Thursday, December 30, 2010

For you Dad

My Dad's book

The last couple weeks have been filled with holidays; the brilliant candles of Hanukkah and the pungent sell of the spruce Christmas tree; the combined sensory experiences of an interfaith household. But, as Dickens noted in The Tale of Two Cities, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Sometime between the eight nights of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, my father was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and began chemotherapy two days later.
A hale 78 year old writer, survivor of a triple by pass, my dad had just had his latest book, The Made-Up Self published in last October. Following its publication, it was reviewed in the New York Times and my father was thrilled. I got to thinking about voice and wrote this post which I never published, but came back to since his diagnosis. I offer it here as a tribute to my dad and his love of voice.

Birds 3, Sara Post ©2009
Voice. The singular thing that beckons us into and sustains us in a piece of writing. Voice tells the story, plays on our emotions, evokes our sympathies. What does this in a piece of visual art?

I struck out one night with my sister Amelia to visit the opening of a show at our local cooperative gallery, The Artery, and find out. I was a bit overexposed from a week of presentations at the hospital, so I didn't expect to be seeing clearly.

You know how it is when you've been teaching and lecturing too much and not writing enough? That's how it was. Fatigue doesn't seem to matter for Amelia. Put her in a gallery and she is immediately absorbed by color and form. I flit from one piece to the next searching for something that calls to me--could it be a"voice" I'm looking for?

Since voice must be embodied to be heard, which piece will speak to me? How will I know when I   see it--what will it look like? Will it be clothed in quiet tones of umber, terracotta or ochre? Or, sparkling with brilliant patterns in red, black and gold? I'm on a blind date arranged by the gallery but I think somehow I'll recognize it when I see it.

And I do. The piece is located in a corner of the gallery and is made out of clay. Clay that is rolled thin like cookie dough and cut into irregular tile forms mounted on a birchwood panel and connected with thin lines of grout. On the tiles, in dark indigo, so dark that  its almost black, are intertwining mandalas, circles with interconnecting lines that form the stamens and pistils of plants and reach towards crows who've alighted on these "circles" of plants.

Here is my friend. I stand for a long time, reading the artist's description and wondering how I can scrape together enough money to take my friend home so we can keep talking? Provocative isn't it?  


  1. Hannah, I send all best wishes to your father for a successful recovery. His book sounds fascinating and the NY Times review a great coup. I've sometimes said to the audience at a lecture about my painting that each time I talk about the arc of my work, I create a different history based on what is important to me at the time. We are all self-creations, especially in retrospect.

    The metaphor of voice is perfect for art that calls to us. I hope that you will be able to continue that conversation with your new friend.

  2. Dads make their kids the prioritizing factor in every decision they make. They make sure that nothing and nobody takes precedence over their children. If needs be, they give up careers, homes, and dreams to be where there child is. They do it, and they do it at any cost.

    Proud to be a Single Dad

  3. I pray your father will heal from his illness. and that his busy, productive life sees many more years of such ahead. Lucky he is to have two caring loving daughters.
    I hope you were able to gather your voice/art home with you too.
    Happy New Year Hannah! Wishing you well and all that is creative and good in 2011.

  4. Oh Hannah, I am so sorry to read this news of your father's illness. I will hold him in my heart, praying for refuah shelema. Keep sharing your voice, trusting that we are all out here listening and supporting you. May this New Year be one of deep healing and clarity.

  5. Dear Hannah,
    I am sorry to hear of your dad's diagnosis. I will add him to my prayers. I have enjoyed the garden book by your father and am now looking forward to this one.
    Love in the new year...b

  6. Thank you Altoon. I was at a loss for words following my dad's dx. Finding refuge in the studio and in images there was a lifesaver. Although I didn't buy the piece I spoke of above, it has remained in my memory as food for art and life.

  7. Jazzie--Good thoughts for fathering! Wishing you all the best for you and your children.

    Lynn, thank you for your kind wishes for my father and for your new year's wishes. I look forward to the unfolding of this year's of artistic dreams and creations.

    Laura, I've been thinking a lot about Refuah Shlema and your wishes have inspired me to begin chanting it. Thanks!

    Beth, Truly! And I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. Thank you for keeping him in your prayers.

  8. Hannah I am so sorry to hear of your father's diagnosis but it seems he has a great spirit and zest for life I wish him and you all the best for 2011.........x

  9. Hi Hannah
    An amazing tribute indeed. I trust that your dad has been living each day of his Art/Life to such an extent that this latest chapter will add even more depth and daring...
    the NYTimes Sunday edition no less, and the first review...solid.
    hugs for your new year and to your great dad.

  10. Hannah, I am so sorry to hear about your Dad's diagnosis and I will keep him in my prayers and send you and your family healing and positive thoughts. Nothing easy about any of this.

    Your description of him and your choice to write about "voice" was very touching. Even though you didn't buy it, I am so glad you were able to lose yourself in a piece of art.

    Thank you for sharing this and please take care of yourself during this time. Tell your sister I said hello.

  11. Your tribute, my dear, touched me more than you can possibly imagine.
    Your voice so eloquent that it's audible in every word. Your thoughts and feelings resonant in everything you say.

    And I was touched as well by all the comments--so sweet and affectionate I was buoyed up by every one. Love,Dad