Sarah West: Postcards

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Postcards. I’d like to think of this column as a series of postcards, collected and written throughout the course of my career, depicting travels, some odd and some usual experiences and whatever else I encounter along the way. This year I will embark upon my fifth year with you, my readers. Just before I wrote the preceding line, I second guessed; I paused, and began scrolling back through my archives. I discover, that… yes, I began this journey in 2014. At the risk of sounding cliché, I think, “My, where has the time gone!” Then I keep scrolling through document files. Aside from external drives, I’ve also archived the tangible. Every story written, every journal page…they’re all accounted for, and catalogued by year, date and even by subject arranged. As the filed box-stacks grow taller, I wonder, “will there always be something to say?” Sometimes doubt creeps in and that dreaded block threatens there be truth in my wonders. Then I write on anyway.

The artist is a continually searching, seeking, daring creature. If ever we falter from our daring ways, I fear we may forget just how capable we are. So we soldier on, we walk along the edge of the cliff faces. With one foot steady and secure, with the other we step forward. Only in faith are we sure. With every work, we explore reinvention, and by doing so we find ourselves writing our history just as the past masters seem to have painted our mirror imagery.

Modern times have in some ways rendered us more conscious, and cautious. We are a society that believes itself to be thorough. We think we question everything; and yet, amid our questioning, many things we should be asking ourselves are overlooked, cast aside and abandoned. Perceptions of balance are often the cause of imbalance. The scales tip, and we all slide, a little to the left, and then a bit to the right. Collisions of culture and debates of civility arise. Everyone is wrong, and no one is polite.

Just the other day, I asked someone how they were doing. The answer was a rather vague, “I’m alright.” I thought a great deal about the person afterward, and of course, I thought of how relatable this was to us all. I question, how often do people send postcards, notecards, or any of the sort? In social media, we have become a most sharing society. Yet daily we go places, see and experience things and discount those experiences enough to deem them unworthy of sharing. Instead of a postcard, we’re just alright. To share or not to share is a battle which rages within the artist continually. However, whether one is an artist or not, I think many live on the front lines of this personal battle ground, and often resolve to avoid record of events which occur.

Recently, I’ve discovered a number of things mentioned in separate books, articles and elsewhere. All of these bear relatable significance. One person wrote the date and time of a birth on the lower corner on the back of a notebook. Six hundred years later, that birth date holds greater importance. The newborn infant was none other than Leonardo di sir piero DaVinci (I recommend Walter Isaccson’s Leonardo DaVinci for further reading.)  In another book are Ira Glacken’s discovered penned pages of his father’s, one of the members of the Immortal Eight, also known as the Ashcan School and the American Independents. From travels to train fares to beer brewing techniques, all this and more, the son of the famous artist discovered about his own heritage. Over recent winter days, I ,too, have made my own discoveries. Amid many old photographs, I found notes and postcards and newspaper clippings saved by my grandfather. Not at all different from social media present day, I discovered a picture of him and his employees when he first opened his business, a photo taken of him sitting astute and proud at his new office desk. And then there are a broad mix of seemingly notable, much older images scattered amid others: the train depot in Wrightsville, Ga., an ancestor’s cemetery marker displaying the date 1789…the list goes on.

I return with my thoughts from my nostalgic trek through the hands of time. I consider and question, “If we sorted the events, experiences, etc., of our daily lives into two boxes, with one labeled ‘Worth Sharing’ and the other ‘Discard,’ how much would we hold on to?” Years from now someone may find interest in knowing that it snowed nearly four inches in East Central Alabama, or perhaps your grocery list might be determined nostalgia only decades from now. There are many critical and trivial things future might appreciate.

Outside my studio window, an incessant amount of banging and clanging commences. They are working on the railroad. Some time ago, a gentleman told me about his childhood memories of the train and how he once ran away from home by catching the train bound for Georgia. He returned home. He also shared his memory of the mail delivery to Smiths Station, and how the train would drop the mail bag, hook another and keep moving. I’ve grown to value the elder gentleman’s visits, much like postcards. Perhaps I’ll write all of these accounts down. From the ordinary bits of my own life to things that I find more interesting, I don’t think it’s our place to determine what future generations will see as valuable and worthy of placing in a Worth Sharing box. Perhaps the fact alone that we valued it or chose to mention it might contribute to that of the future.

 Art is Life Expressed – Sarah West, owner of the Sarah West  Gallery of  Fine Art