incartamento

So there I was, happily holed-up in a casa di campagna, a  country hideaway near Alba in Piemonte, Italy. Beautifully restored by Swiss friends, it was a rustico offered to me for a summer’s studio practice. They knew that my teaching work left little time for my own artwork; they also appreciated how important it is for a teacher in any field to be personally engaged with their subject.

I have written previously about a few works from that precious time at Casa Columbina.  See, for example, one Italian summer,  farfalle, and saying the unsayable.  Also see this page in the ‘nomad collection’: Italy

But this little piece stayed in the shadows – perhaps because, at the time, it was too personal, something made for my eyes only, something made to help bring a chapter to a conclusion.  You see, a long relationship had come to an end, and although it was a mutually agreed and (mostly) mature winding-up, there was debris.  It took many moons for the debris to settle, and making this piece definitely helped.

I simply couldn’t toss out my ex-partner’s letters.  He wrote beautifully.  We shared so much: questions, ideas, travel, art.  I wanted to honour both our years together and the traces left in his letters.  I wanted to make some kind of a container for these letters, something simple and rustic, only using materials found at hand.  

As I was playing with possible formats, my Italian neighbour popped in.  I tried to explain what I was doing and she tried to understand… she spoke no English and my Italian is beyond pathetic.  Eventually, she conveyed her understanding that what I was doing was “wrapping it all up”, making a dossier or file… and that Italian word for it was incartamento.  

Oh, I liked that word – it fit my purpose perfectly, and in true Italian style it rolls off the tongue like honey.

Fast forward a couple of decades.  My memento comes out of hiding and a dear friend who knows how to drive a camera expertly documents it for me: thank you, Carol Brandt.


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 1

salvaged cardboard
khadi paper
acrylic and oil paints
resin stains
the letters
old drawings and photographs
gauze
beeswax
butcher’s twine and other threads
butterfly wings
shoelace

215 x 240 x 65mm

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 2

It can be opened vertically as a book, or horizontally as a box.

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento, detail of letter bundle

The letters, wrapped in khadi paper, stitched, bound with butcher’s twine and sealed with beeswax.

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 3

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 4

 

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 5

 
And now, all these years later, the quiet pleasure of having this memento matures like fine wine.  It gives off a bouquet of gratitude and appreciation for the experiences shared, the learning and depth of feeling that flowers within intimacy.  I prop it up and smile.  

The capacity to make is nothing less than alchemy.


 

the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art

 

Today is my birthday:  sixty six wondrous orbits of the sun.  Many people comment that Life seems to turn up the screws around one’s birthday time, and it’s certainly been the case here.

About a month ago wonderingmind studio began being dismantled.  Materials, paints, equipment disappeared into cartons.  Some found their way to the art department of a local school for autistic kids.  Some went to a charity that organizes art and creativity events for city youngsters.

Works-in-progress and completed pieces came down off the walls.  Shelving was flat-packed, books sorted and passed on.

It was like packing up a life – which is exactly what it was.

And what a timely opportunity to take stock!  I was over at Zen Dot Studio recently and found that its author is also in the midst of moving house.  I loved the way she had penned her thoughts and observations about the moving process and all that it reveals, and wished I’d had more energy to blog my own.  But it was all too exhausting at the time.

It’s one thing to move from one home/studio to a new one and quite another to pack up a life without knowing when – or where – it will emerge from the boxes again.  My boxed life has gone into a storage unit.  My unencumbered life is moving on.

It demands to be let loose again; the circumstances that constrained it for the past decade (caring for precious parents) have changed.  There have been long months in that intense and deep place called Griefland, which I have come to understand is really a place of R & R.  And of adjustment – to absence.  It heals.  Allowing the energies to bubble to the surface of the lifestream, embracing them and loving them, has worked wonders.  The stream enters deeper waters, vast, silent, unknown. I know this ‘place’ – I call it the via creativa.  Another chapter begins …

Joseph Campbell wrote that the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.  I feel that the gift of this past decade – the gift my ancient, beloved Mum and Dad gave me – was the swelling and bursting open of a heart that had become pretty dried up by life’s apparent disappointments.  From a shriveled up pea it has slowly unfurled into a quivering flower.  Its perfume is Compassion.

How will it express itself?  Will there be more art-making?  Perhaps.  Meanwhile, it is reaching out to simply share.  And so, I scribble on this little blog.