a little rothko love on his birthday

My artist friend and I were standing in front of a Rothko painting at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. a while back when she said, “This does nothing for me.”

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I couldn’t believe those words had come from her mouth because I was trying to think of ways to make the painting a part of me, as in, you know, eating it. I wanted it to be me. I wanted to point at it while yelling to the other museum visitors, “THIS! This is IT! This is how I feel!” I was trembling.

There is a lesson in this little anecdote, I’m sure of it. Maybe something about how as an artist you just need to create the thing that is true to you and not worry about what others think and also, needing to know that your art will resonate with some people and not with others and that’s OK.

Rothko’s colors still, always, forever make me tremble. And, apparently, I’ve become a sort of groupie because I’ve seen his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the University of Arizona Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, at a museum in New York City whose name I cannot remember, multiple exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art and at The Phillips Collection (where they have a Rothko Room that I find so intense that after sitting in there for just 10 minutes I have to leave to get some air before I can see again.)

So, here’s a bit of his color wonderful and some fun links to celebrate his birthday:

Rothko toast

quilts & quilts (which are sold out but still beautiful)

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mrs. harkness and the panda

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda

written by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I picked up this book because Melissa Sweet illustrated it. That woman has a way with watercolors and scraps of paper and color that makes me lean in a little closer.

This is the kind of book it is: while writing this post I spilled my entire mug of coffee on it. The book was destroyed. Yes, the words were still legible. But, goodness, the art was wrecked. And I realized, holding my coffee-sodden copy, that one of the reasons that I love picture books is they are such beautiful objects. I immediately ordered a new copy. It will be here Tuesday.

But, as I was saying…My favorite kind of picture book biography leaves me feeling like everything is possible – even, no, especially for fumbling me. These favorite books make me realize that the one heart that I have and the two hands that I have are enough.

The world, the media, the swirling blahblahblah of our consumer culture would have us believe that we must have an advanced degree, a wealthy family, a massive online following, organized shelves, effortless beauty and unremitting encouragement to do something valuable.

The truth is we are enough.

I just need to put my one heart and my two hands to work where I am standing.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda is a book that affirms our “enoughness.” It is the story of Ruth Harkness, an unadventurous, unathletic, tea gown designer, who in 1934 inherits an expedition from her husband: the hunt for a panda in China. She succeeds. But that hardly seems to matter. What matters is the journey, the struggle, the possibility that she could have fallen on her face but tried, tried, tried anyway. What matters is her story. Go read it to your kids, just leave your coffee at the table.

from annie dillard

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“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

lovely links: September 2013

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admiring 40 Inspiring Workspaces of the Famously Creative

planning an (imaginary) road trip based on this slideshow of beautiful college libraries

this story, “The Complete Listing of All Public Children’s Literature Statues in the United States” makes me think I’ll have to add some stops to my road trip and think about making it real

being encouraged & reminded

revisiting this gem of an interview with Melissa Sweet

Reading this and this and this, oh yes, this. And this, again.