Last October I bought a 70-year-old wallpaper brush, with an oak handle, old tin, and bristles worn into a wavy edge. I love its age and imperfections. And its size is great for painting large art panels. My whole body gets into the act as it travels the surface.
This is the second antique brush I’ve bought in recent months, and I realize there are reasons behind this impulse.
Full disclosure #1: My current focus on hands no doubt can be traced to a recent (and fortunately minor) fracture of my left hand at the base of a finger. I have gained new respect for all our hands do for us— how very important it is to grasp and to hold.
Full disclosure #2: My mother turned her hobby into an antique business in her later life. She found beauty in common objects, especially those forged, whittled and sewn by hand. She loved to learn about their cultural and industrial contexts. Her birthday is just around the corner. I miss her, and thank her for sharing her deep appreciation of human history and artifacts.
Like her, I find wonder in an object created or used by another’s hands. I’m drawn to ceramic bowls, cups, pitchers. I want to touch every wood, metal or stone sculpture I’ve encountered. I love to run my fingers across fabrics of wearable art and old quilts.
This strikes me as more than an appreciation of the work of artisans and more than a well-developed kinesthetic sense. Touching something others have touched brings a reminder of continuity and connection. Other fingers were here. Another life touches my own. Our histories merge across time.
Today, I paint with an old brush. As I hold it I sense the stories of others. What were they thinking as they used it, I wonder? Where did they live? What kind of lives did they lead? Others join me in my studio, and open me to new creative energies. And I am grateful for the company.
Across Time and Space (30″ x 30″ Oil with cold wax, marble dust, pastels)