West Tisbury: Internet diversions

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— Kyra Steck

We have an early deadline for our columns this week because Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so I have spent Friday thinking about what to write. Thinking. Or research. Call it what you will. Procrastinating probably fits, too.

To start my column, I sometimes take a walk around the yard or through the woods with Abby; sometimes sit on a beach; sometimes read a poem or an interesting article in the newspaper, sometimes hear a wonderful story at Cronig’s or get an email from a reader. Sometimes it’s as simple as looking out the window or across the room. Ideas can come from anywhere and something always attracts my attention. I am surprised to realize that the impetus for starting a painting is not unlike what I have just described for starting to write.

The internet makes it easy to come up with something, to follow an idea, in other words to make it easy to putter away an entire day. I am easily distracted at the best of times. I would be much better off writing on a pad with a pen or pencil; there would be nothing there to look at but the lines.

To set the scene, Abby was spayed last week, and I have been occupied with keeping her quiet and tending to her recovery. She is healing nicely and her incision has lost the initial redness. Thank you, Dr. Atwood, for doing a beautiful job. It’s not easy keeping her quiet as she feels better. Keeping a leash on her helps. So here we are on the sofa together, Abby on a soft quilt, my golden princess.

I had asked last week for upbeat news from my readers and was happy to find an email from Mary Beth Norton. Her news was definitely upbeat. Her most recent book, “1774: The Long Year of Revolution,” was just named one of the 10 best books of 2020 by the Wall Street Journal.

Her writing presents historical events as an easily accessible and absorbing story. Mary Beth is an engaging speaker, too. She gave a Zoom talk at our library last summer that was well-attended and well-received. One of the benefits of Zoom is that it allows viewers from anywhere to attend. It felt very special that I was on my computer in West Tisbury and my niece, Charlotte, appeared in the Zoom gallery view all the way from California. We had a date. At the time, Charlotte told me she felt like she was back home in West Tisbury, seeing so many familiar faces. I enjoyed the book and sent it to Charlotte for Christmas.

Kudos and congratulations to Mary Beth.

An upbeat bit of arcana is that Jan. 24 is National Compliment Day. Make sure to celebrate the day by paying compliments to someone you encounter on the 24th.

A website that I regularly read is called Hyperallergic and I recommend it highly. It has articles about art, interviews with artists, reviews of gallery and museum exhibitions, and other interesting news about the art world. Many of the participating writers are well known, like John Yau and Hrag Vartanian. They are good art writers, knowledgeable about their subject, wordsmiths capable of many a delicious turn of phrase. It is a site where one can deepen one’s knowledge about an artist or artistic genre, and see new, exciting work by as-yet-unknown artists. It’s easy to get lost there. As I did.

I started out reading about Emily Mason, an artist whose work has always intrigued me. She was a colorist. Her work was not at all representational, swaths of colors laid down in broad shapes that seemed to dance with energy and vivacity, edges that crashed together or kissed each other gently.

From there, I spotted a painting by Howard Hodgkin, a British artist, another abstract painter, another colorist. The article was about contemporary British portrait artists and made comparisons with the effect of some of Hodgkin’s compositions, a light color surrounded by sweeping brush strokes that perhaps could describe shoulders or a torso.

Then I looked at several postings of two series begun as the pandemic caused artists, along with everyone else, to stay at home. Artists Quarantine With Their Art Collections shows a favorite piece of art and how the artist/owner’s appreciation of it has changed with more time spent studying it. Many showed pieces by friends from art school or artists they met and admired as their careers developed. One lucky person owned a small, gorgeous Morandi drawing.

The other is A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine. How has an artist’s work been affected by the pandemic? Some have had to move their studios home. Some have stopped working. Some felt they had the time and freedom to explore new directions. I looked at several.

You can see how my workday goes.

My last diversion was listening to the entirety of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. That seemed appropriate given the approaching Monday holiday. I have listened to it many times over the years and it never fails to send shivers up and down my spine. His dream for the day when we would live up to the promise of equality stated in our Declaration of Independence is one we should all continue to strive for. The speech was given in 1963 and, although that was almost 60 years ago, we still have so much more work to do. All of us. Every day. May it be so.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.