-ING Part 1

– ing suffix: -ing

1. 
denoting a verbal action, an instance of this, or its result. “welcoming

Mov – ING

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of motion as I prepare to move to Maine temporarily. Over the next several months, I will be living the life of a nomad. (It does not seem accidental that a Bedouin tent features prominently in my artwork.)

WeaveTheTent_Logo

Leaving my Maryland studio, job and friends to create         Welcoming the Stranger feels both overwhelming and exhilarating (and sometimes terrifying…)

It took more than a year to plan the 2-month long exhibit – to conduct the research, locate an exhibition space, find employment, procure housing, create relationships in the community, identify resources – all this before making the art.

Three months from today, I begin the installation of the exhibit. It will take 10 days.

How could the time have gone by so fast?

Think-ING

I never studied physics. I struggled with math and was convinced I would not be able to comprehend physics. For those who did take the course, here is an animated refresher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttZCKAMpcAo

I thought I would never have a use for the information. (I thought the same about algebra but revised my opinion as a result of tiling a bathroom floor.)

Stone carvers – especially – need to understand the basic principles of physics. If you neglect to pay attention to those ‘rules,’ you risk injury and sometimes, death.

Mark Di Suvero http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904006104576500170627655498

In Einstein’s Dreams, the author Alan Lightman …”fictionalizes Albert Einstein as a young scientist who is troubled by dreams as he works on his theory of relativity in 1905. The book consists of 30 chapters, each exploring one dream about time that Einstein had during this period. “

Because it is a series of dreams, I can enter or leave each chapter at will. And in the moment, I understand the principles. But their application in the real world eludes me.

The author of Art and Physics, Leonard Shlain, believes art is precognitive: “artists conjure up revolutionary images and metaphors comprising preverbal expressions of the novel concepts later formulated by physicists….”

(He) proposes that the visionary artist is the first member of a culture to see the world in a new way. Then, nearly simultaneously, a revolutionary physicist discovers a new way to think about the world. Escorting the reader through the classical, medieval, Renaissance and modern eras, Shlain shows how the artists’ images when superimposed on the physicists’ concepts create a compelling fit. http://www.artandphysics.com  images

When I read about the application of theoretical physics to various breakthrough moments in art history,  I understand at an intuitive level some other event may evolve from my artwork – one I could not have predicted. It is really the only hope an artist has – to create change.

Yet, none of this explains why time seems to contract rapidly when you are preparing for 5 months on the road.

Pack – ING:

I feel like someone embarking on a round the world trip – attempting to plan for multiple seasons, multiple settings, multiple scenarios …

  1. Packing clothing for 5 months in Maine – March to October*
  2. Packing to live in a suburban ranch home and then a loft in a boat house
  3. Packing supplies to make art
  4. Packing materials to teach
  5. Packing technology for everything else I will have to do
  6. Packing for contingencies. (I have to remind myself that I will still be in America and there is always Goodwill nearby.)

*I did consult the Farmer’s Almanac. It was not comforting. http://www.almanac.com/weather/longrange/ME

When I was a child, my friends carried their patent leather Easter shoes to wear in church and walked to church in their boots.

Mainers always say: If you don’t like the weather in Maine, wait a minute and it will change.

Mark Twain is credited with saying: There are 2 seasons in Maine – winter and the 4th of July.

My upcountry friends say: Spring isn’t here til the snow comes off the mountain. https://vimeo.com/125583476

My island friends warn: Don’t plant anything until Memorial Day.

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Teach-ING

Colby College is a liberal arts college of about 1800 students located at the northern edge of the City of Waterville. It is the home of the Colby Art Museum http://www.colby.edu/museum. IMG_1902The Lunder and Alfond families are representative of the Waterville philanthropic Jewish community. The former founders and long time owners of Dexter Shoes donated to both secular and religious causes. The “glass box” museum houses the Lunder Art Collection – more than 500 works.

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Teachers can arrange for artworks to be available for classroom instruction. I had requested a display of Artist Books. http://wgbhnews.org/post/100-million-art-collection-donated-colby-college-museum-art

As a result of a random telephone call to David Freidenreich, Colby’s Maine Jewish History Project, http://web.colby.edu/dfreiden/ I was given a tour of the sculpture classroom, 6 weeks as an artist in residence, a set of keys, a studio space and instructions for the staff room coffee maker (Only hazelnut goes in the green rimmed carafe).

Collaborating on anything is difficult for most of us. (Try coordinating window washing with a stranger for proof of my premise.) Over the past year, Bradley Borthwick, Assistant Professor of Art and I have had an ongoing dialogue about expectations for an artist in residence in the Sculpture Department. http://bradleyborthwick.com

When I learned that the 2015 theme for the Colby Arts and Humanities Department was Migrations, I proposed the following:

Create teams composed of a Jewish Studies student and a Sculpture 3 student. They would collaborate on the design and production of Artist Books to be shown at the Maine Jewish Museum as part of the Welcoming the Stranger exhibit.

The Jewish Studies students would conduct research on a variety of topics related to the history of Jewish migration to Maine. The Art students would learn book arts techniques and create Artist Books based on their partner’s research.

There were 6 males and 1 female in the Artist Book class.

There were 6 females and 1 male in the Jewish Studies class.

“Speed Dating” seemed the most efficacious approach to pairing up. (Interestingly, speed dating was a modern day Jewish approach to replace the matchmaker of old. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/magazine/who-made-speed-dating.html?_r=0

Every 2 minutes, the students shared the answers to these questions with a different potential partner:

Who is your favorite artist?IMG_1907

What is your work style (early bird vs procrastinator?)

What are your skills as a team member ?

What are your deficits as a team member ?

**Coincidentally, everyone was paired with their first choice.

Six weeks later, their books and papers are close to completion and we were preparing for the Migrations Conference. IMG_2262_2http://web.colby.edu/mainemigrations/

Learn – ING

As part of my Artist Residency, I attended the Jewish Studies seminar facilitated by David Friedenreich. I learned a great deal about the history and lives of the earliest Jews in Maine. His students researched the following topics:

  • The first Jewish community in Maine (Bangor, 1849-1856)
  • 19th-century German-Jewish peddlers and merchants
  • Why Maine attracted Eastern European Jews in the early 20th century, and how it shaped their Jewishness
  • Anti Semitic discrimination against Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century
  • The children of Holocaust survivors raised in Maine

More importantly, I learned that my own struggle – to define myself as either a Mainer first or as a Jew first – has been a struggle for other Maine Jews. I wonder still whether it was the cultural, ancestral or religious aspects of my upbringing that define me as Jewish.

This struggle of “definition” continues for the most recent immigrants to Maine. They are currently referred to as: “New Mainers.” They also struggle to maintain their heritage, their religion and their ancestry while integrating into a new culture.

At the Colby Migrations Conference, one woman told this story:

She immigrated from Somalia almost 10 years ago. Her children were born here. Yet, she wanted to be sure they had a sense of their heritage and culture. So they attended the annual Somali Day parade.

Everyone had small Somali flags to wave.

While they were waiting along the parade route, her youngest child looked up at her and asked:

Where is my flag?

She answered: Here it is. And gave her a miniature flag.

A few moments later, Her daughter asks again:

But, where is MY flag?

She explained the meaning of the design of the Somali flag thinking her daughter did not understand.

Again, her daughter states more insistently:

I want MY flag.

And pointed to the U.S. flag being carried in the parade.

And at that moment, she realized …

that the American flag was her daughter’s flag;

that America was her daughter’s country; and

Maine was now the place called home – for both of them.

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A Rose in Winter

I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.”

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems

I am sitting here drinking a cup of coffee and holding a letter in my hand. It arrived on Valentine’s Day – addressed to me – in my own handwriting. I still haven’t opened it.Image

At the end of the 2013 Northfield Conference, we wrote a letter to ourselves: A Rose in WInter. It was less of a letter and more of a reflection – and a reminder.  We were encouraged to imagine what path we would follow throughout the year. To consider what changes would we make in how we live our lives. https://thestonepath.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/laying-fallow/

I am hesitant to open the letter. I am afraid of disappointing myself and disappointing others. I am still exhausted from working on the Liber sculpture. I am still recovering from moving my mom to assisted living and dismantling her home. And this winter seems endless…I can’t seem to move forward…I am ambivalent about continuing on the stone path …I seem unable to take the first step.

So, I pick up a book….

…Once Upon A Time…

Garrison Keeler, in a Prairie Home Companion monologue, lamented the end of the ground baloney and miracle whip on white bread sandwich at funerals. As members of the “ground baloney” generation pass on, we lose, not only our connection to these foods, but knowledge of their preparation. We lose the sense of community that comes from interacting with each other as we share a communal experience. We lose another cultural memory.

We’ve all used books to prop up a table leg. Or placed phonebooks on chairs for young guests to sit on at Thanksgiving dinner. I think sharing books is another path to building a sense of community. There is even a movement to leave books in public places and then track their itineraries. Wikipedia describes BookCrossing (also: BC, BCing or BXing) as “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.” The term is derived from http://www.bookcrossing.com, a free on-line book club.

The ‘crossing’ or exchanging of books may take any of a number of forms, including ‘wild releasing’ books in public, direct swaps with other members of the websites, or “book rings” in which books travel in a set order to participants who want to read a certain book.

The library saved my life. As a child, I spent every afternoon and many weekends in the library running my hands along the spines of books  – waiting to find that day’s adventure. There was a sense of  “preciousness” in their handling. There was no folding down of pages, or eating while reading or underlining a passage. I found knowledge, escape, solace, and possibility in the pages of books – as I still do.

Books can transport us to another time and place or introduce us to a different way of seeing or thinking. The imminent demise of the book has been a topic of discussion since the arrival of electronic readers. Within my book club, how we read is changing: some of us hold an actual book, another reads on a Kindle, while another listens to a CD. We are still able to share our opinions, ideas and questions. However, the containers from which they arise are as different as we are.

Last summer, Amazon sold more e-books than hard cover. Even the Library of Congress (LOC) has problems deciding which books to retain or discard and in what format. Nicholas Baker (Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper) describes schemes used to determine whether a book was still fit to retain. Various ill-fated ideas befell the disposal of tomes leading up to Baker’s dumpster diving at the LOC. Using his retirement fund, he built warehouses for books and early American newspapers and magazines once destined for destruction.

At the annual Peaks Island Library Book Sale sponsored by the Friends of the Library, it was rumored that more books were donated to the sale than were purchased. The unsold books seemed destined for the landfill.

ImageHowever, the Friends of the Peaks Island Library sought a creative way to use the unsold books. They sponsored an Altered Book workshop. Artists have long created Artist Books. Some use books as the starting point of their work. Others start from scratch and construct a book-like work. The finished pieces are more like sculptures than traditional books. There are whole conferences and collections dedicated to the exhibition and collection of these one-of-a kind or limited edition books. http://www.centerforbookarts.org/.

There were tables of altered books from the Portland Public Library book art collection. We could look and touch without white gloves (a rare opportunity.)  Then Book Artist, Anastasia Weigle, http:www.anastasiaweigle.com gave an overview of the process she uses to create Artist Books.

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Attendees then chose a book from the pile of discards on the porch of the library. (Flashback to Filene’s basement.) I grab a book – not for the cover – but for the title: The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve. I quickly thumb through the pages. Throughout the book were images of family trees.  At the end of each chapter, the names of members accrued through marriage and birth were added.

Born in New England, I always wished to be one of those people whose family tree goes back for generations…that you know where everyone came from and where they ended up. My family immigrated from Europe under duress – and left the family history behind.Image

Since I had no intention of reading the book per se, I began to tear out the narrative pages. I left intact the genealogy charts and pages with images of branches, fruits, trees. The floor around me was littered with the discards – like fallen foliage.

A few hundred ‘leaves’ later, I arrived at the final page of the book – a completed family tree. The genealogy chart had started in 1820 with just two names and now filled two pages. Mothers became grandmothers and great grandmothers…and so on and so forth.

In 1935, Leah Levinsky married David Lily and bore 2 children: Jacob and Betty.

My grandmother’s maiden name was Levinsky. Her birth name was Betty. She was an immigrant who anglicized her name to Elizabeth and never spoke Yiddish. Her brother’s name was Jacob (aka Uncle Jack.)  His business began with a wagon and horse and evolved into Levinsky’s Army Navy Surplus Store, Portland, Maine.

I frantically collect up all the loose and crumpled pages from the floor and cobble the book back together.

First, I read the book.

The Family Orchard “ is a rich tapestry of Jewish life and humor and yearning, woven from timeless themes: the evolution of family, the setting down of roots, the sorrow of immigrants and the joy of pioneers, the secrets that bind families together and the legends that sustain them. http://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/666/the-family-orchard

Then, I called Nomi Eve’s agent.

I explained how I came upon the book. About the Levinsky name.  About my artwork. By the end of the conversation, the agent’s assistant (somewhat assured I was not a stalker nor that I was looking for an book agent) agreed to forward an email with my story. Within a day, I was corresponding with Nomi Eve.

And they lived happily ever after….

If this were a fairy tale, Nomi would have been a long lost relative and I would have stumbled across another branch of my family tree. Maybe I would even have figured out my next step along the stone path.

We corresponded about how I discovered her book and the workshop on the island. She had visited Maine and had fond memories of her trip. Finally, I asked her about the Levinskys in her family tree. She responded:

There had been a soda shop in Philadelphia where she grew up called: Levinsky’s. She substituted the Levinsky name for the real names of family members to protect their privacy. There was no connection between us. It was just a story.

Afterword:

I finish my coffee. As I turn the envelope over, I read the words written on the flap:

                           Today, while the blossoms still cling to the vine

                           I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine

                           A million tomorrows shall all pass away

                           ‘Ere I forget all the joy that is mine, Today

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Today-lyrics-John-Denver/459497E755B

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For Today, maybe it’s okay to just drink another cup of coffee.

For Today, maybe it’s okay to just smell the roses.

For Today, maybe it’s okay to be unsure of my next step on the stone path.

For Today, maybe it’s okay to spend the day reading a book.*

**In 1947 Jimmy Durante sang:

There’s one day that I recall, though it was years ago.

All my life I will remember it, I know.

I’ll never forget the day I read a book.

It was contagious, seventy pages.

There were pictures here and there,

So it wasn’t hard to bear,

The day I read a book.

It’s a shame I don’t recall the name of the book.

It wasn’t a history. I know because it had no plot.

It wasn’t a mystery, because nobody there got shot.

The day I read a book? I can’t remember when,

But one o’ these days, I’m gonna do it again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlsQIEIEeKA