Friday, July 9, 2010

Is the Past Younger than the Present?

Yesterday at the breakfast table, Monty, my husband, spoke about shooting a web video for a towing company which was his assignment that day as a videographer. An artistic soul, he was wondering how to coax inspiration out of this rather dense subject.

A picture arose in my mind's eye of our son as a three year-old, beaming as we drove down the streets of Berkeley, pointing with enthusiasm as he declared "guck, guck!" I'd look to see what he was pointing at and invariably it was a large, liberally enhanced truck.

I shared my image with Monty and we talked about re-inhabiting the mind of a three year-old for the job. 

Later that morning I sat drinking jasmine tea with a woman interested in buying my work. We drank our tea from flowered cups, a Villeroy and Boch pattern I remembered from long ago.  She shared a small, leather bound photograph album of her recent trip to Chicago. I leafed through the pictures, imagining myself back in Chicago, walking along Lake Michigan, heading toward the Art Institute.

That imaginary walk on the pier came back to me during our art group that day, as a young boy worked on notching skill sticks together to create three interlocking towers. To him, they were an imaginary surf shop. To me, they were the buildings I passed as I strode toward Millennium Park.

There is tremendous power our imagination, that as artists, we are constantly drawing upon. I'm trying to put imagination and memory to work in this same way in my studio. My assignment: to create a series of paintings of "objects" for an upcoming exhibit entitled: "Lessons from Things."

Not normally a painter of things, I've had to reach back in my memory to my student days when anything in my surroundings was grist for my mill. Whether it was kitchen tools on a pegboard, two fine russet pears, or an arrangement of bottles a la Morandi, painting my life onto canvas was as fresh as my son spotting a tow truck.

I'm reaching back into those days now and drawing out the enthusiasm, pulling it through a tunnel of years into my present. I absorb an elegant little still life I've set before me consisting of a white raku vase, jade-colored beaker and a palm-sized, brass Aladdin's lamp. The magic begins.

Still Life with Jug, ©2010, Hannah Klaus Hunter


  1. Your words "the magic begins" is truly a wonderful beginning. Your walk through memories is a gift few enjoy and then to create from those memories...magic!

  2. Thank you Blue Sky. When I first wrote the post, I was thinking about how blogging is one of the tools that forces me to think more deeply about a momentary insights and to pursue the thread of that insight to its source as beset I can.

  3. I like seeing fabrics from Jim's shirts in your collage Hannah. We just visited his wife Sam over the 4th. Happy/sad memories. All equal LIFE.

  4. I just love the title of this post...I could linger there for a long's like a mystical riddle or an ancient koan...your story is delightful and the collage is so bright and engaging. I found it all the more moving as Lynn brought yet another element of meaning to be intrigued by.
    AND...I love your day I'll ask if you will pleeze tutor me.

  5. Lynn, I had no idea that the shirt had such a history. By pointing it out, you multiply the power of memory and the memory of Jim in particular. Thank you!

    Donna, I'm delighted that you like the title. It was Monty's idea; he loves to play with language and meaning. Header rehab is easy and fun--happy to tutor you:)

  6. I was drawn in by the title as well, and then your stories unfolded leading on to another, returning to the wonderfully layered image above. You have a wonderful way with both words and images, Hannah!

  7. Thank you Karen--I do love to play with language--and I've long been intrigued with the interweave of text + image. That's what I like about your recent drawings!

  8. your journey through your memories is wonderful-- thanks for sharing.