Sunday, January 9, 2011

Do we really SEE the whole picture?


I have been trying to finish up the thread work on my flag quilt. I made this quilt after attending Matt’s Marine boot camp graduation. The ceremony blew me away.  I consider myself very patriotic but seeing those young men willing to give their life for our country has changed me.  So I had to make a quilt to commemorate the day my son because a United States Marine. 

I have been having a lot of trouble finishing this quilt. Procrastination is the word.  There were many valid (sort of) excuses I used to avoid going into the studio like, it’s too cold outside today, I don’t feel like it and the best one, my pants are too tight.  I know, but remember we will do or say anything to avoid dealing with our fears.  Bingo,  you've got it - I have been full of fear at completing this quilt.  I think it’s called the fear of failure or fear of success, whatever it is, it's a feeling that you are simply not good enough. It has been this way for about 6-9 months. You would think by now I would have this down but life is always a struggle and,  if it’s not, you aren’t doing it right. I have even bought books recently on the topic of fear and the artist, thinking that it would push me a little bit.  But they just gather dust on my desk, which needed to be cleaned up, which was another excuse for not finishing my quilt. 
Then today I received an email from a woman that stopped me dead in my tracks.  I wanted to share it with you because maybe you are going through something.  It made me mad at first. Do I have a sign on my back that says KICK ME

But then I read it again and felt her pain and I started to cry.  Actually, I sobbed.  I then realized why I am here doing these quilts. Not to win awards or make money (even thought that does make my husband happy) but to share my life, creativity, and story with others.  And mostly because it is all I can do.
She saw my segment on TheQuiltShow.com #501 and wrote:
Dear Melinda,
Beautiful work and technique! Congratulations for your winning quilts.
I watched you on the Quilt Show. I really enjoyed it except for a comment you made that touched me deeply. When you said that there is something to be said about blindness. Here is my story. A little over a year ago, my son lost his eye sight to an hereditary gene deficiency. He is 29 and was a wonderful photography teacher and website designer. I also am a quilter and design quilts for our provincial quilt show. I am an oil artist and interior decorator. Since David lost is eye sight, I have been having a great deal of difficulty working on art projects. I have been feeling quite guilty about what his happening to him since the hereditary missing gene his passed down from mother to sons. Recently, I found the courage to start some projects so it was very hard for me to hear you say what you said. It is very difficult for someone to realize how hard it is to become blind and have to live with this handicap and having to re-invent oneself. We are very proud of David. He went back to university this September and to all our amazement he is getting all A`s !  It doesn’t take away all the sadness and how hard it is to study and commute to his classes in his condition. So through his strength, I found the courage to start designing again.
I recently found out about a color code that was invented for the blind. It is called the Barker code. It matches color to texture and the goal is to make wall quilts that represents the masters (Renoir, Monet etc) arts so that the blind can feel and get an ``image ``of art and also understand what shape ie a house has or a car or a landscape. I am gathering quilt artist to help with creating pieces that would become a traveling exhibit to be presented to the blind centers. So I just might write to you again as the project progresses to kindly ask for your participation.
Thank you for sharing your work!
I am so sorry but I just had to mention this and may be you can find some other word to describe the perception of color value.
Respectfully,
Lynda
Thread on the back.

I wrote back:
Your letter touched my heart.  But you have to understand that I was not making light of being blind.  It was a poorly chosen metaphor for the seeing not wanting to really see.  I, too, battle with a handicap every day of my life.  I have dyslexia and it's caused me much pain and suffering.  Can you imagine what it is like to be called retarded?  It was very difficult to bear that as a child.  I would retreat in to my own world of sewing and painting to survive. My parents where so worried about me.
By the time I was 16 I just wanted to die.  I thought there was no purpose for me being in this world.  I have worked very hard to learn different ways to overcome this handicap, but it remains. My art is the only thing I could do as a child.  I now show my art and speak about having dyslexia. The battles and the blessings.  I call it the gift of dyslexia, because it made me SEE things differently, which is a blessing most people in this world will never experience.  Would I being doing what I am doing now if I had been born without dyslexia?

Now, you and your son are going through a very hard time.  But there is a gift in the midst of this.  God does not make mistakes.  I know.  He is preparing a wonderful creative gift in your son.  The strength of creativity is not stopped by losing one's vision.  Learn everything you can on how to use this new gift. 
I have a family friend, Lester, who is an art professor.  He told my parents when I was 17, She is an artist. He is now 80 years old and blind but when we talk about art he see color.   his face lights up and in that conversation, he can still see, just differently.  Monet and Matisse did some on their best work as elderly, handicapped, blind men.  Tell your son to not give up.  He is developing new eyes for his art and creativity.
In 5 minutes i was on TV, it’s hard, if not impossible,  to tell others my story, but you are mad at me because of something I said.  But I know what you are really mad at and it’s not me, it’s the fear of change and being different.  I know.
 Now you’ve done it.  I am going to have to put you and David at the top of my prayer list.  So watch out!
 Melinda 
The back.

I will keep this letter always to remind me of why I am doing my art.  Because I have to and  I can’t do anything else.   
Sometimes, God takes something away, so I (or you) won’t miss what he wants us to do.  Years ago I made the decision to try to go forward proudly with the good, the bad, and the very imperfect. Struggling with blindness in no joke.  I pray that David can find a new way to express his God given talent.
What are you struggling with?  Know there is someone who cares - just don’t kick so hard.  Now I can finish the quilt. Thank you, Lynda, for writing me.  I would love to make a quilt for the blind.  I been making them  for the seeing, that sometimes, don't really see. 
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