Today I was going through old picture archives, looking for something else, when I came across a set of photographs I took of my studio spaces back in Vermont, six years ago. I must have taken them because we were starting to think about moving from that house, where we had lived for 30 years. I haven't looked at pictures of our old house very much since we moved; maybe I didn't want to, maybe I knew I needed time to replace old familiar images with new ones. Now, though, looking at these spaces again, I was surprised by my reactions.
I worked in several different rooms in that old house. The picture at the top is of a wall in what J. always called my "anti-room." It was indeed an anteroom that had been added onto the main house, over a crawl space - the pipes froze here regularly - but the pun J. was making had to do with the fact that it was a very analog space, devoid of the computers in the rest of our work area -- in this one a lot of handwork took place! This was a wall of formal calligraphy practice sheets and several experimental calligraphy pieces, created in mixed-media with multi-layered lettering, and printing, in acrylic, Chinese inks, and gouache.
This is the same room, further to the right, showing the book press and some early linocuts, and a general mess; looking at the pictures now, all I can remember is how impossible it was for me to work in such a small space with so little table space and completely inadequate storage. The calligraphic inscription on the wall is a quote from St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel always -- if necessary use words."
Below is another corner of the room, moving clockwise to the right. The sketches on the wall eventually became a large pastel that I gave to my parents. I still like that red Conté sketch, though, now that I see it here; it must be in my flat file still.
On the fourth wall I had a revolving gallery of drawings - the large portrait of my mother is on the wall of my present studio, too.
We had another building -- a garage with a large open space above that J. used for photography. On the ground floor were two other small rooms, one a woodworking shop, and the other, my painting studio and meditation room, shown below. When I saw this photograph today, I felt again the peacefulness I always enjoyed in that room. It was very much my own, and the desk looked out over the garden. The bookcase is right in front of me as I write this, and the easel and desk are here in my present studio as well. The rocking chair, which was my mother-in-law's, was sold; the Japanese cloth is folded up somewhere, as is that pretty lace curtain. The antique lamps and brackets are in a box; I haven't had a good place to put them. The Cezanne poster, faded and rolled up now, is from an extraordinary retrospective at MOMA that I saw way back in 1978 or so and still remember vividly.
I don't feel nostalgic -- our workspaces now are so much more functional, with wonderful light and much more space -- I simply remember the many hours I spent in this particular room, above, pondering life and trying to grow, feeling supported by objects that reminded me of the best parts of life, and people who were and still are dear to me. It all comes back very swiftly when I look at these photographs.