The violin Scheherazade by Jo Ann Brown-Scott
While we are on the subject of creativity, let me tell you a story within a story. Just a little personal experience of sadness, discovery, healing and joy. A recent chapter in the biography of my art – a true tale, unembellished, able to stand firmly on its own merits. It has always seemed to me that my long career in art has provided me with more than enough fascinating stories – enough for a lifetime of enlightenment and inspiration. Stored in my mind are humorous anecdotes, disturbing happenings, brilliant realizations and numerous other categories of true occurences that have enriched and enhanced the initial act of creating a piece of artwork. Let me begin with this one…..
In the fall of 2010 while living in northern California I received an honored invitation to create a piece of artwork – a painted violin – for the DYAO – Denver Young Artists Orchestra. This long established, prestigious, charitable project involves the yearly selection of about 20 artists who are invited to paint an actual violin (one that has been put out to pasture) in whatever flavor and style they are comfortable with. The violins then tour galleries for viewing, over several months in the Denver area, culminating in a gala event in the spring, where the violins are auctioned, thus funding the youth orchestra for the next season. www.paintedviolin.com www.dyao.org
In that fall of 2010 my husband was very ill. I was thrilled with my violin invitation, and yet it was placed in my mind on the very back shelf of priorities… As December arrived with holiday preparations and obligations, my husband worsened and finally died on December 7th. A week or so later the violin arrived at my door by UPS in a lovely case….at first I had no idea what the DYAO could possibly be sending me, and then I remembered. I made a mental note to notify them that I could not possibly participate in the violin event, as honored as I was to have been selected. I did not have it in me to paint.
After holiday season spent in Tahoe at my family’s gentle insistence, while recuperating from cataract surgery on my first eye and grieving the death of my husband, I arrived back home to face the hard reality of dealing with nasty insurance issues, ugly Social Security issues, clearing out my husband’s closets and office and trying to not have a meltdown. Trying very hard not to lose it, when I ran across the violin. The violin committee was expecting that it be shipped to them, all finished, by April 1st. They requested that it reflect my characteristic mixed media collage technique. I was convinced I could not possibly muster the artistic inspiration and strength to accomplish that. I had only emptiness where the creativity used to be.
As the weeks passed I began to wonder what I would, theoretically, do to the violin if I somehow could do it….if I decided to accept its challenge. Ideas gradually came to mind, creeping in under the blanket of my sadness. Sort of warming me up. I reminded myself of other circumstances when my art had been my solace and my escape. As a diversion from the sad tasks I was dealing with all day long, I thought about the violin. I remembered when I was young and Mom used to play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on Saturday mornings; music inspired by the ancient Persian Tales of the Arabian Nights. The music was haunting and exotic, and told the poetic fable of the handsome Sultan who demanded a different virgin be brought to his tent every night, then killed them the next day so that they could not be unfaithful to him. Enter the beautiful Persian Princess, Scheherazade, who made love to him, then told him an intriguing tale and promised to finish the story the following night. She returned, continued the tale night after night, and kept herself alive for many thousands of years, bearing his children and making him very happy.
I approached my collage papers and my paint with doubt and trepidation, wondering what would happen as I attempted to pull my creative gestures and thought processes up from the depths of my misery. I decided to incorporate meaningful mementoes and papers into the collage as omens of good will and peace of mind. I collaged the violin with the same coral and gold leaf paper I had used for the cover of my handmade wedding invitations as a tribute to my husband, I used a gold circle, a link from a broken necklace of my mother’s. Then some polished stones that my daughter had given me were used to circle the arm of the violin like a bracelet. I added a hunk of clear crystal for good karma. I antiqued the entire violin with gold paint, made a keyhole design on the backside as a symbol of entrance to a new life, used an East Indian paper around the edges…and I was quite happy and amazed with the results. I titled the violin Scheherazade, in honor of the Persian Princess, and nicknamed her “Scher”.
The story does not end there – with the violin project I was taken through a door to a new place in my life. A place where I was reassured that my life was going to begin again and there was still much to look forward to. As of this day I am still entering that door, leaving soon for my move to Denver where both family and some special friends await me with open arms.
Scher and I have been telling tales for years and years…..but mine are all true. People ask me often if I have any new stories. And I always do. This particular story is one of my best and will always be remembered as a pivotal point in my long life of change, resilience and renewal, three conditions upon which creativity thrives. The violin and my continued enthusiasm for life are my proof positive of that. I live, I love, I paint.
To see the 2010-2011 season of painted violins in which I participated, plus archives and the current season, visit www.paintedviolin.com or http://www.dyao.org