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Levees in London: The Art of Reinvention

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

When you move and start over, you often discover new things about yourself. Good and bad I might add. The relocations become your big chance to reflect, reinvent yourself and change the things you don't like, or for that matter, to attempt things you never had the courage to do before. You feel a long way from home and who you were when you were growing up. I mean, no one here knows you are really just a girl from the sticks "faking it, till you're making it." Now is your big chance to make a big impression. So why not restructure how you do business? Change that label you have been wearing? Even if it's the label you have had since birth, like mine...

Nobody puts THE BABY in a corner

Growing up, my family was peppered with a love for the creative: music, dance and art. My mother, sketched beautiful renderings of her sisters and friends and was an accomplished dancer. My middle sister Ashley, who is 11 years my senior, is what I like to call, "stupid-talented." Definition: their ability makes you feel like you did nothing today. The walls of her bedroom were always plastered with band posters and art projects. It should also be noted that her carpet was always stained with the remnants of some art endeavor gone awry. When my Mom would introduce us, Ashley was the "artsy one." I was “the baby.” No fun or accomplished title. My sister was all the things you think of when you imagine the "artsy" sister. Her hair color was ever-changing, a new piercing (or five) were no surprise, and she had cool side-jobs like waitress and D.J. She made me my first set of grown-up mixed tapes and I played them on my boom box until they became garbled with use. I longed to be as edgy, talented, and worldly as my sister. Her labels were far more fun than mine. There were many failed attempts vying for the "talented" sister role. For example, once, after seeing a Bob Ross episode, I felt certain I had an underlying and raw talent for landscapes. This could be my big break as an artist. Didn't Bob Ross make us all feel like we all had a hidden talent, or a "little baby tree" just dying to get out? I wanted to test my skill immediately following his tutorial. Looking around I had no paint to speak of, because there wasn't time from when I discovered my passion, to wanting to produce my first noteworthy piece. I have the patience of a gnat. So I decided, I would have to sacrifice my mothers new eye shadow set from Estée Lauder for the sake of art. I went into her vanity, and because the woman put on make-up like war paint, I found loads of eye shadow colors that would be great selections for the winter landscape I envisioned. I brought them into the kitchen and started to scrape them out of their pan, crushing them and mixing them with water. The vibrancy of this experimental fairy dust was mind blowing. I could feel the excitement welling in my chest. It was momentarily chafed when I realized I had zero of the paint brush options that Bob Ross mentioned in his laundry list of supply items. Its okay, I thought, Q-tips will do! On top of "talented artist,"everyone will marvel at my new technique! I'm like an art savant and I haven't even put pen to paper! I mean brush to paper, I really mean q-tip to paper. Speaking of paper, all I had was copy paper. Not a problem for this dime store artist! Nothing a little scotch tape and white-out couldn't marry together. One would never even notice this is cheap computer paper. So after locating a handful of Q-tips, building my copy paper canvas and using my small chemistry knowledge to produce 20 shades, I was ready to be the "artsy one." I painted for four solid hours, which in my mind, meant I had really spent my life's work on this one. It was a winter landscape that for some reason included an angel and a Christmas tree because you just never know where your vision is going to take you. I took a step back, and thought... "yep, Im not the artsy one, I'm the baby, with the Q-tips." Just about this time, Mona entered the kitchen from work. She, of course, feigned serious pride at my accomplishment. She told me she thought it was "Just beautiful," and would look perfect in the living room. I hung it on the fridge and went up to my room for a good cry because I knew she was putting me on. I had fallen under the spell of the sultry and transfixing voice of Bob Ross, and it had cost me my new title. In my defense, Bob Ross could have whispered that I was a Martian and I would have zipped up my space suit. Just in that moment, I hear my mother downstairs as she opens the trash compacter that is crunching her now empty Estée Lauder palettes. My good cry has turned to full on hysteria because I'm about to wear a toe tag. In all my life, I have never heard a person make a noise like my mother made that day. It was epic. I am pretty sure Mona could have been an X-Men character, her power to instill fear in anyone within a 5 mile radius was enviable and terrifying. I have a chill up my spine as I type this. I was grounded for a time, and had to earn my label as "the baby" back... for a while I was "the igmo that crushed a hundred dollars worth of eye-shadow." However, my mother did not rip down my artwork in her fit of rage, in fact she hung it in the next three houses we lived in. It may have been an attempt to get her money's worth, or it may have been an act of motherly devotion to the artist. The bottom line was, that my love and appreciation for the arts remained intact and has followed me throughout our travels. It has even bred tradition for us. Every duty station, a new piece of art. I have lithographs from Savannah, two pointillism pieces from Charleston and an oil painting from a man in Oceanside, California. They are my prize possessions.

Fast forward to today. Today was a momentous occasion for "the baby" that crushed eye shadows for water colors. Today, I met the great artist, Andy Warhol. Not in person of course, but you get it. I was gifted the chance to marvel at his pieces in-person, works I had only ever seen before in books. As I walked the halls of the Tate Modern Museum, all the memories of the artistic failures of my past came rushing back to me. The quiet stillness of every room, and the soft whispers of every onlooker made me feel a long way from Louisiana and a long way from every label I ever gave myself. As I perused some of the most iconic works of art and read about the life and inspiration of Andy Warhol, I couldn't help but see some parallels. No, I do not still fancy myself a hidden gem of landscape talent, but I do recognize that most of the pieces Andy Warhol is famous for, were inspired by some of the hardest moments in his life. He may have dabbled in bright colors, but in my heart I think he may have been masking that he was really just "faking it, till he was making it "too. Failure and hardship can be such an inspiration when used for good. When all we know and rely on is stripped away, and we have to re-label and reinvent ourselves, we may just stumble upon our life's greatest masterpiece. I can be an artist too, Bob Ross and my mother told me so.

So if you are in a transition, let the hard generate the creative and don't be confined to any title, label or failure. Every day is a day to start fresh.

For a laugh, I would like it to be noted that Andy Warhol did a series in which he urinated on canvases. They were an experiment in oxidation and are referred to as "Piss Paintings."

Q-tips don't seem so bad now do they?


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We are planning a trip to Scotland at the end of the month and you will want to be a fly on that wall.

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