Toward the end of this month, I will reach a milestone and celebrate a “round” birthday, one ending with 0 and starting with 4. It has been a pivotal year full of reflection on my past, interpretation of my present in light of that past, and deliberation about the course I would like to steer from here on in. The past week has seen me cleaning out my postcard collection. I will keep those I am sharing here because I still feel closely connected to them. At too many moments in my past, I have been prone to behave like the woman in Frau auf dem Söller (Woman on the Terrace) by Carl Gustav Carus, staring intently at something of interest in the distance and remaining passively seated and perfectly composed. Perhaps it’s time to bring my chair closer to the action.
As a child, I was fascinated by the pioneer mythos, the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Oregon Trail, the novels of Willa Cather. Strong, independent, optimistic people forging their way forward, doing what they needed to do, banding together and helping each other out. This painting, The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton, provided the title for Willa Cather’s wonderful coming-of-age novel about a young American woman from the west who becomes a successful singer in the east. It is one of the very few Künstlerromane, or novels that describe an artist’s development, that follows the path of a female artist. I plan on rereading it soon.
I bought this card while I was a student in Madison, Wisconsin, and it has been displayed on the wall in many of the apartments I have lived in over the years. It’s true, you know. Out with the musts and shoulds that hamper us from moving forward. Time to make up rules of my own – or better yet dispense with them entirely.
Henri Matisse has always been one of my favorite artists. I love how he uses line and color. His female subjects are always incredibly relaxed, as is this Odalisque au coffret rouge (Odalisque with a Red Box).Another painter I love for his choice of color is Marc Chagall. The fantastical depictions of dancers, musicians, lovers, circus performers, animals and other curious creatures capture my interest. This postcard is entitled La Danse (The Dance), an activity I can’t seem to stop engaging in.
The darkest period of my life was the time I spent in Moscow. On a visit to the Tretyakov Gallery, I came face to face with Zinaida Serebryakova’s painting At the Dressing Table. Self-Portrait, which jolted me out of my depression. Her eyes laughed at me and said don’t take it all that seriously, your world falling to pieces around you, take care of yourself and keep smiling and things will be OK. She was right. Thank you, Zinaida!
I used to say that by the age of forty, I wanted to have at least two sheep. Sheep seem very serene, plus I love wool and want to belong to a herd of my own. In August, however, I had an epiphany that made me realize that there is another domesticated animal that would be a more suitable ally: the animal at the center of Pablo Picasso’s La Chèvre (The Goat). Goats are inquisitive, energetic, and playful. In the next decade of my life, I aim to cultivate my inner goat and leave behind any dream of pursuing animal husbandry.
Faithful readers are well aware of my affinity for water but may not realize how much I have regrettably cultivated a dislike of fire. Like with goats, I want to become better acquainted with this element so curiously imagined by Giuseppe Arcimboldo in Feuer (Fire).
Though I have lived in and traveled to many places, there is only one that will always be Home with a capital H. I like this postcard so much because it is trying to sell my hometown as a site of tourism pre-HarborPark, when the scar of industry next to the harbor was still clearly visible. See you soon, K-town!
Enjoy listening to the stories that the postcards you have collected have to tell!