Category Archives: Can you see what I hear?

COAT OF MANY COLORS

What does “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR” mean? While exploring the connection of music and memory (as you never lose your music memory). All of the art I create is inspired by a particular piece of music. As I spend time listening to the music and researching the song,  I ago one step further, l learn to play them on the piano. So, basically this series is the visual part of what I actually hear. But, to go further into this, I have picked eight songs that I would take with me to a deserted island which is inspired by a podcast I have been listening to while walking. I explored this a previous blog – HOW A WALK AND PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!” Dolly Parton

 Who doesn’t love Dolly? I began a relationship with her in the late 1970’s, seeing her perform for the first time in 1978 or 1979.  Dolly has written over 5000 songs in her career, and recorded over 1000. And – COAT OF MANY COLORS is Dolly’s personal favorite.  The song tells the story of her mother making a coat for her out of rags. Dolly was proud of it and rushed to school to only be made fun of. (I will post the lyrics at the end of the blog).

Below are three collages 

 

The Love from the Coat of Many Colors, 6×6 collage on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Patchwork Coat, 6×6 collage using hand dyed paper (on 10×10 board ©vickiemartin 2021

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors, collage, 6×6 on 10×10 background, ©vickiemartin2021

One of the reasons these collages became so personal to me is the dress patterns used are from actual coat patterns from my childhood that my mother made for me – sort of paralleling the story Dolly tells. The thread and the buttons that appear were also in my mother’s sewing supplies. See, my mother made all of my clothes while I was growing up.  Also, all the colored paper used in the collages were scraps of paper I hand dyed.

I also created two paintings. 

COAT OF MANY COLORS, 18×24 mixed media on canvas, ©vickiemartin 2020

I think of this painting as being 60+ individual paintings – I worked on each square individually, sanded them down, added threads and put a very thin wash over the coat to make the material look a little aged.

Coat of Many Colors Grid, 12×12 mixed media on canvas ©vickiemartin 2021

This painting is a study, or a meditation,  of color. Each horizontal row was begun using a “root” color, and I continued by adding a different color to each block in the row. For example, on the top row I began with Napthol Crimson, the next block is adding Titanium White to the crimson, the next is adding Mars Black to crimson. . The fourth block is Napthol Crimson with Turners Yellow. So, the song Coat of Many Colors inspired me to really look at color theory again!

Some fun facts to know about Dolly are:

  • I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU is the highest grossing song written by a woman. It also reached the charts four separate times
  • She wrote JOLENE and I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU at almost the same time
  • ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE named her the 30th Greatest Songwriter
  • She can’t read music
  • Beside playing the acoustic and electric guitar, she also plays the banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, autoharp, piano, saxophone and pan flute. She likes to refer to it as “playing at it”. You think she’d throw in the harmonica or ukulele too!
  • Her philanthropy is legendary – I’m not even going to begin to list them – too numerous to begin.
  • She has never riden the rides at Dollywood.

Next up is a tribute to another idol of mine (no, it isn’t David Bowie if you know me!) but Beethoven.

What songs would you take to a desert island?

Here are the lyrics to the chorus to COAT OF MANY COLORS and two verses:

My coat of many colors
That my momma made for me
Made only from rags
But I wore it so proudly
Although we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
So with patches on my britches
And holes in both my shoes
In my coat of many colors
I hurried off to school
Just to find the others laughing
And making fun of me
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
 
But they didn’t understand it
And I tried to make them see
That one is only poor
Only if they choose to be
Now I know we had no money
But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
My momma made for me
Made just for me
 
 
What song would you take to a desert island?

 

HOW A WALK AND A PODCAST MOVED ME TO GET PERSONAL WITH MY ART

I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”.  This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision.  I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.

Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics.  I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.

 

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water

Inspired by the song Bridge Over Troubled Water, which should be the theme song for all caregivers out there.

Moon River

Inspired by Moon River, “this is my favorite song in the world” I was told. Plus – it is a fun song to play.

Inspired by Up UP and Aware

Inspired by Up Up and Away “It is such a positive song!”

While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!

When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.

The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing.   Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something. 

So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I  have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.

As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine.  The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!

A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.

What songs would you choose?  and why?