Happy August, Friends!
This month got away from me after some summer adventuring that took me back to my roots. My mom and aunt just opened a fabulous fine art and vintage store (Sisters Art & Vintage) in rural East Texas, so I spent a week working on a fence mural at the store, helping them set up for the grand opening, and doing other important work like sewing curtains for room dividers and making sure the snack trays were well appointed. (I also spearheaded the cheese-testing task force to make sure they were OK before serving to guests. They were very OK.)
I spent a significant portion of my youth in the backrooms of frame shops where both my grandmother and mom (in separate locations) spent their days. My grandmother owned a framing and fine art shop in El Paso, and my mom worked in a few different shops over the years, until well after I left home. Some of my clearest childhood memories involve warehouses of moulding, the cool, dark, deserted aisles of which I would range on summer days, finding discarded bits of treasure: a slip of torn gold leaf, a nearly empty canister of richly colored wood putty. The dry, rich scents of freshly sawn wood, putty and papers, the clean schick of the industrial mat cutter slicing precision lines through sturdy mat board. The tang of wood glue. The sound of a four-foot sheet of brown paper tearing evenly across the blade in a single, expert flick of a practiced hand.
Some people associate fine art with glistening, modern gallery spaces, clean and bright, each wall piece hung carefully with a white backdrop and spot-lighting. Each sculpture given ample space for patrons to view from any angle. For me, “fine art” recalls memories of dusty, fragrant work spaces, stacked canvases, bins of prints, stores of foot-after-foot of ornate frame still in single sticks.
These days, when my mom isn’t at the shop, she’s working as a speech therapist for her local school district. She went back to school when my little brother was a teenager. My grandmother has long since sold Framing Unlimited, that place where I spent many a summer day escaping from the West Texas desert heat. All our lives are different now. It’s been years since I’ve walked into any place that smelled as much like home as the back room of that shop did this July.
Being back in mom’s shop was a poignant reminder of my origin story. There are times I find myself feeling uncertain about my abilities, even after twenty years of holding my own in the art field I chose; working in the digital arena, developing marketing materials, UI design for web and apps, logos and quite a lot of album artwork and posters for bands. For me, that feeling of being a fraud comes from not having a formal education in art. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? As I meet artists whose work I love, I’ve learned that at least half of them found their own way, in their own time, to a life of art. Loving art, and even being good at making art, is less about education than desire; less about correct methods than heart.
Schick, says the mat cutter. Skrusshhh, says the brown paper tearing from its roll. This is home.