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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mural for a Wedding

I finished two walls of murals for my friends wedding. They are in an old house built in 1786. The house has been in the same family for all these years. That is quite rare. My friend, the owner of the house, gave me suggestions on what she wanted on her walls. But when one starts to paint, things just come out of your hand... ideas pop into your head and you paint them down... so I hope she is happy with it. It seems kind of bright for an old house. There was a famous painter, Rufus Porter, that did murals in the 1800s. His murals were a style all his own, whispy trees, block houses, folk style animals. One of the problems in recreating "reproduction murals" and many other reproductions like pottery, tin, painted furniture... is that the colors were bright when they were painted years ago. The people back then wanted to brighten up their belongings and surroundings. Now, 100 years or more later, the colors have faded and we modern people like that old faded look.

So what does an artist do? Do we use faded worn colors so our walls, furniture and pottery look old, or do we use bright colors with our new paints?

I am hoping my new mural will fade a little. The family will put fingerprints on the walls, Fenway the dog will shake mud on the walls, someone will scratch the paint when moving a table around. It will wear and blend in with the rest of the house eventually.
Someone asked me at the wedding what it was like living in an old house. I find it comforting. In my friends house and mine we know the names of all the people who lived here before us. We can imagine all the babies born in the house before hospitals and also all the people who died in the house. We can imagine conversations around the kitchen table, dogs sitting by the hearth. In my house, my grandparents were married by the mantel in the livingroom, and years later my grandfather died in that same room late one nite in his sleep. Twins were born in my bedroom. One died and one was cripped but lived to old age on Cape Cod. His sister wrote to me and told me how the house looked when she lived there.

My house was built by a family who had three girls. One girl died at age 19 of "consumption of the brain". My grandfather bought the house from her niece in 1927. There were another set of twins, Randolph and Winthrop Davis that rented the house for a few years around 1910. I have photos of them with their sheep "Peter Tumbledown". One photo showed the family purposely wearing silly hats holding buckets of blueberries they just picked. I like that, that the people here had a sense of family and humor. Our old houses are filled with sounds of the past as we continue to imprint ourselves into the house by painting murals, remodeling, restoring and living.
So anyway, the mural on the wall will continue soon, I have the stair wall, the big tree and a hall way upstairs to do too!

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