Tuesday, July 26, 2011

in the box

I can't say this will be the most thrilling of posts, but after I finished writing, I thought that it did reveal something about my path to where I am.
A new cluster of recollections arose while going through the last box in my old closet in Brewster. I've been working on the house, bit by bit. Eventually I'll reopen more cartons I filled only a few months ago, as perhaps if I live without some stuff for long enough, I'll realize I don't need it anymore. Sometimes, just giving myself time to think about some objects is all I need to let them go. I'd already done a lot, even threw away old art from high school & the earlier college years. No need to keep it all, it was so bad that it wasn't even useful as a record of my progress.
On top I found a bunch of letters and artwork from my first boyfriend. Do I throw them away? I'm sure that he didn't keep mine, maybe most people don't do that. But they are also a record, if one-sided, of that first significant relationship, and capture the intensity & enthusiasm with which we initially approached it, and then still the passion but also the angst and despair, the love and the extravagant verbosity. I haven't really reread them. I don't know so I just put them aside again.
Under those, a stack of old Sassy magazines circa '90-'94 (age 12-15). I subscribed to others but they were all lame- I knew it even then- this was a good one, actual articles and minimal fluff, cool and funky, probably cooler than I was, but it had an artsy vibe that I identified with. So I couldn't bear to toss them long ago as I had the rest. I liked that it wasn't just about flirting and makeup. A few years ago there was an article in Bitch magazine about Sassy and I loved it, it was of course aimed at women my age who had fond memories of the short-lived publication. Girls weren't even as overtly sexualized as they are now. Then again in the '90s we all wore our clothes oversized and baggy, some of us (ahem) more than others.
Leading me to the next, a book of lyrics by Paula Cole whose music I liked in '96-'98. "I'm only 16 and I think I have an ulcer/ hiding my sex behind a dirty sweatshirt.. I just want to be a dog or a lump of clay.. everyday I dream of leaving.. I don't want to be me, I don't want to be here".. By the time I heard these lyrics from her 1st album I was 19 but I remembered 16-18 and understood those feelings. What I was experiencing at 19 were also reflected in songs from her 2nd album This Fire which embraced self-expression, self-confidence, sexuality, and, well, inner fire. Still the conflicts raged within. I missed out on a lot of that kind of music for some reason, the female empowerment genre, but I went my own way. I also read about women artists and writers in Paris in the '20s and '30s (and then New York in the '60s-'80s), and took classes at Cornell and SVA on gender, art, language, psychology. Lot of good classes there, I could reflect on that for a while but won't. Nature, semiotics, beauty and the sublime. I remember these whenever I make a loan payment.
Another stapled packet was a published essay by my high school English teacher, an advisor and friend who cultivated in me a love of writing that I've been gradually excavating. In this '98 piece on "celebration of process and product", to illustrate his words he'd reprinted an ode-poem ("Brewster") I'd written in '96, a mild lament of my dull hometown.
Also: a sketchbook from my one year at Cornell, '96-97. Within: an assignment for my short-lived landscape architecture class, before I realized I had no interest in it and dropped the major, leaving me adrift, frustrated but defiant. Ink sketches from my single drawing class and my first life drawing sessions, indeed, the first nude men I ever saw were ones I merely drew. Some of the other drawings are good and some are lousy. I have no illusions. I'll keep it as a record anyway though. It's half empty so I could use the rest, though I've said that about other sketchbooks that still languish half-empty while I run off to buy new ones. Here's my Cornell notebook stuffed with essays/notes, got to keep that too along with my SVA papers. Maybe someday I'll decide I don't want them but damn I did a lot of work and it's good to remember what I've accomplished on my journey.
Also my planner from the first months at SVA, full of frantic but eager lists, notes and assignments. I was very busy with my new classes, working on weekends stacking wood, making truffles, and trying to enjoy NYC, but I was so happy to be finally studying what I wanted to, all the time (instead of at Cornell where I only managed to take a few classes that I really wanted to.. but they did whip me into shape. If there'd been a good, affordable art program there I may have stayed. And who knows what my life would be like now!)
Next up, a Postman Pat colouring book that Trudy'd brought me from England in '88 and I was going to toss, then I saw it had colourings from Trudy, Jill, Rick and Mom alongside mine and I just couldn't, it reminded me so clearly of how much I loved to colour with them (I'm spelling it this way in honour of the English Postman Pat) and how they influenced my style. Rick's were hilarious. I'd thrown away all my other coloring books, they were Barbie or whatever, but this was charming. A few months ago I'd decided to save selected drawings I'd done with others or that I was especially proud of, or that were touchingly disastrous like that backwards bicycle drawing that cracked me up. I just couldn't get it right, the tricky configuration of seat, pedals, handlebars. I really feel that I've made some progress in that area at last.
Rounding out the box was a Yahtzee game, a bottle of bubbles, a wineglass I'd stolen from the Waldorf in '97, a plastic Kodak Instamatic camera, and some art pamphlets featuring the work of my teacher at the Art Students League, where I took a couple classes to keep my eyes on the prize (and from going batty) during my reluctant year off to earn money between Cornell and SVA.
I sorted through so many other boxes earlier this year. Each one elicited a round of remembrances, but if I'd written about them all, packing would've taken even longer, though I'm sure it'd have been a real compelling read. Reviewing clothes then, I similarly paused to scribble notes about this or that garment (like the knitted poncho I thought was a skirt, or the purple velvet coat) before parting with it. Anyone who has trouble getting rid of possessions can understand how difficult it can be, and also how good it can feel to shuck off the past, to be able to know everything you own and why it is in your life.

1 comment:

  1. I also find it useful to inventory objects of education past. i would like to hold a first? ceramic sculpture i did in early high school for a few minutes then return it to the dirt. No college so no funny/gritty/grateful reflections while at m&t. But then i have argos education to collate and pay for. laughing ? Not quite inside where it counts.......I believe you are ahead of me in de-velcroing inventoried possessions without scarring. I like to read your stuff....RE