Thursday, December 30, 2010

Think of the Flowers

(Poppies by the artist Venus:

Especially when I was younger, my aunt Diane, when talking with me about an upsetting situation, would advise, “Think of the flowers.” Bless her heart & I knew she meant so well, but that image always sickened me. It made me think of old ladies (probably wearing the kind of perfume that people shouldn’t wear on an elevator)…the large exotic arrangement I got when I was in the hospital with a scent so cloying I sent it to the visitor’s lounge within 10 seconds… and worst of all, sometimes “think of the flowers” made me think of my dad’s honeymoon with my stepmother in the 1970s, a short road trip to see a botanical garden, after which, unforgivable to my preteen ears, my dad made a joke about using their borrowed RV for what people do on honeymoons.

Last night while trying to calm myself about something hugely upsetting like the faint sound the furnace was making, I remembered the flowers advice, and from somewhere got the inspiration to try to make it work for me. After all, it’s not that I don’t like flowers – I like many flowers (just not the stinky, old lady ones) – and I even have floral paintings in my collection. Not surprisingly, thinking about my paintings brought in some endorphins.

When I woke up I made a special online art album of just my florals. It was fun although in my Sarah way I got hung up on rules – well, not really rules, but with a project like this I try to impose order that can’t ever be consistent. I didn’t allow myself to include paintings of trees or tree leaves since this was meant to be a flowers experiment, even though I love the combination of flower paintings with tree paintings in my house (the green and the height and stalks of the trees dilutes any remote cloying quality the flowers might have). I decided it was OK to show flowers in a field and of course a still life of flowers with fruit was OK, but I hesitated about a still life with 4 bottles, only 2 of which held flowers…so is this a painting of flowers, or bottles? (See how my mind works? See why I have night anxiety…and other anxiety.)

If you had forced me to recall all 36 paintings in this album from memory, I probably couldn’t have done it, so part of the fun of making the album was the surprise of, “Oh yeah, I have this cool one too!”

The earlier flower paintings I bought were not girly (that’s part of what I like about Carol Nelson’s style, it has a boldness of line and color you don’t always see in female painters) but they were more realistic (more like real flowers) than more recent purchases, some of which are almost abstract. This change wasn’t just because my taste evolved but also had to do with the artists I happened to discover first versus the ones I found more recently. Also when you collect pieces from different phases of an artist’s career you realize that they evolve too, sometimes with some quick changes and even U-turns.

This winter I started making wish-list type online albums of paintings. Capturing the image of a painting I would like to buy feels a little like the satisfaction of making online albums of the paintings I have really bought. It helps a little with the craving to purchase.

With the wish-list paintings I am less picky with my decisions to “acquire.” I have a lot of flower paintings in the wish-list albums, but I hesitate almost every time I attach one. I never stop asking myself, “Do I really like paintings of flowers? Is this too girlish?”

Girlish… old ladyish…I should really give flowers a break.

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