(Mural as part of the DownTown Mural Project Hollywood, FL. Artist Ernest Maranje )
I’ve always been one to fall over the arts…the ohhs and aww of it all. I grew up spending my summers watching every Shakespeare plays again and again in aww and wonder. I read it all! I even named a damn horse after it! (Kiss Me, Kate)
I had a wall in my room that was papered over with places of the world I wanted to go, poetry, quotes, songs and pictures I liked and cut from magazines, my other walls covered in books.
My mom opened me up to appreciate the old movies, black and white, French and Silent. Rainy days and too hot summer afternoons were spent over these when I wasn’t pouring over book after book. Poem after poem. Ballet and Broadway musicals also practically bled into me (I was even a little ballerina once.) She put me in acting classes one summer but we quickly discovered that my very quiet (I was once) manner wasn’t fit for the stage. There is a VHS tape floating around somewhere. I still remember lines from that performance. I did nothing right.
My grandparents infused me with the love of jazz music. My grandfather played trumpet and piano and the organ. My grandmother the piano, organ and her gravely voice which will forever lead me to love the sound of a womens voice rough in singing, poetry, reading. Also of stage and play and movies here, too. The King And I and madame butterfly my biggest impression there. My grandfather, and his mother were both painters. My grandfathers mind balanced arts of nights and weekends and science by day job. Perhaps that is where my balanced brain comes from.
The era I grew up in of Star Search and my older sister and a perfectly spotlighted fireplace hearth always gave way my path to pop music culture. There is a VHS floating of my music video to Paula Abdul somewhere out there, too. God forbid, if I become famous this is the kind of thing I have to haunt me of emerging.
The library was my world. I didn’t know what I should read, so I read it all. I especially enjoyed reading about people who influenced. I recognized the power of writing the first time I read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The poem of course, but the power came from the the book.
The year I was gifted the very sought after typewriter for Christmas left my family listening to the loud clack clack in the night, along with the time of my life when the sound of Beethoven also seeped from my bedroom at all hours. This was my version of moody teenager angst.
Not even sixteen years old yet and New York City. Manhattan. And a doorman who got me free tickets to anything playing anywhere. While some teenaged models went wild in the city under zero adult supervision and nothing but people who treated us like adults, able to drink freely at elegant parties and learn all about Sex and The City in real life and much too young for it, I usually spent my time at every concert and Broadway and off Broadway and play hidden in every nook of the city that I could. I found what smokey joints played original music and that usually had some unknown name strumming some broken stringed guitar. I followed the music to the roof of my own building, to find a singer songwriter strumming and singing illuminated by the clock. (See if you can figure which building? Tip, it’s near SoHo and on Houston Street). I buried my free time into every used book store NYC holds, and they held a lot. Missed are the days when I was able to bring a huge empty extra suitcase and then on return trips book filled on the plane without cost at all. Heavier than a body bag any day. When I did go to those neat openenings and parties I went for the music…Erykah Badu before she was Erykah Badu. Danced with Steven Tyler and other of the likes with whom if I got a chance, it was their art that we spoke about, if not the inspiration that made them, or perhaps the current dusty book that was always in my purse, even then, every time. Often I’d be found reading to small crowds out loud from books in the middle of a new club opening party.
I spent hours sitting on the ground watching dancers work, practice, rehearse and even audition, and often even cry when failed. The physical pain you can watch a dancer put themselves through is heartwrenching, but the emotional pain is what can break them. I was in many buildings all over the city for “Go-Sees” and photoshoots and designers and such so in and out often other open doors and happenings allowed me to see much behind the scenes and even behind those scenes. I could often found just stopped in my day for hours in watch in wonder. My love of architecture had me spending enough time inside of big beautiful gothic churches to make one think that my preferred nose in a book over guys at a party was really a lean toward being a nun. I met writers and talked books more times than I can count, that was before I thought of myself as a writer by half my lifes age now, even though by then I’d published a handful of poetry. Part of how I learned to project my voice, so quiet and meek then I was, was when a Dolly Parton with a penis at a famous restaurant/bar and during an annual big charity event once told me “Oh honey, you’ve got to make yourself HEARD if you want to make it any city, much less this one.” And took me to an open mic with mic in hand and told me to sing. A singer I am not but I did end up singing quite a lot as well as learning another place to practice projecting my voice, poetry readings. I would sing and even read my poetry on that roof top while another strummed guitar to my made up songs, illuminated by that clock with a view of the bridges and the water not far, the sounds of an entire city as my band. The start of learning to write songs for others. In that city I found the man who made art with the spark of a welding machine, he would bend and mold steel to will and form such beautiful things. I spent many afternoons perched with a notebook, watching him at work. (Then we went out and he read me poetry and that was the end of that)
I took my notebook everywhere and wrote everything that went on in my young girl/woman mind back then. I wrote next to the koi pod in a tiny hidden garden near my loft where this country raised girl would find refuse in nature and hide for a moment from all the concrete. I’d sit underneath a weeping willow tree. I wrote as the cherry blossoms bloomed in central park. I wrote watching the swans float in the pond in the park. I wrote perched watching people make and create and perform their arts. I wrote on the subway, late at night when it was empty (I had no idea about danger back then, no fear.) I wrote sitting on the wide ledge of the window that covered an entire wall in my loft, while it rained, my view of those bridges, always remember those bridges. As the rain fell, or as the trash men clanged the metal cans at 4:am. I later burned those notebooks. All of them.
Life took a lot of swings and embedded into me a lot of love of arts from all over the globe. I remember my very first “art-Show.” Canvass of photography eighteen feet tall and almost just as wide of the photographers time in Safari Africa. The elegant cats I could stand life like, face to face with. It wasn’t a great “art”, actually, but it was a great show, and it was my first. I have spent many nights watching a singer sing. I have seen a writers words created for screen, shown in a large theater for many of the field. I remember this for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in particular. I remember being much more impressed by the PBS version of it than the big time Hollywood version. The energy of the room was what I remember. Having seen the writers at work, spoken to them ages before and now seeing those words I’d read on screen in moving image. Ahhhh.
I remember working in documentaries and learning that everybody had a “day-job” and the “night-job” and always always a project in “the works” creating something of their own, stars being reached for, stars later captured for many. The buzz of the people, always high energy, encouraging of others in any I met, or perhaps it was my youth that made me feel it were that way. I remember how dull the behind the scenes of making art can be, especially in an editing room. But the pleasure of the finished project was always worth it.
I remember learning that making art or doing what your passion is as a job doesn’t always mean a bubbly smile on your face kind of work.
I remember when I first discovered stop-photography, set to music as video, and thought “how the fuck.” I remember the first time I discovered pencil drawings of art that made me thing “there is a magic” they WERE that good. I remember seeing my first painting form, the magic of paints to canvas created. I remember many upon many great photographer create their visions and those images printed were like holding a piece of somebody’s dream. It was discovering peoples imaginations…come to life. And that was art to me.
I remember when I learned cooking had an artform…even that. French trained chef, who taught me more curse words than the world had yet to manage, and to sometimes let your temper fly.
Even the art of comedy has it’s place etched into my life. And when I received my first gift in art form made by somebody, and every one after that. I remember all of that.
Art and my world of it has grown and continued like vines that over take the abandoned theater on the west end of the island of Galveston. Weirdly however, here was the first time I ever really heard the label art attached to everything, and where I learned to voice my interest better, or lack there of at times. I found that, no, not everything is art, though art can be found in everything. Long gone the quiet and meek girl of first time NYC experiences. And that it was ok to not like someones art, not buy it, not take it home. But it is also where one artists most hated painting became my favorite and eventually did, for a time, hang on my wall. It is where my own likeness emerged in oil paints and even the silhouette of the curve of my body found itself in artform. It is where I found a different kind of music than what had been NYC when I was much younger, and also, weirdly until this time, when I began better paying attention to lyrics a little deeper and the writing even more, even though I had written many songs by now myself. It was where I first saw the real struggle of art. I helped create a beautiful show in the lights of stage there and learned what it was like to help many in creating art. I also learned the process of forming and the many lessons that come with it. It was where life itself changed for me, not for the first time, but the largest. And the moment I had to sit and decide what I really wanted to do, and found that it was writing. Creating somehow, my own. By now I’d written and published since before puberty, but never with an idea that what I did even was an artform…even as at the same time I’d admired many others in the same field for theirs and recognized it as so.
Now I am in travels, a project so to speak, for the next several years. The first leg by American roads, to see and discover what is in my own back yard. As much as I have seen half of this great big country, I have yet to see the other half, and some of what my experience is falls in a younger self before I knew how to fully appreciate. I’ve never been to Yellowstone but I’ve crossed oceans…and that is a sad enough thing for me to want to explore a land that has something new to offer every few miles of it, and a tone completely different. Now I travel and plan for travels with lists of libraries, museums, music joints and halls, famous writers homes, art shows and galleries, particular artists and street art. There are many things added to my lists daily. I may not see it all, but I will enjoy it, the fall into the pools of art along the way. Building more memories and a life full of art.