Curiosity and enthusiasm continues to stir wildly during our gatherings at Our Village. The residents have been arriving for our Friday night art fiestas with their personal treasure troves of tools and ideas. As the muse comes dancing in with maracas rattling, they have become the collectors of unfamiliar mediums. From glitter sharpies to oil pastels, metal washers and color pencils, these artists are eager to experiment, and as a fickle artist who also enjoys experimenting with unconventional materials, I’m happy to take part.
La Verne is an esthetician who owns case in which she carries her skin care products. She has since emptied this hefty toolbox, and has replaced the cleansers, scrubs, and moisturizers with markers, paint brushes, color pencils, and various other tools that a craftswoman might need to delve into her creativity.
A DETAIL FROM ONE OF LA VERNE'S DRAWINGS AND A NOTE FROM HER SKETCHBOOK
These musings flow so generously among the artists, that notes, quotes, and ideas are often sketched upon loose pieces of paper, post-it notes, and in the margins of the promotional flyers that they’ve received in today’s mail.
Every artist needs a sketchbook. They serve multiple purposes--as journals, planners, to-do list carriers, drawing boards, and a place to collect unfinished thoughts, developing ideas, and musings that may or may not crystalize into anything at all, except for the scribbles upon these tattered pages. I brought each of them a sketchbook to offer them a space to gather their innermost thoughts, and we spent some time decorating them. Each book will comprise their unique inspirations and insights. Each book will be a safe space to document their thoughts and feelings in the handwriting that can only come from their very own hands.
Of these truths, a few of the ones we have adopted in class as mantra is that there is no limit to art, there is not a method that makes a work of art successful (for its subjectivity is what gives it such great value), and there is no right or wrong in art when we are working from the heart because feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. This is what we try to remind each other as we soil our hands with the substances that translate these feelings into a life lived upon paper and canvas.
The Bowers Museum offers us open seats to their free bimonthly Treasures Program which offers art projects, docent-led tours, presentations, and performances, but because many have medical appointments, work, and difficulty traveling, the Heninger residents rarely attend. I want so much to help expose them to more art and culture, and must remind myself, that we are on time. So, I decided to invite just a few of them in for a studio visit, and was happy that La Verne and Sharonda took me up on my offer. It was a special moment for us, so I pushed the works in progress aside to make room for our hors d'oeuvres on the drawing table—smoked salmon, an array of cheeses, salami, pistachios, and all sorts of berries. We enjoyed the fellowship as they milled around the studio, curious, inquisitive, and eager to begin new projects.
When I asked, "When do you know when a painting is finished?" Sharonda replied, “A painting is never finished... you can always add to it."
I walked them through from piece to piece, series to series, discussing materials, intention, concept, words that sparked imagery and narrative, and how these factors coalesce to take form. We shared openly about how much art has shaped, changed, and enlightened us. What a privilege it has been to walk this path with such special individuals as we continuing discovering ourselves together. La Verne expressed:
"I’m just now discovering what’s inside of me.
When you’ve found something like this after all these years, there’s no stopping."
**Onward, Friends. We've come upon something spectacular.**