I started Storybook Village because most of the time I feel like I live in one. But good stories are not always easy. The best ones have tension, conflict, something worth fighting for, and hopefully, in the end, triumph. My Storybook Village is no different. The opportunity to purchase the old Strand Theater in Lambertville popped up in May of 2019. Finkles Hardware has used the Strand as their warehouse for almost 40 years. Rachel Finkle and I walked into the warehouse in search of some particular nail my husband had sent me to find. “I love this building! I have always loved this building! It would make the most amazing art space!” I declared. “Oh yeah, wanna buy it?” she replied. We worked out a contract that would allow me the time to get it through the planning board process before closing, which I thought ‘couldn’t be that complicated’. Ha! Hindsight… I had a small nest egg in my studio account, and a full year of collaborative FingerSmear® work booked. Tom was doing well too. It had been over a decade since the 2008 meltdown crushed us, but we had re-built well. The road was looking rosy.
I began the process with the city and quickly learned that there was nothing ‘uncomplicated’ about it. Yes, I was new to the process – but I’m smart, I’ve produced large complex events, traveled all over the planet, and been commissioned by several of the world’s leading corporations. I also have little patience for illogical systems and senseless expenses – so the process was incredibly frustrating. Covid arrived a few months into it, and all of my FingerSmear work for the year was cancelled in a matter of weeks. A few personal struggles like our sons nearly crippling accident, my total knee replacement, and my father’s death from covid peppered my resolve with pain and sadness. The motivation to move it all forward had to be actively cultivated. Hope was not always easy to find, but I forced myself to look for it.
It was close to midnight on November 3rd. The TV blared incoming election numbers. Uncertainty and opinion flooded the room and I had an intense desire to leave it. I closed the front door and drew in the cool night air. A calm come over me and visually the world seemed to flatten out. The night was made up of patterns, lights and darks. Color was no longer the most poetic piece. Shapes were all I saw. The vertical lift of the massive trees, a swath of light from a streetlamp, the angle of rooftops against the midnight sky. My visual and emotional plane went from noise and conjecture that felt out of control, to the calm sweet air and the quiet dance of shapes against a flattened sky. Something clicked and my eyes seemed to read it all in a different way.
To translate that some of the details have to be spared. Color matters, but the shape of things plays a larger roll. Textured wooden boards allow me to drag layers of paint, catching color on random edges, and softening anything that dares to lean toward hardness.
This is #10 in the series. The might of the old Strand sits off to the right, knowing that it will come alive with color again sometime soon, after we weather one more storm. We’re working to close in April. Architectural plans are coming along, and that process is inspiring and fun. The vision of a covid clear society who gathers, laughs, and learns together keeps me hopeful and working. My desire to feel the joy in all of that again keeps me writing, and the beauty I continually find in this village keeps me painting. This is my Storybook Village. It is not without tension and conflict, but it is something worth fighting for, and hopefully, in the end, we triumph.