When it comes to feeling nostalgic, I’m the biggest sap you’ll meet. My bulletin board is full of little bits of paper, old tickets, and sweet notes that I have collected throughout the years. I LIVE for the “5 Years Ago” posts that automatically show up on my Facebook feed. And there are days when I look at Austin and say, “Can you believe that we’ve been married for four months? Four whole months?! I remember our wedding day like it was yesterday…” Lol.
My bent towards nostalgia, though, is a driving force of my art practice. I have the tendency to long for the past, whether it’s a place or a person. I’m not talking about a casual, “I’d love to go back to Italy someday.” or “Aw, I miss her!” No, I’m talking about a longing inside of me so deep, that sometimes I think I can literally feel my heart being pulled towards where it is I want to be. When I read this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, there was an article on nostalgia (in relation to interior design) that I felt best explained the nostalgia that I experience:
“Nostalgia isn’t about pulling your home into the past. It’s more about pulling the past into the present, where you can put your own creative stamp on it.”
Dr. Clay Routledge, a nostalgia expert (yeah, that’s a thing), explained that “nostalgia is a positive thing - feeling connected to the past is an important way to remind yourself of who you are, where you came from and why life matters.” He is so right. Accessing nostalgia brings forth a rush of good feelings, and it seems to temporarily satisfy the itch for whatever it is that I’m longing for. Dr. Routledge also points out that while there is nothing inherently special about whatever represents or kindles your nostalgia, it makes you feel connected to that place or that person.
For me, that place that I long for is The Farm. And the things that tie my present life to that special place are my paintings. They are a visual representation of my longing for wide open spaces under a big Texas sky. What you’re seeing on the canvas are views and moments that stay with me when I go. I can’t always be at The Farm, so the next best thing is to make a painting. Each painting is a window into the place that I love, from every angle, at every time of day.
When I walk across the big porch of the Farm house as the light is fading from the day, I look to my right, and stop dead in my tracks because the sky is so beautiful, and so peaceful. When I paint these scenes, I can take myself there to moments like that and feel the warmth that lingers even after the sun fades, and smell the smoke emanating from the glowing embers in the fire pit.
Accessing these moments through my paintings doesn’t make me sad, though. This isn’t a sad kind of longing. These paintings help me approach my everyday life with the same slowness, calm, and quiet as I do at the Farm, but in the midst of living in the city. The Farm has changed how I approach each day, and has shown me what is profoundly meaningful in the grand scheme of things. Most importantly, I’ve learned the how essential it is to understand and experience the natural world. As I try to bring my lessons from The Farm in to my everyday life in Fort Worth, I don’t need to look any further than the paintings hanging on my walls for a reminder. The answers are all right there within the bounds of the canvas.