’s a sight I’ll never grow tired of.

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And as I turn to a clean page for her seventh drawing, she’s smiling.
Art does that for a girl.

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She fills the page with her drawing – very rounded, and flowing, very similar to the first set
of drawings
she did in 6/2012. Then she comes back and obliterates parts of the drawing with layers of heavy marks. “I like it,” she says. Then “I’m good at this” followed by “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I tell her. Then, probably because of the good music they were playing at the restaurant, I say “Nancy, do you remember when you and I would go back to your room and you’d put on your favorite records and we’d dance and sing, just the two of us?” Of course Nancy doesn’t grasp the concept of memory or passage of time, at least not that we can tell. Maybe she charts time differently than we do. Maybe she’s drawing the memory of us dancing and singing as I talk about it. These lines and marks seem to be becoming her vocabulary, you know, a way for her to express things she can’t articulate in words. Nancy’s not bound by calendars and clocks and words.

We met Michelle this morning, Andy, Nancy, and I. As we were leaving, Michelle said “Goodbye, Nancy” and Nancy reached out and grasped Michelle’s hand, looked her in the face, and said, “I love you.” Nancy’s not bound with societal norms and fears either.

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In Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within, Steven Aimone says a drawing is finished when nothing else occurs to you or when you really like what you see.

(It’s true that I occasionally view that frenzied obliteration, those layers and layers of lines in terms of how much time and thread I’m gonna’ need.)

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And when you’re finished drawing, it’s time to go to ride in the convertible, of course. Another thing that makes a girl smile.

[ :: ]

The museum exhibit closes tomorrow, so I’m a day early and have nothing to post about in Nina Marie’s Off The Wall Friday, but I’m taking a cue from Nancy and tossing the calendar out the window.

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