This week, our Friday Fellow, Michelle La Perrière, shares her recent process in her own words.
In this day and age of the KonMari Method, it seems that I would be embarrassed about the boxes of old school papers I had shipped from my childhood home in Denver to where I live now, Baltimore after my mom died in 2010. They’ve been stored in the attic since then, and a couple weeks before my residency, in my efforts to declutter and get rid of things that “don’t spark joy,” I opened them up.
I knew there would be some old Seventeen Magazines, English papers from Mr. Keinon’s 11th grade English class… “love” letters from friends, written in Mrs. Johnson’s 9th-grade typing class, but I didn’t remember the math papers. What the…
You see, I flunked geometry in 9th grade and had to take it in high school. But really, going back further, I first became math anxious in Mrs. Kotnik’s fourth-grade class when we had to do timed multiplication and division quizzes every week. I failed those until the girl who cleaned the blackboards would sneak the answers to me when I’d come in after school to retake them. To this day, I don’t know most of my multiplication tables, and I cannot make sense of my 13-year-old daughter’s algebra homework.
I have no idea how I passed algebra, but I must have, somehow, because I have my papers from 1973-74. And the geometry papers from that fateful academic year – 1974-75? Those, too, were in one of the boxes, along with my scratch paper, with many scribbles and dreamy stars repeated over and over. I’m sure I shuddered out loud when I found these things from over four decades ago. What made me save them?
I began to throw piles of the yellowed papers into a grocery bag for recycling, but then I stopped. What if… Hmmm… I’m going to VCCA soon, and I’m driving. I hastily reboxed the documents, and last Saturday morning, lugged them out to my car, along with my paints, graphites, panels, and papers. Recently, I’ve been making collages as inspiration for paintings, and my thinking was that I could possibly “do something” with these… or not.
After making myself home in Studio V6, rearranging tables, pinning blank papers to the walls, laying out my prepared panels, and taking in the lovely landscape from the large windows, I found myself pulling out the math, the “how did I do that” algebra, and the “failed” geometry papers… They were calling to me, connecting me to an ancient shame that goes far beyond equations and mathematical concepts. Only this time, rather than succumb to any familiar feelings of mortification, I felt such compassion for that adolescent girl, that me who really needed time and attention from a loving adult… and I’ve been chuckling at her humor, and how her humility shows itself in her little notes and scribbles.
And so, I’ve been cutting up the math, creating a different type of geometry, reconfiguring “shape, size, and relative position of figures and spatial properties,” cutting, placing, pasting, and experiencing such pleasure. After three days of pondering, sorting and making these collages, they’ll rest on the wall here, awaiting present mark and paint, a furthering of this sort of alchemical collaboration with my early teen and present selves, a releasing and transformation.
In the meantime, I will move to more global content, working on small oil paintings that deal with delighting in the present moment while concurrently feeling the pathos of climate change. With the myriad of thoughts and feelings arising from BEING, from making without interruption, a deep sense of satisfaction and wholeness grows. This type of “deep satisfaction” is enabled by VCCA’s uniqueness, including its particular gift of time, space and supportive community.