Friday, April 24, 2009

Story Behind the Pictures: Vintage Thread Series

My grandmother passed away this week. Rather than giving in to my selfish sorrow and lamenting that she is no longer with me, I've decided to remember her as she would wish: to remember the mischievous glint that often flickered in her eyes; to remember the acerbic humor that lay just beneath the veneer of proper lady-like behavior; to remember her limitless patience with me when she taught me how to use a needle and thread.

When I first moved to Philadelphia nine years ago, I really wanted to learn how to sew. I'm not exactly a crafty person, but my grandmother was such a gifted seamstress that I felt certain some of her talent must be latent in my genes. She was too diplomatic to ever tell me otherwise, but the gales of laughter she tried to suppress when I managed to stitch my own thumb to the fabric was definitely an indication. In my defence, she was teaching me on my great-grandmother's vintage Singer sewing machine (the very first electric model, just a step beyond the ones powered by foot pedal). It was temperamental and I was not very talented, but I loved the time we spent together at her kitchen table, laughing at the (not very impressive) fruits of my labor. Most of all, I loved the wooden spools of thread in her sewing basket: a rainbow of worn wood and colorful cotton that, when I look at them, remind me of all the dresses she made for me, for my mother, and for herself when she was just a girl. When I think of it, families are bit like my grandmother's sewing basket: a jumble of different colors, shapes, and sizes, all linked together by one common

Friday, April 17, 2009

Story Behind the Picture - "Memories of Spring"

Spring is such a glorious time of year, yet this is a particularly difficult week for me to write. For once, I am at a near loss for words. My grandmother did not recognize me this week when I sat at her bedside and held her weathered, weakened hands in my own. I have spent my birthday with her each year for the past thirty-three Aprils. She has helped me blow out my candles, sung to me, kissed me, and wished me her traditional "lots of luck and happiness." Each year, no matter where I lived, I spent my spring birthday with her. This week was no different, despite the fact I had brought her in to the emergency room a few days before, despite the fact that she now lay in the ICU, her piercing blue eyes unable to recognize my face.

When I think of spring, I remember running thought her vibrant green lawn in my new party dress, being scolded for climbing the rock wall that ran along side her house, swinging on the front gate when I thought she wasn't looking. When I think of my grandmother, I think of spring: the sky the color of her eyes, magnolia blossoms the color of the dress she made for my eighth-grade graduation, white clouds the color of her soft hair.

I noticed one of her nurses had written "Tuesday, April 14th" on the message board at the foot of her bed. Before I left, I pointed to the date. "Grandmom, do you know what today is?" I asked. The pain and exhaustion that clouded her eyes floated away long enough for her to turn and whisper, "it's your birthday."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Story Behind the Picture - "Reach for the Moon"

On a frigid winter night, I pulled into our driveway, my two boys snug and warm in their car seats behind me. As I turned off the engine, Danny gasped when he saw the luminous full moon high above our neighbor's roof: "Mommy! Look at the moon! Can I hold it, please?"

This was a night I was grateful to have my camera in the car with me. I promised him that although I couldn't lift him high enough to hold the moon, I would indeed take a picture for all of us to keep. I snuck onto my neighbor's lawn for a better view and, with my telephoto lens, managed to capture "our" moon.

I created this collage to reflect the magic a child sees in the night sky, and the wonder that prompts him to want to hold that glorious full moon in his hands. We all have our dreams, but sometimes we need the imagination of a child to remind us of what they are.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paws for Charity 2009 Art Book Now Available!

I'm so thrilled to announce that the 2009 Paws for Charity art book is now available for purchase! Please click here to order your copy today.

All thirty-seven artists (including myself) donated our artwork so that 100% of the proceeds from every purchase will go directly to the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade. This book makes a fabulous birthday, Mother's Day, graduation, or "just because" gift for the women or animals lovers in your life. Please come support this fantastic cause!

(For those of you who may not have read the story behind "Sandy Paws," the cover art for this year's book, please click here to view my earlier post.)

Each week, Sara Harley (founder of this project) will profile one of the participating artists on her blog: everyone is welcome to stop by and read their stories!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Final Week - Artisans Challenge

This is the final week of the Artisans Challenge for my photograph, "Sandy Paws." I'm so grateful for all who voted last week and helped me win - thank you! My photograph is now up against all the other winners from the previous week, so if you have a moment to go vote, I promise not to annoy everyone with a contest like this again for a while :-)
(I'd also like to thank Blockhead Radio for providing such a fantastic platform for both indie music and indie artists - have a listen while you're won't be disappointed!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Story Behind the Picture - "Dancing Shoes"

I originally created this piece for Natasha’s wonderful weekly blog challenge: the theme was “dancing.” I’ve choreographed and performed countless dances in both bare feet and ballet slippers (and even started taking pointe classes at the virtually geriatric age of 21), but these shoes are, by far, my favorite. These are the shoes I wore on my wedding day. If you’ll look closely, perhaps you’ll see where my husband stepped on my toes several times during our first dance together...Fred Astair, he is not. These are the shoes I wore when my father twirled me around the dance floor in a beautiful waltz, recalling every bit of his own dance training in his youth. These are the shoes that nearly crippled me: I had to exchange them for sneakers by the time Marty and I cut the cake…they were not designed for endless hours of dancing.

I decided to photograph them on my feet. It has been seven years, two children, and countless hours of hours of yoga since I last wore these shoes. Did anyone know that yoga actually makes your feet expand? I tell my students this as an anecdotal joke, but clearly, it is true. Carrying children around for nine months also has a similar effect. After wriggling my feet into my shoes, al la the evil stepsisters in Cinderella, I realized I would need to roll up my jeans to get a clear shot of my feet. Now there’s a look: rolled jeans and heels. I began to wonder if living so close to New Jersey was beginning to affect my fashion sense.
*please refrain from throwing tomatoes at the author: she merely jests*

My next hurdle was lighting my shot: generally, natural light from the windows doesn’t illuminate our floors, and this was a particularly dreary day outside. As I wandered around the house in my rolled jeans and painful shoes, I noticed the soft light falling across the dining room table. Perfect! The table pad that protects to wood provided me with the subtle backdrop I envisioned, so I climbed up and tried not to bump my head on the chandelier as I positioned my feet in the optimum location. Did I mention there are a lot of windows in my dining room? Yet another case where I’m flabbergasted my neighbors have not called the police. Anyway, after much finagling, I managed to take enough usable images before I nearly fell backwards off the table. Apparently teaching yoga doesn’t really prepare one to balance on a table in these shoes (and anyway, I’m not sure I want to be known as a lady who can dance on a table in high heels…).

Some things have not changed in seven years. I still feign anonymity if Marty starts dancing in public (think Elaine from "Seinfeld" and you’re on the right track), I still look forward to dancing with my father on those occasions that he can be coaxed into doing so, and I still keep these shoes safely tucked away at the top of my closet as a reminder of the happy night where we all danced like there was no one watching.
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