Letter from Away — March 24, 2002
A few months ago, when I posted an online column that was mostly photographs, a professional artist told me to stick with words. She said writing was my medium.
For thirty years writing was the creative practice that distinguished me from the work I did providing creative and logistical support to my husband, a sculptor. He found patrons and customers by traveling to fine art and crafts events where he could watch people react to what he made. I generally stayed home and processed paperwork, made photographic documentation, researched the cost of materials, and kept the home fire burning.
I never stopped making things — concept drawings and three dimensional models of ideas for my husband’s work, photographs and wedding cakes to supplement our income, and always interesting food, home-made Halloween costumes, mix tapes for public dances.
In all of this, as in the writing that has not stopped since I picked up a pencil sometime in the late 1950s, my artistic challenge is always to make the work meaningful to others as well as myself.
Anyone who spends time on social media platforms is probably familiar with The Artist Challenge. When my daughter nominated me last week, I thought hard. What 10 images would best convey my rather disjointed body of work?
“Day 1 of the Artist Challenge. I was nominated by Joy Auciello to present a picture of my work, each day for 10 days. No explanations. Each day I also nominate another artist. Same rules: 10 images, 10 nominations, 0 explanation. It’s a great excuse to look over a life of creating. Today I nominate (Artist friend named here).”
Day 1: Ted and the Banjo, a photograph shot down the neck of a newly-built five-string banjo. Framed at the far end of the picture is Ted, my first husband. We made the instrument together, from a kit, in 1977. I nominated Eva Trotta, a photographer who made a wonderful portrait of me when we were both college students in 2017.
Day 2: Drawings from the 1970s and sometime in the early 1990s, two pencil, two pen and ink. I nominated my former husband and business partner, Joe Auciello, a sculptor and budding photographer.
Day 3: Crying Peace Flag, a silkscreen print made on Yom Kippur 2001. Instead of a field of stars, the union section of the flag contains a circle of tears that form a peace sign. There are fifty tears, but some have fallen out of the blue field and onto the red and white stripes below. I nominated Gilla Kaminchik, an Israeli cousin who makes amazing sculptural jewelry with glass beads.
Day 4: We Can’t Sail Away from the Mess That We’ve Made. This was my final project poster from a SEA Semester term spent on a tall ship in the Western Atlantic, made with poster paint on sailcloth. I nominated Marjorie Strauss, a local artist friend who works in pastel, clay, and other media.
Day 5: Meditation, a photograph of a pastel I made in 2018. Also in the picture are a statuette of Ganesha and a small chalice I made from a limpet shell and some copper wire. I nominated Tiyana Wolf-Whitehead, a friend and fiber artist.
Day 6: Northeast Creek, a 2015 photograph of early fall sea smoke on Mount Desert Island. I nominated Rose Edwards, a painter and scientist I studied with at College of the Atlantic. (see photograph at top of page)
Day 7: A paste-up of three pages from different editions of The Dance Free Press, a newsletter I edited and produced for three years in the late 1980s. That was when composition was done on a typewriter, cut meant scissors, and paste meant glue stick. I nominated Lois Anne, a friend whose business card simply bears her name and the word artist. It is very true.
Day 8: Unnamed slate carving, made in the 1990s as a memorial to a child I did not have. I nominated my cousin Elli, a potter and clay sculptor in the Negev desert.
Day 9: Glazed Wall. Three layers of sandblasted glass depicting the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, part of my submission to the design competition for the memorial in Lower Manhattan. I nominated Cheryl Smith, a friend in Texas who does costume and set dressing for major films.
Day 10: Home Ecology — Cleaning an Apartment Before Moving In. A video installment in The Mommy Cooking Show, an ongoing project. In this episode, I clean out a medicine cabinet. When I posted it last Sunday, I nominated you.
Shlomit Auciello is a writer, photographer, and human ecologist who has lived in Midcoast Maine since 1988. Letter From Away has appeared online and in print, on and off since 1992, and is published here on a weekly basis.