Monday, May 10, 2010

True Colors - Marylinn Kelly

The following is the introduction I read on the opening evening of an event at The Art Bar in Santa Ana, CA, held from June 23-26, 2005, a weekend of workshops with "True Colors" artists.

If the beginning of the True Colors collaboration matched all the excitement, surprise, delight and pure wonder of everything it has become, it would have needed to go something like this:

I would have been doing something ordinary like watering the lawn. Over the hiss of the water I could hear faint music, the tinkling sound like an ice cream truck, but the song would be “Chariots of Fire.” Our ice cream man plays “Send In The Clowns.” Then along with the music I could hear women’s voices and laughter. Soon I could see the bus, a rolling Peter-Max-Ken-Kesey Easter egg of a bus, trailing flowers and ribbons and banners, graceful arms tossing confetti from the windows. This Queen Of All Buses stops at my driveway and in chorus the women shout, “Get in!” Cars pass with great honking and waving. I step aboard and I can tell you, the ride hasn’t stopped yet.

But the real beginning was a quiet email invitation to be part of a journal exchange based on color. The chance to share our art, to exchange freely our imaginations, to expand, to join. The joy of creating and giving was the intention, nothing else was needed. So we began – some of us puzzled novices, tackling such a project for the first time, others veterans with art careers that reached back decades.

The books set out on their journeys from hand to hand. As one of the newcomers, I was struck by the level of generosity – generosity so great as to be nearly absurd – that I had never witnessed nor imagined. The books started to fill – even in the early days some had to be tied shut – and the sense of being connected to pure magic could not be ignored. Word of the magic reached the outside world and it was suggested we share the books, perhaps through a magazine article. Instead, our once quiet, no-fanfare exchange became the book, True Colors, and continues to widen with this weekend of bringing artists and journals together. Each segment of the journey has come as a gift – not anything expected or sought but more a blessing equal to the spirit of giving that marked the entire collaboration.

The real world rewards from True Colors continue to arrive, but so do the less quantifiable ones – the mind and heart and spirit connections. Somewhere in the process we separate souls became an entity, joined in the way that can only come from sharing a profound experience. I have found, in addition to that absurd generosity, such impossible kindness, a kinship that usually develops over years of friendship and trust. Before this weekend, many of us had never met. These beautiful sisters, known only at a distance over the past four years, were suddenly here.

We can and will talk about the actual books tonight, all weekend, and into the future. As remarkable as they are, the way in which they have woven our lives together is even more rare. That is one of the untold stories.

Marker and color pencil postcard on corrugated cardboard sent to a fund-raising mail art exhibit

A stuffed toy version of one of my Stampington "Un-usual Suspects" characters

Background sheets, marker on glossy cardstock, to copy and use in projects

April 2010

My magical mystery tour feelings about the TRUE COLORS collaboration, as expressed in 2005, have mellowed, growing richer and more enduring. To have been part of this project brings up emotions that I imagine are shared by players on any championship team, acknowledging that all the joy is real and will not tarnish nor become less than it is. I wore the jersey, I got to play, my name is on the trophy, I have the ring.

As I consider what I would list as the greatest gifts this project gave me, the women, their friendship and support, come first. Even though we had e-mailed each other and talked on the phone for years, Lynne Perrella and I did not meet until the Art Bar weekend. There I also met Lisa Hoffman, Michelle Ward, Judi Riesch and Karen Michel, in the lobby of our hotel, a certifiable frenzy of squealing, laughing, hugging, and however much of our separate stories could be told simultaneously. I arrived home three days later, missing the others so much it felt as though I had been banished from my only-just-found tribe.

Their tribal protectiveness flew into action three years ago when my son was hospitalized with a near-fatal illness. They widened the circle beyond the TC group and drew in other artists whose prayers, encouragement, gifts and energy sustained me for the weeks, then months, of his recovery. That this happened over Christmas was eased by their continual messages and mail and the knowledge that I had an army behind me. I am relieved that I don't have to imagine how I would have gotten through those days without them and the way they linked with my family and old friends, sending love, love and more love. Theirs will always be the hands upon the oars in my lifeboat.

It is through friendship with these sisters that I decided to begin blogging, not about art but as a writing exercise. Though I have recently managed to add a few photos and videos, I recognize the need to keep it about the writing, allowing the words to be enough. A recent commitment to myself put writing before pretty much everything else and while I have no clear direction other than just to keep doing it, I know it is carrying me forward on my path. Since TC was published, I have done additional stamp designs, both for my original manufacturer, Rubbermoon, and for Stampington and Co. My heart will always belong to mail art, moving from stamping to original illustrations on envelopes. Often the figures which debut there go on the become stamps. Over the past 10 years, there have been smaller group projects for various publications, each one expanding my boundaries and giving me another form to which I can return, something new for my bag of tricks.

TRUE COLORS is part of the continuum of my life. Membership in that club will cast its light across my time line forever. It may compare, for someone of my vintage, to having been at Woodstock or at the Senate Office Building the morning Bobby Kennedy announced he was running for President. In our creative world, I believe it is a piece of history and, as with other events whose significance is only recognized in hindsight, I know how fortunate I am to have been there.


Jill Zaheer said...

What an extraordinary post from Marylinn's discussion of what True Colors meant to her, the relationships and bonds that formed among the women, and the role of writing throughout her life. What an amazing read- and such a compelling story of souls and connection that developed through the "True Colors" art collaboration. What a great continuation to this moving series!

lyle said...

what a lovely story told by an expert story teller. you can feel her joy in being part of such a fantastic group! thank you, Seth and Marylinn for including us!

sf said...

Your writing BLOWS MY SOX OFF - always...

Karin Bartimole said...

This was such an incredibly rich post to read. The magical seed of an idea planted in experimental creative play that has grown into such a magnificent testimonial to the power of creative personal expression, sharing, community building, and love. Thank you for sharing your tribe with the world!

Joanie Hoffman said...

wow, what a read.
Thanks Seth & Marylinn for this wonderful posting.
Happy Monday,

Anonymous said...

what a fantastic post! i just lovelove those backgrounds -- so vibrant and fun.

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I was lucky enough to be there at The ARTbar for the True Colors workshop and see the joy and wonder when all these fascinating women got together - truly 3 days of pure magic!

Anonymous said...

Another stunning piece of beautiful writing. Here's what amazes me: when we're together and you speak, we hear the same warmth, poetry and humor.

I may just go and have my lips sewn shut after reading this post.
Seth? you sure know how to round up the gems.

Chris said...

Oh, this is so beautifully written and evocative. yay.

michelle ward said...

I remember when Marylinn read those opening remarks at the True Colors event. *Get In* I can picture the bus, can't you? What a fun ride!!

Anonymous said...

I adore reading Marylinn's blog -
her voice is quietly

and has her own true colors.

Melissa Green said...

Marylinn is a prism, a glow out of the corner of my eye, the kind of experience Vladimir Nabokov had when reading--synesthesia--where all the letters have a color. Marylinn's writing has color everywhere, her words pulse with fire and steel and gentleness. I'm going to have to invent another form of --thesia which would include scent, aromas, puffs of evocative dust that rise off her pages too. xo

Darlene K Campbell said...

An art tribe for sure. What an amazing story of friendship founded through art discovery.