Gotta have art

I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” ~Georgia O’Keeffe

Until recently, I was a bit shy about entering my altered art pieces in contests and competitions. More complex than my writing, my artwork is intensely personal — a messier way of making sense of my fantasies, doubts, fears, and dreams.

Writing is work. When people ask me what I “do,” or if they insist on labeling me by career or profession, I usually tell them I’m a writer or a journalist. While I dearly love to write, I also admit that it’s incredibly hard work. The business savvy required to get published and paid for it — pitching new material, marketing, promoting, building a platform, facing rejection, and starting over again — is enough to make me seriously doubt my sanity for choosing a writing career after college.

But making art is pure pleasure, my recreational sport. Of course, there’s a huge difference between a viable profession and a crazy good hobby. And I know that if I ever opt to sell my artwork or get it published, I’d have to add yet another layer of complexity to the whole collage. So, what I’m really trying to say is this: I’m incredibly stingy with my artwork.

My artist-husband, whose paintings have been accepted in many top competitions, is my biggest cheerleader. He pushes me out of my comfort zone. At his urging, this year I entered the 28th annual Michigan Fine Arts Competition at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center — and two of my pieces were accepted. When this sort of thing happens, I’m always honored and surprised.

Becoming,” one of the pieces in the show, was inspired by May Sarton’s poem, “Now I Become Myself.” If you’ve been following my poetry series, you know what an uplifting and validating poem it is.

“Becoming” originally served as a greeting card box. I altered the interior and exterior of the box with layers of acrylic paint, prints, tissue paper, and “found objects” from my flea market raids. I added a copy of May Sarton’s poem to the back of the piece.

Using more found objects — junk jewelry, sea shells, old buttons, a religious medal, and my old Girl Scout pin — I created a 3-D collage inside the box. Botticelli’s “Venus” was clipped from a magazine print to represent the self reborn. Just as we’re all the sum of our life experiences, Venus rises from a pile of junk and treasure and becomes herself. Life, like art, is all about working with what you’ve got, and sometimes mining gold from the broken parts.

The other piece in the show, “Renaissance Woman” (top and bottom photos) is an altered children’s board book collaged with vintage dress patterns, sewing notions, broken costume jewelry, feathers, and old prints. I’m thrilled that both of these pieces were chosen for the show, as together they work as a tribute to all creative women.

The BBAC exhibit runs from April 2 through May 7 and is open to the public. For exhibit hours and directions to the BBAC, please visit the Web site.

— Cindy La Ferle

–For a larger view of these art pieces, please click on each image. Photos and artwork are copyrighted (2010) by Cindy La Ferle. —

“Now I Become Myself”

I have been dissolved and shaken / Worn other people’s faces” — May Sarton

My early introduction to May Sarton‘s work was through her diary, Journal of a Solitude. I was new to personal writing at the time, and I admired how Sarton gracefully shared her private and public worlds — her beloved garden; domestic life in New Hampshire; her conflicting needs for solitude and companionship. Reading more of her work over the years, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit.

“Now I Become Myself” first struck me as a song of elder wisdom, a declaration of authentic power. Feeling her “own weight and density,” the poet has outgrown the petty insecurities of youth — including its sense of urgency. Yet the poem speaks to readers of all ages. I gave it to a friend on her 70th birthday and was thrilled to learn it is now one of her favorites. My friend was especially moved by the line, “Now there is time and Time is young.”  Which lines speak to you? –CL

Now I Become Myself
By May Sarton

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before –”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

— Reprinted from Selected Poems of May Sarton edited by Serena Sue Hilsinger and Lois Brynes; W.W. Norton & Company; 1978–

–Top photo: Detail from “Book of Shadows,” an altered book, by Cindy La Ferle —

This post is part of a weekly poetry appreciation series.  To read more, please click on Poems to inspire in the CATEGORIES column at right. As always, I welcome your recommendations, too.