Friday, April 16, 2010

Don't Quote Me (Reprint)

Before I was an artist I was a writer. Before I was a writer I was a singer. Before I was a singer I was a skinny little girl with glasses from a trailer park in Wisconsin...but I digress. I have always loved the story. I loved to read anything I could get my hands on, loved the southern stories in the southern accents of my father and his brother (the southern preacher). I loved sitting on a stool reading to my mother while she did the dishes. I loved words.

Singing and writing were always just different ways to accomplish the same thing..TELL THE STORY! When I began doing fiber art it was only natural that words would become a part of that. Actually they became a big part of that. Almost from the get-go I started putting quotes under my cowgirls and almost from the get-go people started responding to them. But you know, I'm not so clever. I can't even really take credit for the words. I've just learned how to listen. A good writer needs to know how to do that. I've had collectors say in not just a little confusion..."But I thought Calamity Jane really said that!" And I always respond "She did. She said it to me." More than once they've looked at me as if to say they hope I keep taking whatever medication I'm on. Oh well.

But I take the words these women (and sometimes even men) say very seriously. Some of them are well known and the history books have recorded other words they have spoken, but many are nameless, unknown keepers of our history. They have never been given a name, but for the first time I have given them a voice. I don't think they would mind. I also think in a way they speak for me. Selfish I know, but hey it's my work. They say things that maybe I don't have the guts to say in the real least not right out in the open. I like people to like me and they may be less inclined to do so if I said "Ain't afraid to love a man...ain't afraid to shoot one." Even though at times that might be how I felt!

In the early days of making my work I was in a marriage that was situated well on the other side of dysfunctional...about the time I was "listening" and writing my first quotes. At a gallery show a woman took her time walked all around the room and read every single quote there on display. One of the girls at the gallery then introduced her to me and explained I had made the fiber pieces and I even wrote all the quotes. The woman frowned slightly-looked totally bumfuzzled and said quite seriously..."But you look so nice!"

So I figured I needed to incorporate a few less hostile females into the overall fabric (no pun intended) of my storytelling. So I brought in mothers and teachers and wise women of native heritage and the story became more well rounded. I heard them speak serious words, empowering words that made me proud to know them. But I have to admit, I still like the words the sassy girls say the best. "I took to makin' trouble like most women take to makin' biscuits."

Can I get an Amen?