Karen's Quilt Square
This quilt square was the result of a project begun at our church. Everyone was provided with a blank quilt square, and we were asked to create -- using any imaginable art form -- something that represented our family, our hobbies, etc. The squares were then collected about a month later, and some of the church ladies were planning to create an actual quilt, which would be prominently displayed somewhere in the sanctuary. It sounded like an interesting project, and I ended up drawing a "big tree." When completed, the quilt will include this humble "artistic expression" drawn with colored pencils, permanent markers and watercolor markers, which are all I had available to me at the time. Technically, I admit, neither the square nor the art qualifies as being an "artifact," but maybe there's the potential it will someday become one? What do you think?
Okay, I'll add, as a full disclaimer, that I'm not exactly an artist. I've never had the pleasure of being an art student anywhere, except by way of being my mother's daughter. My mother is the "First Artist" of our family. She is the one I always watched sketching or painting, and when she gave little lectures about Michelangelo or art in general, I actually paid attention. When she was a youngster growing up in Pittsburgh, she won many art competitions and was slated to receive a scholarship at a local art school, but she was afraid to ask her father (an Italian day-laborer who supported his wife, eight children, and anyone else in their North Side neighborhood who needed homemade wine and fresh produce) for the money for bus fare, and thus lost a potential career as an artist. Growing up in a family of five kids, it was my brother Michael who always used to raid my mom's art supplies (no doubt spurred along by all those tales of Michelangelo), while I never dared to do so. Therefore, Mike became the other artist in the family, while I merely developed the "eye" of an artist [i.e., the ability to see things as an artist might see them].
The "big tree" has been a recurring theme in my life, often showing up in dreams, "serious" artwork and telephone message scribbles. I love to look at trees and I respect trees for all the many blessings they provide, like oxygen (!!) and fruits and true nuts and shade and beauty. I really get upset when I see people chopping down trees for no good reason, or trimming them into an unnatural shape (as I've seen employees of telephone and electric companies doing). I have often scolded children for their mistreatment of trees that grow in public spaces, like cracking and pulling off perfectly fine branches, or trying to climb trees that are much too young to support their weight. And I'm always saddened when I see a fruit tree that has not been given quality care, so that its fruit is undersized, diseased or left abandoned to rot underfoot or roll into the streets. I always think, "What a waste!"
Luckily, by living in Pennsylvania, I get to enjoy lots of trees, which are everywhere in our neighborhoods. My first great treat in the South Hills area (while driving to the home of my future in-laws) was experiencing Beck's Run, which is a local and well-traveled road linking Pittsburgh's South Side to the neighborhood of Carrick (our home neighborhood now for nearly 12 years). Beck's Run is lined with trees, cut as it is through the hills sloping upward toward Brownsville Road. That first long drive into unknown territory (towards an unknown future) presented me with a beautiful corridor of trees that even now continues to give pleasure to that artist's eye of mine. Even the once-extremely-bumpy road (during the time I was 9+ months pregnant) was made endurable by the beauty of the trees along the way. And every fall, when the leaves are many colors -- red, brown and gold -- I love the trip along Beck's Run. I often point out sections of these trees to my son, Matthew (the newest best artist in the family), so that he can properly develop his own eye for beauty.
Thinking back over the years, I recall that whenever I started drawing a tree, the paper was never big enough for all the branches and leaves and roots, etc., that I always felt compelled to add. Small wonder, then, that I chose to engage myself in (amateur) genealogical research, where the "family tree" is the center of attention. Small wonder that I chose Karen's Branches as a title for my web site . . . which brings me back to this quilt square.