Monday, February 13, 2012

Recollections Repurposed: The Art of Seeing

I spent most of my weekend in the nonstop school catchup that consumes my semester. But early Saturday morning, with circles under my eyes from an insomniac sleep (while characters roamed through a half-conscious haze), I rolled into town to meet antiquities collector and artist Melissa Abercrombie of Blue Ribbon Salvage at her Petaluma home for a Patch interview.

From a coffee table she built from an old sign and salvaged wood, to the sculptures and necklaces she makes from repurposed materials (mostly antique medallions--my favorite being a silver luggage tag with seahorse-riding mermaid), her home is an homage to all things old-timey. A framed photo of San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts from the 1916 World's Fair found us reminiscing about the city's Sutro Baths (ruins), Playland (not) at the Beach and the Musee Mecanique.

Maybe it was my sleep-deprived state, or opening my eyes to art so early, but meeting Melissa set a precedent for how I saw the world that day. While writing at Acre Cafe I saw a wall display of sumi ink objects--an oil lamp or a boot, like silhouettes, drawn from a bamboo pen. "The objects posed for me are inhabitants of a ghost town... I chose them so that the pen and ink could learn their shape. As a writer, I aim less to convey information than to forge fragments into an ideal form..." wrote the artist Francesca Preston in her statement Can This Ink Even Touch You. Next to it was a poem on paper secured in the blue-grey typewriter that lives in this cafe; I read it as if peering over the shoulder of a ghost writer in the room. Then I read a Raymond Carver sad story in my reader and almost cried.

While running my fingers over flowery old fabrics at Hippy Thrift (I bought a spring green sweater and summer dress!) and sliding my hand over a lovely walnut writing desk, smooth as skin, at the antique store next door, I thought about how as I writer I craft my materials too. I repurpose words. While ghosts with their imaginary whispers romp through my room at night--part memory, part hearsay I got second-hand--I determine their form by redesign with placement and texture and imagery, collaging them together with the mental glue that comes undone with the clarity of full consciousness. Inside, my story is still percolating. Soon I will sit down to carve its wooden legs, mold the metal, set the ink with moveable type.

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