|Artist Jimmy Talarico|
First of all, I realize some of you who follow this site may not follow our Facebook page so you may not have known I was off social media for a week as a part of a media deprivation exercise I was doing. It was a task for a study I'm going through on increasing creativity. I look forward to sharing more about it later. And now, on with the show...
So this is a recap of the Dear Mike project I completed a couple of weeks ago. I'm writing this blog to give some insight into the symbolism and decisions I made throughout this process. To begin with, this was a project I was asked to create as a wedding anniversary gift from a wife to her husband. I was given a box of letters the couple wrote each other before they were engaged and was given complete liberty in finding an appropriate way to express them.
I'd done another project where I used wedding cards to create paper mâché, but for this project I felt it was important to retain the letters to some degree. The letters were private, but I wanted some words to be discernible so the couple could be reminded of those memories while reading the few words that would remain. The interesting thing about our memories is that we tend to fill in the blanks as we see fit. We never truly remember an experience as accurately as it happened, there is always conjecture. I wanted to give a place for that conjecture to stir up old memories. To do this I decided to fold the letters up line by line and infuse them with wax so they would hold their form.
I had seven years of letters and one group with no dates so I split up the letters into eight groups. Then I took the maximum number of letters from one year and divided it by 18" (the height of the canvas) to get 3/4". So I created jigs out of aluminum angles to form 3/4" wide folded letters.
The density of each letter within this 3/4" jig showed how long the letters were. This mathematical approach seemed appropriate since both my client and her husband are engineers. I used a similar approach for the width of each letter so each column was 4 1/4" wide. I then melted each letter to a canvas to give the basic layout.
I filled the rest of the canvas with wax and ash, which has become my current medium of choice.
The wax is repurposed from thrift store candles and the ash is from burned consumable waste cardboard. I know this may sound weird but it really becomes a terrific metaphor for hope and beauty. The candles were most likely originally purchased to celebrate an event centered around love; birthdays, weddings, romantic dinners, etc. But for some reason they lost their value and were given away for nothing. The burned cardboard is symbolic of purifying something that would otherwise be deemed garbage. Both products are then used to create a new object of beauty.
After the wax and ash were applied to Dear Mike, I covered them with acrylic paint in colors that complimented the colors of the letters, but I wasn't completely satisfied with that layer.
During a critique with Melinda she said, "Why don't you just try black and white?" I thought about it for a while then realized it fit well with the concept. There is a certain naïveté that comes with new love. It blinds us to certain shortcomings in our partner and allows us to simply be enamored. This is represented by the white paint covering most of the beginning sets of letters. But the black comes in from the side of the future as a way to represent uncertainty or times of struggle. See, the truth of love is not found in the black or in the white, either one alone is incomplete. The truth of love is only realized when the two meet. Because any of us who have been married past the honeymoon stage have at some point come to the realization that love is a choice. It's not a funny feeling you get when you're around your partner; you learn that that feeling comes and goes. No, the real strength and beauty of true love happens the moment you recognize that flutter has faded and you decide to remain in love anyway. And with that you get Dear Mike. Congratulations Kathi and Mike on another wedding anniversary and here's to many, many more. Thank you so much for giving me the honor of contributing to your story. And to everyone else, thanks for taking the time to read this. We sincerely appreciate it.
It was so refreshing for me to read this quote from Picasso. Before then I would criticize myself thinking I was somehow "cheating" on my original idea by changing it during the process. What I've discovered is that any idea that gets you started and working is the right idea. But the final piece must be allowed to live and breath on its own throughout the process. It's similar to raising children. We have principles and truths that we want our children to retain, but how that takes form in their lives is somewhat out of our control.
I'm learning to enjoy the surprise turns in creating art. There is a freedom in allowing yourself to change directions, make mistakes, and keep moving. This piece, Dear Mike, has been no exception. I try to create artistic spaces for people as an architectural designer, but this was my first attempt at doing it with my art. My next post for this piece will explain the process and symbolism that led it to be what it has become.
Until next time...
Jimmy & Melinda Talarico
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