Saturday, June 07, 2008

Works of Art

Donis here. I’ve asked Mara Purl to do a guest blog for us tomorrow. This woman is an artist extraordinaire, Dear Reader, and if you want to learn something about the creative process, I suggest you have a look at what she has to say. The creative process is a huge gift and a mystery, and if one is blessed to be creative in one aspect of his life, he’s likely to be creative in all of them.

A few months ago, I wrote a scene for my upcoming book in which I had a character say that she thought her mother, Alafair, didn’t have to create works of art, since her life was a work of art. That phrase, "her life is a work of art," has been rattling around in my head for about thirty-five years. The minute I wrote it, I instantly thought of Cheryl Dillsaver, who was a friend I made when I was a freshman at Oklahoma State University. We called her "Cher". It was the ’60s, after all.

Cher was a fine arts major, a painter, and just as arty and flamboyant as you would expect a ’60s artiste to be. Her canvases were large and splashy and colorful, and she was a liberal and a protester, like we all were, and a good friend to me during that first year away from home.
My father died before the next academic year started, and I went home to finish my undergrad degree at another university, whereas Cher finished up at OSU. We did see one another off and on over the next couple of years, though. Much to my amazement, given her politics, she married an Agriculture major and moved to a tiny little Oklahoma town and became a housewife and mother. Shortly after she married Bill (who was a great guy, by the way), she invited me to spend the weekend with her at her tiny little house in her tiny little town while her husband was away at a conference.

I accepted with alacrity, mostly because I enjoyed Cher’s company, but partially because I was curious about how she reconciled the life she had chosen with her previous artistic ambitions.

It didn’t take me long to see that she hadn’t reconciled anything at all. She was exactly what she had always been — a real artist. While I was there she showed me not only the painting she was doing, but the interior decorating, the beautiful dress she had made for herself, her plans for a garden. I still remember to this day the awe I felt over an apple pie she made. I thought that it was the most beautiful pie I’d ever seen. And that’s when it occurred to me that she was an artist to the very core of her being. Her entire life was a work of art.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’d like to live my life like a work of art. I finally garnered the courage to take up writing again in my dotage. Now, I think I’d like to go back to painting and drawing. I used to be a pretty fair artist. In fact, Don and I have quite a bit of our own art on our walls to this day. (Literally. I’ve done a couple of mural pieces.)
I’m talking about conventional arts, here, but I certainly haven’t forgotten that gorgeous apple pie. There should be joy and creativity in cooking, and sewing, and gardening, and cleaning. I used to feel that. I’d love to feel all of that again. Perhaps I’ll ease myself back into the art of living, Dear Readers, a little at a time.

By the way, I heard from my former roommate at OSU that Cher died a few years back. I don’t know what she died of, but I hope she lived her work of art right to the very end.


Janet Grace Riehl said...

360 degree creativity is a subject dear to my heart! Yes! Let's sew those dresses, plant those gardens, bake those apple pies, and paint those pictures...and credit it all to the creative process. Part of the stream of life.

Janet Riehl

Donis Casey said...

Amen, Janet.

Hannah Dennison said...

Donis--I love this! It's beautifully said and also a tribute to your dear friend. Bravo.