Mixed Media Artist

Some Words On Ephemera

Recently I sold Ephemera And The Zebra. It was the last painting that I did in 2011. I had promised to write about it but never did. I thought, while she is still in the for front of my mind,  I would take a moment to write my thoughts on this piece.

There are so many layers, both physically and literally, to this painting. I think that this is part of the reason that I have avoided writing about it.

Reoccurring Circus Theme In My Work

My love for the circus started when I was 23.  I had decided to take a trip with my parents and younger sister to Florida during Christmas break.  I knew it would most likely be the last time that we would do this as a family, just the four of  us.

As I was studying art in college, an obvious planned destination was the Dali Museum in St Petersburg.  What I didn’t know is that The Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota would be far more inspiring and would stay with more than 20 years as a springboard for much of my art.

I find it fitting that Ephemera has now returned to Florida.

Back to Ephemera.

This painting is about time.

Ephemera- are transitory written and printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved. The word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Examples would be train tickets, circus tickets, stamps, food stamps.

This painting is about being forgotten. Thrown away. Discarded.

This painting is about being remembered. Cherished. Worshiped.

When I look at old photos of people gone by,  I am often filled with questions. Who were they? Did they have a good life? What were their passions, their hopes and their dreams. Often in these photos, the subject is stoic which makes it even harder to answer any of these questions. It is hard to see their personality because the were often told not to smile or show emotion and they had to sit still for a long period of time.   When I paint from an old photo, like I did with Ephemera, I often make up a story about the individual.  I give her a life back.   In  a way, she is re born. I wanted to take this old black and white photo of a girl with a Zebra (pretty extraordinary in its own right) and heighten it to iconic status.  I also wanted to surround her with actual ephemera. Old circus tickets, stamps, maps and even vintage glass stars.  I wanted it to feel like she was emerging from with in all of this old discarded memorabilia, like peeling off wallpaper and finding a treasure.

(Like EXTREME scrapbooking…ha, ha)

We Are All Transitory

Sometimes when I am searching for old ephemera to use in my paintings I will come across an old photo album. Someone’s family album, just sitting there in a thrift store.  A treasured piece of family history.  Photos that were lovingly placed in a book as a memory of their life  …discarded.

Which leads me to the third thing I was thinking about when I was painting this one.

The lady across the street died.  She was not a happy person, at least not the side that she allowed me to see.  She didn’t talk to me once, and I lived across the street from her for 4 years.  She was a master at avoiding eye contact.  I gave up.  She hated me and I will never know why.  She hated both my neighbors too. The one on my right was accused (and even fined) for letting her cats go in her garden. The one on the left, because she refused to listen to her complain about every thing that she complained about.  This all happened long before I ever lived in the neighborhood so I guess she hated me by default, I was in the middle of the two.

I didn’t know her name until I found out from her neighbor to her right that she was dying of cancer.  Her name was Gayle but I was forced to call her Lefty because of the LHD sticker she had on her car.  She must have taken her car to England with her at some point in her life, I will never know. Twice I tried to send food over to her, but she didn’t  answer the door.

These are the things that I know about her:
Every Saturday she would get up early and go to Zellers to shop. I would see her returning with all of her bags as I opened my curtains to my bedroom.

She had two dogs.

She smoked.

She watched TV sometimes late into the night. I could see the blue light flickering often through her top floor window.

She liked my husband because she saw one of his plays at a local dinner theatre and was impressed by this.

She had very few visitors.

This painting is not about the lady that lived across the street from me. Not exactly.  But like Ephemera, she was transitory…. she was here last year, knocking on her window to rid the two boys from playing in front of her house.  And now, she is gone. Her house sits empty. Her car is gone. It is like she vanished into thin air, and I feel so sad about that.  I refuse to forget her but she made herself so easy to be  forgotten.

To die completely, a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead. — Samuel Butler


Feb 11, 2012

I just remembered I wanted to add a photo of me at The Ringling Brothers Museum in Sarasota when I was 23.


7 responses

  1. Oh, Maria! This is just beautiful. The painting is one of my all-time favorites, and learning about what inspired you to create it was such a treat! Sorry you’re sad about your neighbor. I can’t imagine how anyone could dislike you.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:04 pm

  2. Thanks, Nancy.
    Oh, I am sure I can be disliked easily enough. I wish I tried a little harder, I kind of regret that.
    A lesson learned.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm

  3. I enjoyed this post. I love reading about inspiration and thought process, emotion… People are fascinating…especially odd ducks. I hope you have a friendly neighbor, now though!

    p.s. I like that you gave the circus girl red shoes.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:47 am

  4. Thanks, Maria, for giving us so much to think about and for taking the time to write such a great post. I love that you take off from one place in your thinking and end up creating a work which is a celebration of life and joy.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 am

  5. Carol-Lee Eckhardt

    I’m impressed Maria.
    It is the ephemeral moments in time that colour our endless days and give them life no matter how fleeting.

    PS. You are right …….. a little girl with a zebra. Even the Divine Miss Em can’t top that one!

    February 10, 2012 at 4:15 am

  6. Sandi

    You are my favorite artist! Do you do online workshops/classes ? Thanks, love all your work, its amazing. I can look at your work for hours and hours. If yippy could email me at markwoodsandi@gmail.com. have a wonderful day.

    February 16, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    • Thanks so much! I am not doing workshops at this time.

      February 19, 2015 at 12:37 am

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