The Final Paragraphs…


The Typical Tractor

I have been inundated with hours spent typing on my computer each evening after work, as I devote myself to my last semester of Graduate School.  Blog entries have been lacking but I have been writing…I have been writing…

Writing my Portfolio/Thesis for my MFA degree has become an extremely difficult process.  The annotations, G.U.M, research, and writing of information has not been the challenge (or at least has not been the greatest challenge).  The content of work affects me at each word, each period, each image, and each question mark.  In hindsight, I knew that I would encounter emotional blockages and intimate, personal passages of reflection, which would make my typing pause, my eyes glaze over, and my sight fixed on a small detail of an object in the far off distance.  (If I have dazed off while looking at you in a coffee shop, I apologize.  You looked great- I was simply lost in a memory.)

I am not seeing the material for the first time, however.  The sentences and recollections are pieces of my own work from the past.  I wrote the poetry reflecting the seasonal changes to Autumn, I painted each painting of the migrating geese, I took the photographs of my face, I put those wooded installations upon a hillside, and I wrote the paragraphs about seeking my own forgiveness in the denial of my farm raised years.  The contemplations of family ancestry, Vermont history, agricultural practices, food, self-representation, female identity, meditation, classifying as a writer, and all of the subsequent themes have been an integral part of my studies.  However, my art and my daily life are fused.  Those subjects, mentioned above, have additionally become components of my self.  My passions drive my actions; while, I find much to celebrate in the realization, I also find much pain and unresolved unknowns.

Compiling my Portfolio has forced me to see all of my work together in lineage—not my chronological birth dates—by content.  I am connected, to a fault, to my subject matter.  I am not denying any dedication or commitment, but such revelations are also daunting and frightening. (Giving your whole self to anything is risky.)  Perhaps, my reactions are stemming from the beginning of a grieving process from my MFA program.  Another aspect of my struggle is contemplating what to share.  (I can comfortably write this essay now, but in posting it online, I am inviting readers, and opening the possible doors of all that results.)

I am an honest person and an open person.  I accept others for who they are and I accept myself for who I am.  I am an artist—I have a laissez-faire way of interpreting experiences—which allows for me to see the beauty in unconventional sources.  (Though I tend to forget that others’ judgments may not be as open.) My teaching skills and my oldest-sibling-of-4-kids understandings give me the desire to talk to others, to listen, and to aid in their lives and in my own formation of identity.  Art has always been my guide. When I could not say, “Yes, I grew up on a dairy farm,” I painted image after image of: cows, barns, chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, and pigs.  When I could not save my barn from peeling paint and from the exiting of the cows, I constructed my own mini-wooden barn, complete with a tin roof and clapboard windows.  Truthfully, most of all, I write.

And in sorting through hundreds of pages of work from my Graduate studies, I feel overwhelmed.  The amount of words is not intimidating, but the words themselves are sometimes haunting.  The recent events of Hurricane Irene and the loss of vegetable crops, life stock, and fields, increase my awareness of the struggle of living on a farm.  It was never easy as a child and it is still not easy for me as an adult (despite the fact that I have not had barn boots on my feet since I was probably 12…in fact I am very much removed).  I continue to re-play memories in my mind and I continue to drive by my barn.  My artwork has replaced the farmyard, in providing a place for my mind to wonder and for my sense of discovery to enlighten.  Furthermore, my creative processes are the avenues in which I find home and shelter memories, while searching for what is important.

Revealing authentic truth is embedded in who I am as a person and as an artist.  I cannot separate myself from my artwork.  Therefore, I cannot omit raw admissions and statements from my Portfolio.  I have engaged in intense conversations with my Goddard advisor regarding the content of my writing: do I share this, do I delete that, do I re-word this so that it blurs reality?  Depending on my mood, I erase sentences, only to add them back later.  I cannot pretend that I have had different experiences or that I feel another way.  Art has a powerful way of peeling back our guards and of exposing whatever basic material we hold inside.

Conversely, I am not always moved by my artwork.  The small watercolor paintings I create in a ½ hour of cows and barnyards, do not always act as representations of my intense passions or of my driven emotions, but when I sell one, the person always tells me that they are buying the artwork because they grew up on a farm and it reminds them of their own memories.  That affects me and inspires me to continue…maybe my Portfolio will act as a catalyst as well or maybe my readers will just think I am a bit crazy.


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