August 2, 2010

Interesting Things

Tree ferns are straight out of
the world of dinosaurs, with
fiddleheads bigger than a
cello's.  In Maori culture,
unfolding tree fern fronds
represent new life and
positive beginnings
        On Saturday I took down a show of my work that had been up for the month of July at a local library.  The theme of the show was "Interesting Things," and in many ways it illustrated an idea that I think is inextricably entwined with both art and writing: that is, the habit of finding things interesting.  Different people find different things inspiring, of course, but I suspect that one of the common threads among all kinds of creativity is an aptitude for engagement, a curiosity that looks for the interesting all around, in the ordinary as well as the exotic, the ugly as well as the beautiful, the strange as well as the familiar, the plain as well as the ornate…  So many artists and writers carry notebooks with them because you never know when something might strike your fancy, or what might spark your imagination.  And when you learn or notice something wonderful it's natural to try to pass that wonder on to others.

In 1898 the Winton Motor Carriage Company,
based in Cleveland, Ohio, was the first in the
United States to sell a gasoline-powered auto-
mobile.  They were also the first to mass-produce
cars, selling 22 in 1898 and over 100 in 1899.
        I had 38 pieces in the show, and on the label of each one I wrote a sentence or two explaining why I thought it depicted an "Interesting Thing."  I found this to be an interesting exercise in itself, and I recommend it to anyone.  Like counting your blessings, look around and spell out to yourself how many things you're curious about, and why you find them so fascinating.  Follow your curiosity, chase after your questions, grab the end of the thread and see where it leads.  Don't be afraid to divagate!
        (Teachers usually teach best when they're dealing with their favorite subjects, and the same holds true for artists and writers, and presumably all sorts of other people, as well.  Sometimes it's fun to pick out writers' particular interests as you read their books.  Lloyd Alexander is obviously a cat person, for example.  I just finished reading Time Cat with T & P, although I like Dream-of-Jade better.  Or the incredible Crystal Palace of Victorian London has caught the imagination of more than one juvenile fantasy author -  Jonathan Stroud in Ptolemy's Gate and Catherine Webb in The Obsidian Dagger, to name a couple.)
There's so much that's interesting about octopuses that I
hardly know where to start.  From their blue blood to their
excellent eyesight, their skin that can change color and
texture to their independently functioning arms, their
amazing intelligence... Just go get a book about octopuses
right now and learn about them yourself!
        One of the things I like about making visual art is that I can hold something up without saying a word about it, and just remind people to take a moment and consider what might be interesting about it.  This once, however, it was also fun to spell out what I found so fascinating - why this plant or scene or object or animal interested me enough that I went through the process of sketching it, carving it, and printing it.  For my exhibit I showed all sorts of things: a cocklebur, a grasshopper, a steam locomotive, my cello, a tree with gnarled roots, Pandora with her box… and of course, some dragons.  They are all Interesting Things to me.  What interests you?

There may be nothing in this world more interesting than a good puddle.
(At least, to a toddler.)

[Pictures: New Zealand Fern, rubber block print by AEGN, 2000;
1898 Winton Phaeton, rubber block print by AEGN, 2007;
Octopus, wood block print by AEGN, 1998 (sold out);
The Puddle, rubber block print by AEGN, 2006 (sold out)]

1 comment:

Pax said...

One thing I find interesting are Anne Nydam's posts. Thanks!