Sunday, September 7, 2008

Books = Love, Part 1

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "I cannot live without books." I'm beginning to realize how much that is true for my life, as well. Books have a way of finding me and working their way into my life, even in unexpected ways. For instance, I found a fellow bibliophile at the recent Art Festival.

By the way, St. Louis loves its festivals. Why not? All the ones I have attended so far feature free admission, the great outdoors, and moderately-priced food and beverages. (Thank you, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church for that weird yet tasty blue Ouzo slushie.) There is also the opportunity to see things a little out of the ordinary, whether that be international folk dancing, wild mandolin solos, or jewelry fashioned from hardware store merchandise.

Nearby Clayton's Art Festival was no exception, spanning several blocks and dozens of vendor tents. I was glad almost all the prices were in the triple digits, so I could ooh and ahh without any impulse to buy. The photographers had some lovely stuff and gave me cool ideas. The swirly necklaces made out of screws and nails were fascinating. There were even digeridoos.

But the best booth by far displayed the used-book/oil painting stylings of a young man whose name I sadly cannot remember. He takes old novels, textbooks, and hymnbooks, which are lovely in their own right, and then adds images from his road trips around the country. I had never thought of cutting a hole in a book for a frame, but now I want to try it. Jessica and I especially loved the tiny, delicate paintings superimposed over pages. For example, a snowy truck stop was layered atop the sheet music for a winter madrigal.

We were the only people in the booth, and spent so long admiring things that we just had to compliment the artist, who shyly lurked in the corner. When we told him how much we loved his work, he was truly touched. I asked about his book collecting habit, and his eyes lit up like someone who knows what their passion is. Joe (I can remember his first name at least), turned out to be quite a kindred spirit. Words, pages, and the American landscape inspire him. An amateur historian, he loves learning about how the places his visits developed.

His favorite piece, and ours, was a large collage that layered aspects of American history. Hymnal pages/History for Catholic schools/highway maps/factories/industrial development/gasoline can? Glorious. It warmed my heart and stirred my brain. It was so good to meet someone else who mulls over the swirling complexity of memory, sightseeing, and past glories. It also gave me hope to see I am not the only one who likes to blend verbal and visual inspiration. History doesn't fit in a box or on a page, and it overlaps art, architecture, medicine, science..........

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