Saturday, September 10, 2011

“Ancient” Memories


When I started working with the “fluttering pages” idea, I envisioned translating ancient texts and lost languages into visual imagery. Then I began to realize that “old” is a relative term – in American culture much of what I remember from my early life in the 50’s and 60’s is now considered ancient times.

As I’ve worked on these two new pieces,  I’ve been thinking about the fragments and details that we remember as we age. I have many vivid recollections about the various places I’ve lived and began jotting down all the addresses I could remember. To my surprise, I remembered many and incorporated these on Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers, 2011, 36” x 48”.  Acrylic paint, gold leaf, synthetic fabric, fiberglass screening, thread.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, detail of Book of the Ancients 2: House Numbers.

Working on these pieces awoke many memories of place and my Pittsburgh childhood. I began to look at maps of the neighborhoods where I was born and lived until I was 11, when our family moved to New York State. Since my nuclear family is now all deceased, these recollections from my childhood are pleasing and surprisingly vivid.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, Book of the Ancients 3: Memory, 2011, 36” x 36”. Acrylic paint, gold leaf, synthetic fabric, fiberglass screening, thread.

It felt important to imply the recollections of early memories, so I stitched suggestions of recorded memories, perhaps from a personal journal, on some of the individual pages.


Jeanne Raffer Beck, detail of Book of the Ancients 3: Memory.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Inside the Dream Space of an Idea



In my own process, I have been inhabiting a space involving memory: my own! I have been writing down  the house numbers of all the places I have lived that I can remember, cutting them out of fiberglass screening and applying them to a new “fluttering pages of my life” work in process.

Synchronicity led me to read an essay this week by Carol Becker, in Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art.  In her role as an  instructor to young artists, she encourages them to “move inside the idea as if it were an imaginary space”. By doing so, she hopes to help them evaluate and perfect an idea as it takes form.

If we think of an idea as a dream space, then as artists part of our process may be to enter and inhabit that dream space as we create. Becker asks students specific questions as their work develops. Because I am quite interested in becoming a better mentor to my own process,  I find her ideas and approach intriguing. These specific questions are taken from her article.

Move inside the space of the idea and ask yourself:

In what way do you live here?

What furniture do you need to inhabit this space?

What appliances?

How will this idea’s meaning be communicated, made visible to others?

Further along, one might ask:

Is this the work you intended or has it changed in the making?

If it has changed its course, what is its new course?

Here is a clip about artist Grayson Perry, who obviously inhabited a marvelous “dream space” at the British Museum to actualize his idea.

Perry’s focus for this two-year project honors the anonymous skilled hands over countless centuries whose finely crafted works are now preserved in museum collections.