Blue Nostalgias

Spring 2014, coming through a challenging fall and winter period. I had just completed a Master’s Degree, when a period of artistic synchronicity began. I was eager to experiment with the depth of a particular Prussian blue, unlike any other I had used. Years earlier I had purchased several tubes, which is unusual. I like to test a new colour before I buy quantities of it. This was the exception. I was uncertain of what and when I would create with it. Still in student/artist mode, I had nothing to paint on, and no budget for canvases. Yet I had a burning urge to use that blue paint. At the time, I was equally enamoured with a particular unbleached titanium and a range of rich and creamy off whites.

I thought: “What can I paint on? Maybe I should paint over one of my old paintings, although I may regret it, but I need to get some new work done. If only I had a couple of small canvases, I could…’’

(Knock knock knock at the door)

“Bonjour neighbour, comment allez-vous?”

“Bonjour voisine…bien, très bien, merci. I was cleaning out my garage and I found these old canvases that my daughter started painting when she was taking art classes. The have been collecting dust for 20 years. I thought maybe you could do something with them.” “En fait, it’s funny you mention it…I really could use them. Merci”

Randomly, over several weeks, (spring cleaning I suppose), acquaintances, friends and neighbours began bringing me used, half-painted, barely-started, worn-out, almost-new, kind-of-funny-looking paint-chipped canvases of various sizes, from out of their garages and attics, asking if “I could do something with them”.

“YES!”, I can do something with them.

The stories behind the canvases were quite touching. One was a first attempt at painting by a recently deceased grandmother. Another was a father’s daring brushstrokes, who had always wanted to paint but never did. Others had been found, off to the side at the local garbage drop, covered with cobwebs. Some had paint squiggles in gaudy colours. Some had the stars, sparkles and puff-paint of naïve girl-hood. Some were covered with the hopeful brushstrokes of everlasting love. Some were terrible. Some were almost beautiful. Almost all were unfinished. In their diverse stories, they all seemed to have two commonalities: A certain degree of sentimental value and a whisper of an idea, a botched attempt to create beauty. At some point, the people who had smeared paint on these canvases had hoped to manifest visual beauty. Isn’t that what most of us want? To make something beautiful? Of ourselves? Of our lives? Of our emotions? This is our commonality.

I graciously received the gift of not-white, already used canvases, most of which were linen of particularly good quality. These would become the canvases of my Prussian blue experiment. I began to paint. I began to think. I began.

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” This thought became persistent. I had old linens, new ideas, borrowed sentiments and blue paint. This was the beginning of “Blue Nostalgias”: A fragmented story of longing and reminiscence; an obscure yet intimate view into the life and love of another. An abstract portrait of someone else’s emotion and existence that resembles our own.