"The true painter strives to paint what can only be seen through his world." ~André Malraux

After a year of intermittant "painter's block"  I am working again in my studio, and feeling in a tentative positive state. Painting is a solitary activity, and as artists, we are often working in a vacuum. Unless we have a show hanging, reaction to the work is minimal. With several pieces underway, I decided that perhaps if I write about what I am doing or am attempting to do, it might act somewhat as a muse for me as well as give me some feedback on the work I am creating -- hence the establishment of this blog. 

As for the blog title, traditional, representational painting is a language for expressing what’s visible. But I feel my work is the most successful, and most interesting, when focused on things not entirely visible. I paint what I see but also what I sense and feel by utilizing my interior and unseen world --- in other words, the invisible world. Plein air work or  studio work from photographs are only touchstones or landmarks which guide me to other inner spaces. By so doing, I find that I am pushing the boundaries between representational and abstract work.

You can enlarge the images in this blog by clicking on them.

Dec 2, 2011

An Obsessive Fork in My Creative World

 When I was 13, my laughing  father walked into my room and saw me sitting by my dollhouse, and said "Aren't you a little old to be playing with dolls?" I felt as if he had slapped me in the face. My dollhouse had been my world, my obsession since I was 8 years old. How could I get rid of it? I was filled with adolescent angst.  Eventually, within the next year, my obsessions shifted to boys, especially one particular 17 year old football player, and the dollhouse was carefully packed away in the attic. But I can remember that doll house family of Flagg dolls as well as I remember my flesh and blood family, and that long-gone 1950's era tin lithographed dollhouse as well as my real house.

 I did not unwrap all the plastic Renwal furniture and the dolls from those boxes until my daughter was about 8. I built her a dollhouse which was a Christmas gift, and after 25 years, my obsession was suddenly back, and suddenly shared. I sometimes stole into her room when she was at school and straightened up the house, communed with the dolls, the same tiny, familiar family from my childhood which now were under her control, with new names and dressed in outfits which she made. I watched my daughter use her dollhouse as a decorative fashion statement, and a chance to play with the emerging roles of adulthood. A dollhouse provides a safe place to role play adult responsibilities, to let your imagination run wild, as well as a wonderful backdrop for creative expression of self and decorating tastes.

Before long, after a successful solo show of my paintings, I took some of the money and bought myself, as an adult, a large and complicated  dollhouse kit. And built it almost singlehandedly.

What do you suppose the psychological implications are behind an obsession with dollhouses and miniatures which lasts into one's adult years? It is not uncommon --  there is a huge world of miniature enthusiasts and craftsmen and women out there. Is it perhaps a need to be in control of a controllable, tiny world? A need to escape to a place where the sun always shines, and nothing bad happens (unless, as happened to me as a kid, a male cousin comes and sticks a tiny kitchen knife in the father and writes RIP on his coffin, and sticks the mother's head in the tiny toilet!)? Why does a miniature replica of a vase of roses, a chocolate cake or book give one with such a rush of serotonin, sense of well being, of joy?  In any case, I built the house, electrified and decorated it, and staged it to be set in about 1928, when my mother was a teenager. I began collecting and creating items for it, and had it pretty well in hand when we moved--- to a wonderful small Cotswold Cottage type of house, but with no room for a large dollhouse. It was relegated to the basement. And shortly thereafter, a kitchen pipe broke, flooded the dollhouse, ruined the lighting,  and made me so sad I just left it there, stained wallpaper, buckled siding, lost shingles, and covered it with a sheet.

When we moved to Vermont 15 years ago I had it placed in my studio, thinking I would get to it someday. It gathered dust. Then grandchildren began to arrive in my world, including my two adorable little girls, Eloise and Lily,  who found the house, and desperately wanted it to be fixed NOW.

My obsession returned. I began to nag my husband to rewire it. It took the abnormally large electrician  and a helper in town six years, but it is almost finished. Meanwhile I have been carpentrying, wallpapering, painting, making curtains and small accessories, and running up large bills at a couple of miniature stores. The Little family has been "writing" to my granddaughters reporting on the progress of the house, and even though much more work needs to be done on the outside, and a basement has to be built to house the electrical transformers. Last week they moved in.

Come take a look! Remember, this is 1928, in Vermont. I am trying to give my granddaughters a bit of history as this house evolves, and may open it to children from my little village to come and see at some point, complete with a written history of the era, and information on the family in a booklet. 

 The Little's  house was badly damaged in the 1927 Vermont flood, and it has taken them a long time to make the repairs, but finally they are home again. Come on up to the porch, watch out for the baby carriage, and come on in.

The bay window below is in (Mrs.) Lily Little's music room, and above one of the nursery rooms.        
Come warm yourself by the fire. (It took me forever to find a sofa that felt right for the era). 
Below photo shows the phone nook. The Littles are very fortunate to have two telephones, when many people had none. (This is also where a Cathedral style radio is going to go, and where the family will gather to "listen in" to news, music and other radio shows. I needlepointed  the small rug, made the curtains, and the tiny pack of Camels on the coffee table. The other railing still has to be constructed.) Note the period Morris Chair, (which has been pushed aside to accommodate the Christmas tree this week.)
The door to the right of the fireplace goes into Nathaniel Little's study. He is a music professor at the nearby college. When he comes home, he goes in here, puts on the gramophone or plays his violin, seen in case upper right, and reads the paper.
He is still waiting for the carpenter to finish the paneling on one of his walls. He has a Stickley desk.

Maybe you can stay for dinner. If you want to help, come in the dining room, and set the table. The cloth and dishes are in the cabinet. 

You can see Lily Little's music room beyond the end of the dining room where she gives piano lessons, takes care of her scorrespondence, and steals a minute to herself to read. (See below)
Note the William Morris wallpaper border in dining room. The rug for this room just arrived, but is not in photo.

Lily Little is in the kitchen cooking dinner -- a turkey (which is a bit tired and scarred, since I have had it for 60 odd years!) is in the oven because when these photos were taken, it was Thanksgiving time.  She is hoping to modernize this farmhouse kitchen someday, but meanwhile, it suffices. She has ordered a kitchen worktable. (The stove was a salesman sample of my husband's grandfather who sold stoves in the NC hills. His mother played with it as a child. I built the cupboards in 1981, and made the curtains.) It looks like a chocolate cake is being made on the Hoosier.

(There are a lot of items in the kitchen that were part of my childhood dollhouse--- the garbage can, the crackers box, the catsup, the chocolate cake, the rolling pin! I made Lily's dress out of an old handkerchief of my mother's. Old hankies are the BEST source of fabric for dollhouses.)

The last room on the first floor is the family breakfast room. The table is too big for it, and Lily has ordered a smaller one.The sun comes in the bay window at breakfast time. Somebody has left a game of Chinese Checkers on the table, and the remains of little Bitty's supper is there.

We will give you a tour of the upper floors next time, to see the bedrooms of Minnie, Bitty, Dolly, Tad and Mr. and Mrs. Little. And also a glimpse into the children's grandparents' house, the Petits, who live just across the street. They are in the process of getting some electricity in their home, where they live with Mr. Petit's elderly Mother Grandmere, and their youngest child Connie, a flapper about to get married.      Thanks for stopping by.

 So this is where my creative side has been working this month. But there are paintings strumming in my head. Will I find time this holiday month to paint? I hope so: I have to take some new work to the Lyme (NH) gallery because they have sold the two I had there, which is nice. I also took two pieces over to the Chaffee Art Center for their Winter member's Show of Smallworks. Busy busy time of year.