Finish What You Start

As I thought about a month based on the theme “harvest”, the traditional fallbacks of pumpkin patches and apple cider just weren’t working for me. Not that I’m against pumpkins and apple cider, by any means. There are many places on-line that include hundreds of autumn craft projects and prompts, so clearly there’s an audience for that (and sometimes I’m part of that audience), but I don’t feel inspired to write in that direction, not this year.

Instead, I’m thinking of the word “harvest” in relation to completed projects and dreams. When the work is considered complete, and it’s shared with a broader audience. Hopefully consumed and enjoyed by anyone who looking for that type of nourishment.

I recently found a beautiful book at the library featuring the photography of Vivian Maier. I had to stop. I couldn’t move on to the next busy thing on my list; the photos had to be examined, enjoyed, devoured, and then examined again.

Maier’s story is considered remarkable by many. She was never called a photographer or an artist. Her job title was simply ‘caregiver’. She spent years caring for another family’s children, but each day she brought her camera. And each day she captured the most beautiful images, mostly from the streets of Chicago.

She snapped scenes and compositions that weren’t noticed by those around her, blowing through a roll of film each day, rarely taking multiple shots of any subject. I imagine that film wasn’t cheap in the late fifties and that most of her salary was devoted to supporting her art. But she had to create, had to grab what she saw, had to keep tending her artistic vision.

You may have heard the punchline to Maier’s story already – after her death in 2009 thousands of her prints and negatives were found in a storage container. Fortunately, the people who found her work quickly realized the importance of the collection. Maier’s creative project was finally harvested, and the images are now widely shared.

So my posts this month will be sort of an homage to Maier, and to all women who devote themselves to fantastic projects and dreams. I’ll be interviewing women who have cultivated a wide range of creative projects, all the way to the harvesting stage. Women who were able to jump past Maier’s locked storage container, and actually bring their work to light, no matter the size of the audience.

It’s true that there are many men who would be interesting to profile, but this month I’m focusing on just women. I want to know about more women who’ve seen their creative projects and dreams through to some sort of end product.

It’s for a selfish reason; I’m trying to figure out how to get my own paintings out of the laundry room, where I’ve hidden them behind the ironing board. Seriously, that’s where they’re stored – the symbolism of it, so tragic and predictable! But kind of funny too.

The potentially less selfish reason is that I want my kids to be able to see the capability of women. Yes, they know that moms work at jobs and pay for the groceries and even change car tires. Feminism has gotten us that far, but I also want them to see the creativity that women are capable of, beyond scrapbooks and the crafting aisles at Hobby Lobby (though you might find me there, from time to time).

I look forward to sharing stories of finished and ongoing projects – if you’d like to be part of this project, drop me a line at projectflip180 at gmail dot com!

4 thoughts on “Finish What You Start

  1. This is an exciting direction. I just read a feature in the July/Aug Dwell magazine that fits into the discussion. The 15 women profiled are designers and architects who have creative, focused careers. Yasmeen Lari was the first female architect in Pakistan. Susan Kare designed famous icons for Apple and states “I always err on the side of simplicity, and try to create icons and logos that mean something as opposed to images that are primarily decorative.” Neri Oxman at MIT’s Media Lab says “The best works I have witnessed provoke beauty without bias. Master your art as if you possess all skill and none at all.” I look forward to this months stories and shared experiences. Thanks Elise!

  2. Pingback: What do people do all year? 13 for ’12 | The Family Lab for Inquiry and Play

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