Sunday, February 5, 2012

Windows to the Past

I don't know why I've always had such a fascination with picture frames. My current work is cued by the frame as much as the other way around. I haunt antique malls, junk shops and flea markets looking for them now. It is becoming an almost sacred ritual to find them, bring them home and begin to clean them up. I love sitting quietly looking at the wood, whatever detailing they have, the weathered finish. I grab my pliers to pull out rusty nails, old wire and eye hooks, and wipe out the dirt and dust. I wonder about them. I wonder whose home they were in, what pictures they held, who walked by them day after day. I wonder what I will put in them. I get ideas just by looking at the shapes. I have a mirror right now that has beautiful beveled detailing at the top-I think I'll put my work right over the top of the mirror and work the beveled decoration right into what I'm doing.

I remember so clearly as a child going to art museums and wondering about the people and pictures I saw, like all of the frames were windows to the past, and the painted portraits would just probably come alive if you tickled their noses, or all the patrons left for the day. I knew they were looking down at me and if I turned fast enough, I'd see them smiling and waving. Or shaking their fingers at me because I got too close to something pretty and wanted to touch. When I went to antique shops with my grandmother, or auctions or house sales, I remember having the same feeling, brought on by the smells and the look of old things. She taught us kids what was of value, and being with her was like being on a treasure hunt. I dreamed I'd find a famous painting in a dusty box, or a special piece of glass she was looking for. She would shush us if we picked something up special and loudly called her attention to our good fortune. There was this incredible understanding that the history of these objects was worth revering. That they were almost living. I quickly learned to enjoy finding something that was special to myself and also of marketable value. I wanted to find something in need of repair, or paint and a little special touch. I vastly preferred unusual old things to new toys.

I find now that this same love is being resurrected in the need to use old frames with character and history. The frames compliment and pull together the work that I do. I find myself looking at old finished drawings and feeling the need to rework, add to and add those qualities that I used to be enamored by as a child-incorporating stained glass, pattern, a Victorian sensibility or at least a nod to design movements of the nouveau, art deco, crazy quilts, jewels and found objects. I guess we now say "vintage". But to me it is more than that. It is a window to my own past and the wonder I used to have. It is vital to the creative process.