Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Early Influences

One of my favorite stamps.

Assorted and sundry family and friends gathered outside of our beach cottage at Point Judith, RI, summer of 1965. That's Sue wrapped in a towel on the left, next to my mom in the red sweatshirt, and that's me on the other side of my mother, sporting the long bangs and sailor hat. We were still into collecting stamps at this time!

I must have thought that these two stamps were particularly special to warrent their own little frames! :^)

Two summers ago my siblings and I had the bittersweet task of emptying our childhood home in RI to get it ready for sale after moving our mother Edna, who has Alzheimer's, to an assisted living facility. We spent days going through reams of stuff. My sister Sue was out East from CA helping, and I'd come down from Maine. She and I spent the better part of a week there together, sorting through the boxes, the closets, the cupboards, the shelves...
I was busy looking through a box of old Christmas ornaments one morning when Sue came up beside me with her hands behind her back. She said, "Hey, Mart - look here," then she whipped out a book and placed it under my nose. I gasped and grabbed it. My old stamp collection! I hadn't seen it in over 30 years! I opened it to look at the yellowed pages - the stamps still had good color, and the smell of the pages took me back to summer days spent outdoors, sitting on blankets in the shade with my sister and neighborhood girlfriends, sorting through bags of cancelled stamps that we'd bought for a dollar through ads in the backs of comic books. We would dicker and trade, and stick the stamps in the books with glue and scotch tape. "I found this, too," said Sue, interrupting my reverie as she brandished a plastic magnifying glass and leaned over to solemnly examine a stamp on the opened page of my album. We both cracked up. Oh, we had taken this seriously! Sue had found her album, too, and we laughed remembering how my friend Patty Gardiner always had the coolest stamps, and that she would not divulge her source. As we drooled with envy over her exotic triangular and diamond shaped stamps, Patty smiled a little self satisfied smile and told us that she'd bought them at a "secret place," and that although she was very sorry, she could not tell us where. (Later while shopping with my parents at Ann & Hope, a 60's precursor to the the major "marts," as in K, and Wal, I saw a package of the coveted stamps hanging on a rack with dozens of others like it...
"secret place," my ass...)

I don't recall why I wanted a stamp album, but that is what I asked for on my 10th birthday - that along with a "man tailored" white shirt and a pair of dungaree shorts. (Dungaree! I don't even recognize that word any longer! God, I sound like the old lady that lived across the street from us when we were kids who would caution us to "Watch out for the machines!" as we crossed the road...)

So, I got my album (and my shirt and shorts) for my 10th birthday and so began my brief love affair with stamps. Eventually I think I ended up using a bunch of them in collages - I never had any of great value. But I look at this album now and see all those wonderful tiny portraits and think how my penchant for portraiture and printmaking was showing up even when I was a young girl. I stated in an earlier post how I'm a sucker for images in multiples. Guess I've always been!

What were some of your early passions and influences?


Rob S. said...


Finally saw "Blackwork Lovers" on display - and at night, too! It looks great, and it was unmistakably powerful, even from across the street before I got to it.

Early influences... well, this may sound trite, but my maternal grandmother (an artist herself) inexplicably gave me the catalog of Wyeth at Kuerner's from the Met show in 1976/77. She had seen it in person, and was so blown away that she bought 10 copies of the thing, and was giving it to anyone who was vaguely interested in art. I loved drawing, but I was SEVEN! Pretty heavy stuff for my tender years. But, I cherished it, and it actually was a big influence once I started painting. The fantasy artists were big for me too: Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo (I went to school with his son, Dorian!), Michael Whelan. And I loved my Scribner's Classics illustrated by NC Wyeth. Man, could that guy paint action!

In college I got more serious with the academy guys like Bouguereau, Ingres and Gerome. But my Romantic side still picked out Caspar Friedrich and the Hudson River big guns like Church and Bierstadt, not to mention JW Waterhouse and other Pre-Raphaelites.

All that is there in my work to this day.

martha miller said...

WoW. You had high class inspiration as a tyke!
I was inspired by The Breck Girls...
(60's ads for Breck Shampoo! Now I'll have to post on those!)

Glad you got to see my prints - they are coming down in a few days!

Happy Late Summer! Finally getting some fabulous weather - enjoy!!!