Looking for Muses

January 13th, 2014

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I recently discovered a blog called Slow Muse written by visual artist Deborah Barlow on a variety of creativity related topics. In one post, she mentions how her interaction and friendships with musicians, writers and inventors — people from outside her own circle of expertise and training — help her see the world in a different way. When I was in my early 30s, just starting college in the 1970s and crazy mad for writing, I met a vibrant older woman in one of my literature classes who was an artist, a free spirit and as colorful as her work. Delilah used bold colors that she named for personal experiences, like John Deere Green for the tractor from her father’s farm. She’d just left a suburban D.C. marriage of decades, and her apartment filled with art and artifacts and her eccentric lifestyle were revelations to me. I’m sure her life was harder than I knew and not nearly as bohemian as it seemed from the outside, but at the time, she seemed like a radically brave artist. I was just starting to take my own writing seriously, and I noticed how the poems she wrote to describe her paintings were so much more vivid and direct than my work even though writing wasn’t her major or her main interest. It was as if being a painter allowed her to see and transcribe the world a little off center, and I thought that if I just moved my head slightly to the side, I might see it that way too. Since then I’ve found ongoing inspiration in artists who have that ability to travel easily between genres  — Anne Truitt’s sculpture and journals, Twyla Tharp’s dance and writing, Bob Dylan’s music and painting — and it makes me John Deere Green with envy. I’ve been taking painting classes for the past months hoping they will teach me to pay better attention to the world and maybe shake the words in my head into different, fresher combinations.  It’s what I aspire to every day even though I fall far short of it over and over and give up on myself time and again. When I had known Delilah for about a year, she packed her possessions into a U-Haul and left Virginia for Mexico on her next big adventure. Big adventures like that have a way of sometimes disappointing us, but I hope it was everything she imagined and that somewhere out there or beyond she is still painting words that glow like Tin Roof Red or Double Line Yellow.

One Response to “Looking for Muses”

  1. Amey Warder says:

    Damn good writing. Love this post. Love your writing.

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