The Places We Love

By Judy Folkenberg

judyfolkenberg.com (my art website)

To be frank, the black and white photos aren’t very good.  They were taken by my father in the late 1940’s of a place where I later camped as a child, the most beautiful place in the world:  Yosemite, California.   I never called Yosemite, “the most beautiful place in the world,” because children don’t talk that way.   You just know that somehow certain places are special–and you carry that knowledge into adulthood.

My brother, parents, and I camped in an army green tent with a peaked roof and an entrance  with a tied back flap under tall ponderosa pines whose needles littered the forest floor; the sweet smell drifting through the air.  We swam in the cold, pure waters with Yosemite Falls as our background.  And we ate our supper in the clean sharp air from plastic sectioned plates usually with a breeze that drifted through the campground and across the water.  The days were hot and lazy, a golden wonder; the nights chilly, as we snuggled in our army green sleeping bags on wooden cots.

Unfortunately that was then and the now has changed. I haven’t been back to Yosemite since I was seven years old.   I understand too many humans  clog its natural pathways.  It’s expensive to get through the gates, it’s probably noisy, and it’s become far too popular a place to visit.  I’ve been told there’s a theme park whiff about it.  And, of course we all know, “you can’t go home again.”

You Can’t Go Home Again is the title of Thomas Wolff’s famous novel where the protagonist  realizes that he can’t relive his youthful memories or go back home to the way things used to be.  And the phrase is used tirelessly to explain how you can’t revisit the past.  After all, the truth about childhood places is elusive and probably should  be remembered with caution;  like a girl’s first love we pick and choose what we want to relive

But what most people don’t realize, is that despite the title of the novel, there’s another quote the protagonist makes, which is not so well-known:  “But…why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter… All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.”

Page from the Yosemite chap book that features my dad’s photos of Yosemite.  This particular photo is of Yosemite Falls.

So, one day I will go home again.  I will go back to Yosemite.  But until that happens I can do something else.  I can preserve that time as a child through my art.   I’m a book artist.   I will make small books (known as “chap books,” and the format has been around since the 1500’s) that feature my dad’s photos of Yosemite.  Because even though they “aren’t very good,” there’s really no such thing as a bad photograph of Yosemite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m a Gambling Kind of Gal, so I Became an Artist

A friend once said that love and art are crap shoots.  You take your chances, weigh your odds, and hope for success.  And it seems that in art, a piece more often than not, doesn’t turn out that way you expect and sometimes the results can be  pretty awful.

But awful results are just fine–although it took me quite a while to accept that.  “It’s all a part of the process,” they say,  a phrase I dislike and which by now has become a cliche.   And, ” you learn from your mistakes,” another phrase I dislike, but which is sometimes true.  (Sometimes you don’t learn from your mistakes.)

But I like to gamble and what better way to fulfill my risk taking behavior than to make art or write.  The odds are often against me for any kind of quick success, but still I  plunge ahead…figuring  it’s worth the risk.

This is the awful piece of art that didn’t turn out.

A number of my ideas for art pieces come from seeing photos of other’s people’s art.  I use that photo as a jumping off point to make my own piece.   Sometime ago, I saw a photo that combined torn paper with wood.    I love combining paper and wood  and spent several hours hand-tearing the colored paper, punching the holes and getting it just right.   But when I put it all together, it sucked.  I tried it another way of assembling the piece and it still look awful.  I huffed and I puffed and nothing happened.

So how do I change my odds?  What I did,  was to make another piece that combined paper and wood, and in short order it turned out great.    Ironically, I didn’t even fuss or fret over the piece, and the whole gamble proceeded  quite smoothly.  You can see the result in the top photo of this blog post.

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; you just have to play hand after hand in the art game to increase your odds of getting what you want.  Because we don’t get it right, until we get it wrong.