Probably my earliest exposure to art came from growing up on a farm in southeastern Wisconsin. This is Kettle Moraine country – an area of rolling woodlands carved out by glaciers. I remember trying to describe to some cousins the beauty I saw in the fields of ripe, golden oats and getting a response of silent bewilderment. The colors of the sunrises and sunsets were vivid and clear shades of yellow, lavenders and rose that are etched in my memory. I loved trees, and for some reason would cry in anguish whenever one was cut down – I have no idea where this passion came from.
My favorite piece of art that I own is by a local artist, Rosemary Barile. The piece I bought from her is mixed media – including transparent silk that was rusted on an iron grill, a strip of cloth from an Indonesian prayer band, pomegranate seeds that symbolize fertility, the bare trunk and limbs of a tree, and skeleton feet, or roots, that were torn from an old Gray’s Anatomy book. It reflects the concentration, imagination, and meticulous attention to detail that, to me, comprises any work of written or visual art.
When I first started working in the Bellevue Community College Library Media Center, the art gallery was actually a part of the library, so that every month all of us who worked and studied there were in the presence of paintings, sculpture, photography or ceramics. There was ample opportunity to wonder about the differences between art and craft, between the technically good and the work that sprang from a more enduring vision -from an eye that found meaning or significance in the play of color or the creation of harmony and proportion with lines. Those works draw the viewer to a deeper level of contemplation than he or she might otherwise experience.
Years ago I overheard the bit of a conversation between an older man and a young couple who obviously revered him. He remarked, with the wisdom of years of reflection, “We can live without beauty, but why should we?” I am very grateful to the Art Faculty who bring such richness to our lives, even in these very economically stressful times.
Kate Bradley is currently a volunteer at Bellevue College Gallery Space; prior to June 2011 she was a reference librarian at Bellevue College Library Media Center for 25 years.