On January 2nd I began my one-year residency with the Thomasville Center for the Arts in Thomasville, Georgia. More than a few people asked me why I would want to leave my cute little backyard studio in Tallahassee and drive 45 minutes twice a day to and from South Georgia. It’s true that my backyard studio sure was lovely and working from home provided a certain freedom to set my own schedule and take a 15-minute catnap in the afternoon if I needed to. The drawback is that sometimes that “backyard studio be your own boss” model provides a little too much freedom and if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you will know that for the past two years I’ve been struggling with some serious fear and motivation issues that have only gotten worse by the freedom (or the isolation) that my backyard has provided.
When I was young, (maybe seven years old) I went to my grandparents’ farm in Southern Illinois to stay for a week. I loved that farm. They had pigs and cows and a vegetable garden and everything. This was before it became trendy to grow your own food. It was way back in the late 70’s. My grandparents had lived in the same farmhouse since they built it back in the 1920’s.
The week I was there, the sweetcorn was ready. In other words, we had to “put up the corn”. This means that for several days in a row all we did was shuck corn, cook corn, cut it off the cobs, bag it and stick it in the deep freeze. I was pretty exhausted at night when I went to bed. One morning I told my grandma and my aunts that, “I closed my eyes and saw corn.” Corn had been burned into my brain. This story got passed around for years. I didn’t know it but this was my first work dream. Later down the line I would have waitressing dreams, teaching dreams etc. but the corn shucking visions seemed okay at the time.
When I was growing up, my mom, my sister and I would go out to a strawberry patch and pick a ton of strawberries and then my mom would cut them up to make freezer jam. Perhaps it was memories of corn shucking or strawberry picking that led me to drive an hour and a half into South Georgia this weekend to buy 25 pounds of peaches. Yes, that’s what I said. 25 pounds.
I think it’s important to admit that you really can’t go home again. My nostalgia left out the fact that when I was seven years old I didn’t have a job or a husband or a bad back that does not want to let me stand up at the end of my studio day to cut up 25 pounds of peaches before they go bad. To be fair, I didn’t really know that I was buying a 25 pound box until my husband loaded it into the car. The gnats at the orchard were so bad that I just closed my eyes and swatted toward a box. I thought we’d buy peach ice cream at the little stand and sit outside on the picnic table and have a lovely afternoon at the orchard. The bugs and the 80% humidity plus 95 degree temps forced us to eat our cones in the car with the air conditioning on.
My ceramic work has a lot do with nostalgia. It isn’t about the specific people that are in the images, it’s about the emotion that the images invoke in you. The feelings of summer, fun, family and good friends. Sometimes the memory of these places and times is far better than the actual places and times were. Really, nostalgia is a longing for something that never actually existed. Which is why we love nostalgia. It is so hopeful. The idea of eating those Georgia peaches was far better than doing the work to try and keep them around all winter in the freezer. I could have just eaten one peach and then longed for them throughout the winter. Next time, maybe I’ll just do that. Maybe.
This is about half of the peaches!