Mind Reading: A short, short story

 

Don’t look, I told myself.  I didn’t want to see what the anchor woman liked to do after three martinis.  But it wasn’t as easy as turning away, this new sense of mine.  At work, I looked inside my boss’s head, a shallow crevasse.  I always knew he was an ass.

In the afternoon, disaster was averted because I saw the trucker dreaming of his Lazy-boy.  And what confidence I felt when challenging my son on his undone homework that night.  Exhausted, I wore my green gingham gown to bed because I saw it reminded my husband of his mother.

–by Becky Ruth Powell

 

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The Wedding: A Short Short Story

The Wedd

The Wedding

Short, short story by Becky Ruth Powell

She looked at the name on the wedding cake.  She couldn’t remember whether she was Lisa, or Beth, or Mary.  She was Lenora this time.  She looked at her new in-laws, who adored her.  Mother, aunt, sister, like three scoops of sherbet in pastel dresses, strands of pearls buried in folds of neck-fat.

Lenora considered whether she’d rushed things by spiking his cup of wedding punch, but when his head plopped onto her shoulder she dismissed doubt.

Amid the chaos of death, she inherited his sizable estate.  Her in-laws fussed so over her well-being, she grew fond of being Lenora.

Evocative Sights

Mother of God Santa Francesca, Rome 3rd-4th century Encaustic icon

A recent customer shared with me the memories and feelings that one of my collages evoked for her.  It got me thinking about the feelings triggered by things we see.  We’ve all seen people who so resemble someone else that we are compelled to call that person and tell them we’ve spotted their doppelgänger.   A glimpse of something similar to something else evokes memories that may feel good or terrible.

The way the brain processes information when we read is a good example of how we processes what we see.  A veteran reader reads faster than a new reader because, through her experience, she’s looked at so many letters, words, sentences, and patterns that her eye doesn’t have to register every single letter.  Instead, her eyes take in chunks and her brain fills in the rest using its own complicated system of probability.  What are the chances, our brain might say, that “a_d” is anything other than “and” . (A gross oversimplification, but you get the idea.)

But what about when visual images evoke connections and emotions that don’t relate to any memory we’re conscious of?  For example, recently I’ve been looking at medieval art – in particular icons – in preparation for teaching medieval history next year.  The images have taken my breath away.

French historiated initial with men slaying a monster, from a theological manuscript. 1110-1115

Until recently, I don’t think I’ve known how to appreciate art.  Until I began doing art myself, I don’t think I knew what to look for or how to feel about art.  So, it is as if a new dimension has opened up for me – an entire new way in which to view the world.  For a girl who has always dreamed in words rather than images, this is a big deal.

Mary Magdalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles, St Albans Psalter, English, 1120-1145.

I know that these centuries-old icons are not touching me because I’m particularly religious, so it isn’t so much the subject matter that moves me.  Nothing in my past is sparked by seeing these images.  I’ve tried to figure out what it is that I “like” about the images I’ve been viewing, and the first thing that came to me was the color.  The vividness of the colors – blues, ochre, reds–give me a palpable rush of pleasure.

Romanesque interlace, "inhabited" with figures, England, 1190-1200.

But, why does a color make me feel good?  I started to research how colors affect our moods, but it didn’t hold my interest for long.  All I could thing of was how an old neighbor of ours was convinced that our son’s bright red nursery would emotionally cripple him for life.  Articles about “color trends” have always struck me as kind of superfluous, and anything I could have written in that vein would have been pulp.

So, I contemplated the colors and the feelings some more.  The vivid colors created an immediacy to the image.  It was real, in-your-face intensity.  And I wondered, how did those vivid colors survive all these centuries?  What power did those brushstrokes have to leap across centuries to reach out and touch me?  My husband suggested it was lead paint and all kinds of other terrible stuff that can’t be used anymore.   (see note below)   Maybe.  Probably.  But I prefer to think of it as something more elegant.  I love reading history books, but I could read all day long and not experience the visceral feeling I do when I look at one medieval icon or illuminated page.  I’m not creating new historical insights or anything like that.  It’s just an emotion.  It’s just the feeling that we are connected throughout the centuries and across the globe by the humanity and passion of artists.
NOTE:  I did find some info on the make-up of paints used by medieval artists on wikipedia:


“The medieval artist’s palette was surprisingly broad. In addition to the substances listed below, unlikely-sounding substances such as urine and earwax were used to prepare pigments[13].”

Red:   Mercuric sulfide (HgS), often called cinnabar or vermilion, in its natural mineral form or synthesized; “red lead” or minium (Pb3O4); insect-based colours such as cochineal, kermes and lac; rust (iron oxide, Fe2O3) or iron oxide-rich earth compounds
Yellow:     Plant-based colours, such as Weld, turmeric or saffron; yellow earth colours (ochre); orpiment (arsenic sulfide, As2S3)
Green:    Plant-based compounds such as buckthorn berries; copper compounds such as verdigris and malachite
Blue:     Ultramarine (made from the rock lapis lazuli) or azurite; smalt; plant-based substances such as woad, indigo, and folium or turnsole
White:     Lead white (also called “flake white”, basic lead carbonate (PbCO3)); chalk
Black:    Carbon, from sources such as lampblack, charcoal, or burnt bones or ivory; sepia; iron and gall
Gold:     Gold, in leaf form (hammered extremely thin) or powdered and bound in gum arabic or egg (called “shell gold”)
Silver:     Silver, either silver leaf or powdered, as with gold; tin leaf

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminated_manuscript

The Antique Mall

I used old paper dolls to make Little Girls' Sun

We’ve just recently moved from Nashville to a very small town outside Nashville.  Adjusting to small time life takes some time.  There’s only one non-fast food restaurant in town.  The UPS place is closed on Mondays, and the Fed Ex guy apparently only comes here when he feels like it.  Tractor Supply is the biggest business in town.

But, we do have an antique mall.  It’s not big and it’s not full to the rafters, but it’s ours.  My son and I go every couple of weeks.  I’ve found a bound folio with sheet music from the early 1900s.  I’ve found tiny glass medicine bottles, and a delicate white hankerchief.  I also found a never-been-cut-up book of paper dolls.  My childhood came back to me in a rush.  I remembered small blunt tipped sissors in my hand as I cut out dolls and all their pretty dresses.

We’ve had a hint of Spring this week, and the sunshine made me think of these cute dolls, so I decided to take them out for some sunshine.   I used art paper to create textural grass, sky and clouds.   I dyed a crystal sun orange and cushioned it on a pile of peachy tulle embroidered with tiny beads.

I hope the antique mall has some new treasures next time we go!

Too Cool Artists — U-Ram Choe

Una Lumino Portentum by U-Ram Choe

In the midst of an amazing experience viewing European art, my son and I stumbled into a world of light, shadows, and an oddly graceful mechanical ballet.  U-Ram Choe’s “New Urban Species” exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville is called “kinetic sculpture” but there aren’t really words to describe what Choe does.

When we first saw this piece, the flowers were unlit and all we saw were the tendrils of light. When we walked back through, the flowers were opening and closing, going from dark to light.

Choe, born in Korea in 1970,  combines robotics, botany, and art history.    The Frist presented Choe’s work perfectly against the dim lights and dark walls of a small, intimate gallery.  Hung from the ceiling were conglomerates of gears and metal parts that rotated or opened and shut like the most delicate flower buds.  The precise  shadows cast by the sculptures created a further  layer to each piece, adding to the sense that what we were seeing — though constructed with cold hard metal and precise machination — was somehow alive and supernatural.

If you have ever wanted to have your breath taken away, go see Choe’s exhibit at the Frist.  If you can’t do that, he has a website with a well-done gallery of his pieces that shows his evolution as an artist.  There are also videos on the website.  (http://www.uram.net/)   As good as the photographs on the website are, they don’t begin to do justice to the power and imagination of Choe’s art.

Encaustic Art Opens New Possibilities

A Moment in Time: New encaustic piece from ruthsartsandletters.etsy.com

 

Encaustic art uses beeswax and resin to add texture and intense color to pieces of art.  It is an art form that has been around since ancient times.  More and more modern artists are learning about and using this ancient technique.

Using wax is as multi-faceted as using any other painting media.  In general, beeswax is mixed with a resin – often damar resin – and then melted and applied to a surface.  Encaustic paints are available, and the colors are particularly saturated and rich.  An artist can also mix their own colors using pigments.  The melted wax is applied to the surface in any number of ways, including with a tacking iron, a heated spatula or other hot tool, a brush, or simply drizzled on the canvas.  Once the wax is applied – it dries almost instantly – the artist can manipulate the wax using a heat tool.  You can embed almost anything in the wax, and build up the layers to form 3-D images.  Paints or other colors can be applied on top of the wax, also.  Due to the resin content, the wax cures to a very hard and resilient finish.

For more information on encaustic art, visit the following link:

www.encaustic.com

Another Too Cool Artist — Lana Rabinovich of Fine Embroidery on Etsy

Golden Venice - A piece from a series by Lana Rabinovich from Fine Embroidery on Etsy

Lana Rabinovich’s award-winning embroidery is a feast for the eyes and the imagination.  Rabinovich is the owner of Fine Embroidery, with two shops on Etsy and a website http://www.embroideryny.com/index.html.    She works closely with individual clients, fashion designers, and interior designers to create unique pieces.  Her work has been featured in Elle and Stitches magazines. 

Close up detail of the amazing embroidery in Golden Venice

Rabinovich is inspired by romantic historical images, in particular the unique masks of Venetian carnival.   She used Dupioni silk as the canvas and also incorporated pieces of velvet, satin, organza, tulle, silk, suede, lace and irridescent fabric in the finely detailed work.Embroidered details placed on hand painted “Dupioni” silk.