A Valentine

Oh so American, so embarrassing, a love letter to a product! A birthday gift (from our sons and their significant others).

My birthday falls right after Thanksgiving. This year, I was already grateful just for being surrounded by people I love. When a box with a bow revealed an iPad, I was stunned. Oh I wanted one (I’d been following David Hockney’s adventures with his, including a Paris exhibit of dangling iPads – he emailed new images each day to the gallery), but I already had a phone and a computer I love.

On our recent Seattle day I determined to concentrate on learning to use the “Brushes” app. I knew I would feel silly in public, but quickly realized that what Hockney says is true. “Brushes” is finger paint in your pocket (Hockney’s suit jacket pockets, originally modified to accommodate a sketchbook, now hold the iPad).

The Seattle Art Museum on a January day is a quiet place – no blockbuster exhibits and no tourists. After checking my big bag and jacket, I encountered “Ruth Drawing Picasso, Liverpool 2009,” a six-minute video – projected on a huge screen, filling a wall – by Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra. (It’s up till April).

Middleschooler age, Ruth sits on the floor against a museum wall, wearing a school uniform, her chunky boots stretched out in front, paper pad in her lap, and pencil in her hand. We watch her drawing Picasso’s painting, “Woman Weeping.”

I hadn’t known Dijkstra’s work – this six-minute loop is simplicity itself and mesmerizing. The only sound is the skritching of the pencil as Ruth concentrates, bites her lip and looks repeatedly between painting and paper.

Every once in a while something in a museum is exactly right for where you are at that moment. Emboldened after Ruth, and a bowl of tomato soup in the museum café, and spotting the masses of color in paintings by Richard Diebenkorn and Ellsworth Kelly, I tried to go past my strong impulse to line and word with more painterly moves.

Curious museum guards asked questions while I apologized for my ineptitude (it is challenging to make lines with your finger, and I had that panicky new technology feeling). I showed them how to change colors and line width. The older guard, a musician, said he’d seen an app that’s a guitar. The younger guard said she didn’t do tech stuff really, but she wrote down Hockney and Paris to Google.

The volunteer manning the coat check also asked about the iPad, and admitted he’d got one from his wife for Christmas, but hadn’t touched it. I gave him a pep talk while showing him my pudgy “Hammering Man.”

It’s about the doing of course, no matter the medium – and it’s about love – that man’s wife, my family – giving an extravagant gift to engage wonder.

And it’s loving learning – sewing or gardening or playing the trumpet – whatever it is you love to do.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

1 thought on “A Valentine

  1. The pressure that arises when drawing in public is huge. But made even more so when using an unfamiliar device. Cheers to you. And I loved that Ellsworth Kelly painting you “made”.

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