Monday, July 17, 2017

Judy Penzer & The Art of Deepening the Mystery

Me working on my SPACE mural
Photo by Jami Marlowe
"The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery." - Francis Bacon

THE RELATIVE DISTANCE of memories is a peculiar phenomenon of aging. Think back to when you were a child and how every minute between holidays felt like a month. For most of us, birthdays were the best thing imaginable, our own personal holiday where time and space and gravity bent in our direction. There was a perceived upgrade in status that came with being another year older; we were allowed more and more autonomy of our lives. But in time, most of us discover that our youthful perceptions are warped by inexperience, and every upgrade comes with more and more responsibility. By the time most of us have reached our early twenties, that precipice between the so-called freedom of youth and previously-coveted responsibility of adulthood, we’re just starting to sense the shift in our perception of time.

It happens incrementally, barely noticeable at first. The event we thought occurred a year ago was actually two years ago. A movie sequel is released and we suddenly realize it’s been more years than we thought since the previous installment came out. Someone’s name gets mentioned and it takes a second to recall who they are, then you wonder how you could have ever forgotten that person. Or someone’s name is mentioned and you immediately know who they are, but you suddenly realize how long it’s been since you’ve been in touch. Then the occurrences pick up the pace, but we don’t notice. Babies are born, then they’re talking, then they’re tweens, and we remember buying them outdated gifts for birthdays long passed. In our twenties, we are fully-formed adults in the eyes of twelve-year olds, even though we know we’re nowhere close to that. For them, as it had been for us, minutes are months, but for us now months streak by like minutes, and the clock ticks on. The time swirls into a temporal mural with memories as the paint, and one’s lifetime as the wall it’s applied to.

Monday, January 16, 2017

44 Is A Magic Number: Part One

Prologue: A Personal History of Before and After

There are two kinds of occurrences that can be said to change the world: There are the types which unfold over time, which we often see coming, and there are the unexpected types which happen in an instant. It’s hard to say which ones ultimately leave the more lasting societal impact. That would be a subjective conclusion anyway. What these types of occurrences have in common is that they divide our history into before and after. Ask anyone who is old enough if they remember life before and after certain things happened, and you’ll most likely get a story that defines the person as well as the day and age in which it took place.

I remember watching the earliest news reports about the Iranian hostage crisis in November of 1979. I was much too young to grasp the politics that swirled around that story, but I knew it was serious, and it was protracted. I also remember the sense of elation when it was announced, immediately after Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, that they had been released. A little over two months later, upon returning home from a trip to downtown with my mother and sisters, I flicked on the television and, before it even warmed up enough for the picture to appear, you could hear the newscasters had interrupted programming to tell us the president had been shot. These two back-to-back events, one long-in-coming and the other happening out of nowhere, had the lasting effect of increasing Reagan’s larger-than-life persona to an extent that carried over long past his presidency into the present day.

I also remember, in 1984, when Jesse Jackson launched his first campaign for the presidency. I was still too young to understand the intricacies of his platform and politics (although at least some of that probably speaks to the trickle-down understanding of politics most Americans still experience), but I definitely felt the newness of that candidacy, and how it had the possibility of unlocking something we’d never seen before. Of course, that quality of the unknown didn’t inspire everyone, and many of us possessed an intimate understanding of where that resistance came from.