Sunday, January 16, 2011

Overcoming SASAD

Mary Belle Page Spread 1

I began working on the above altered book to counteract a condition I suffer from in winter--Seasonal Affective Studio Avoidance Disorder!

Do you have symptoms of this widespread syndrome?

1. A desire to sleep 12 hours a night
2. A marked tendency to stay awake during the night, ruminating on all the embarrassing things you said and did in high school
3. An urgent need to spring clean your house in January
4. Despite being accepted at six art retreats in 2011, you decide you're probably nothing but a humbug
5. Undersocializing

This syndrome is seen to be particularly acute in those who just purchased their first TV in 20 years and who are now enabled to watch streaming netflix on said TV.

I fit all the above criteria, so I figured I needed to help myself before it was Too Late. Because of # 4 above, I have some assignments to do. I picked one and forced myself to work. I'll show you some of it below. I am happy to report I am now working in my studio more often, though I have a way to go before I am completely cured.

I'm creating an altered book journal of my four great-grandmothers. One I knew well, one I remember a little, and the other two I never met. As my PSU women's studies students know, I am fervent about the importance of women's stories, especially ordinary women. I'm lucky to know some about my ancestors and how they lived.

This section of the book is dedicated to Mary Belle Denhart Wheeler. She was a milliner before her marriage and a couture quality seamstress all her life. She made her own clothes and hats and those of her daughters. You can see this theme reflected in the above book pages.

Mary must have learned to sew from her mother, Gertrude, who appears in the left side of the book page below. Gertrude once shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln, so that gives you a time frame for her. On the right is the earliest picture I have of Mary. Mary's grandfather, Jacob Denhart, came from Kassell, Germany where he apparently grew up in the castle the city is named for. He must have been the son of a servant of some kind.

Gertrude (left) and Mary (right)
I used some paper I designed digitally, old material, old buttons and salvaged trim. Plaids and strips were popular in Gertrude's youth.

Mary Belle married Benjamin Wheeler of whom I know little. He designed and built houses in Eugene, Oregon. He died when my grandmother, Pauline, was in college. When I was a child I asked grandma Pauline what her father was like. She replied, "Oh, he wasn't worth much." Oh, okaaay. Wow. So go the family secrets!

I am lucky to have great grandma Mary's picture postcard collection. Here are some reproductions along with her picture. The mysterious Ben is on the left.

I'll be teaching a class on creating a journal like this at Art and Soul New Orleans this summer. Hope you find this idea inspiring. I'll post more of the book as I go. I'd love to hear ideas from other SASDA sufferers--united we can conquer this dread condition!


dewatobay said...

Bravo on EVERYTHING! on being honest and being super creative!

Dayna Collins said...

Your journals are stunning! Wish I was going to Art and Soul in New Orleans (for more than one reason!).