June 3, 2016

Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert: "Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies"

Lynda McKinney Lambert is a retired fine arts and humanities professor from Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA.  She resides in a small village in western Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob, 6 cats and 2 dogs (all rescues). Even though our 5 children are grown and gone, the house is still full with all the little furry friends we care for.

Lynda is the author of Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, published by Kota Press. She writes articles on the humanities,  contemporary poetry and inspirational human interest stories.  Her teaching career took her to Europe  each summer where she taught  drawing and writing to college students. She also taught a course in Puerto Rico every spring semester. . Lynda lost her vision in 2007 due to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. Many of her stories give an inner view of her personal life experiences since that life-altering event.

Lynda loves to write, knit. and travel. Lynda holds earned degrees in fine arts (BFA and MFA)  and English literature (MA). 

Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies

    It was a warm day near the end of August, when I encountered the little chestnut haired girl as she sat on a bench outside in the sunshine. She quietly watched me. Her deep green eyes remind me of the colors I’ve observed when I am in a canoe floating along on the surface of a local  river. When you  look beneath the surface of the water, you’ll see what I mean.  I call this mysterious color, “bottom-of-the-creek green.” The young child sits alone on a rustic wooden bench looking straight ahead. From this solitary spot she peers out over her world, and into the future, where I stand watching her today.

     Her dress is a familiar blue and white cotton plaid with a wide crispy white linen collar that lies over her slender shoulders.  The dress looks fresh, starched, ironed. She is pristine, like a vintage porcelain doll.

     “Someone takes very good care of this little girl;  somebody fusses over her and cares about how she looks. She is loved,”  I thought.

She patiently waits in her back yard for the arrival of her cousins.  The cousins will come to celebrate her 8th birthday. It is 1950.

     I paused, and moved slowly as I walked a bit closer to her.  I took just a couple of steps forward;, she watched me carefully as she smiled. 

 “You look so happy,” I whispered  under my breath.   Soon,  I realized she is sitting under the old deeply textured branches of a Black Walnut tree.

“That tree is the centerpiece of her back yard,” I recalled.

     Besides the tree, the little girl is surrounded by a field of late summer wild flowers in full bloom. I could see the delicate Queen Anne’s Lace and gentle butterflies mingling among those ivory lace-like blossoms. The scene I observed is motionless because this picture is frozen in a moment of time by a Brownie Box Camera. The photographer for this special day is her Mother.

     The vintage photo of the little girl is faded into shades of gray. Once it was a sharp focused photo in glossy black and white. The child and her world feel like a dream as  I continued t look. The photo was laminated long ago to the back of a small round glass pocket mirror. Her proud Mother once carried the mirror in her handbag. In her old age, her Mother gave  the mirror to the little girl who was now a grandmother.  Even though the mirror was cracked in half at some time  in the past, it was still a beautiful photograph  in near-perfect condition.

     I am an artist and I chose this particular photograph for the central image of the art work that was named, “Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies.”It hangs here on the art gallery wall today as I walk towards the art work.

     “Girl on a Bench Sees Butterflies,” is quite a small work which represents a personal and private memory.  The work measures approximately 12 inches, square. A viewer must come close to it in order to see this child sitting in her back-yard garden of summer dreams and childhood delights.

     The images on this fiber art piece are hand-worked, over top of the 1940s  vintage fabric; the picture was created from a black and white fabric with sharp, crisp white flowers and butterflies dancing across the surface. All this activity is on a solid black background.

     There is a surprise burst of brilliant color on the black and white scene though. Over the entire surface, the artist added brilliant red leaves and roses that are carved from actual coral gemstones. I feel like bouquets of red coral roses are waiting to be gathered, as I look at this picture. The reality is different from that feeling because the red roses will bloom here on this picture indefinitely. Regardless of the passing seasons, this pictorial world is suspended forever outside of time.

     The old fashioned roses seem to circle around the picture, intertwining with the photo of the girl on the bench. The circular mirror image is also surrounded by layers of delicate, glistening Japanese seed beads. The glass beads are so small! They capture the light from all directions. This scattering of light from multiple sources makes the little girl in the photo seem to shimmer in her round space at the center of the picture. Visitors stop to look at the little girl in her iconic world and they say, “It seems like we have entered into a dream world or an intimate, private vision.”

     Throughout the picture on the gallery wall, is a myriad of other flower shapes made from Mother-of-Pearl, and natural gemstones. In this small space we can see visions of earth and sky as we enter into this moment of time when the little girl sat patiently waiting for her birthday party to begin.

     I am the blind artist who patiently worked out the details of this picture. The creation of this piece was just like the process I learned to use after I lost my sight nearly 9 years ago. The creative work is done layer upon layer. This is how we all learn to live our life no matter our circumstances.

     I created my self-portrait in honor of the little girl in the photo, who is me.  I remembered a moment  using my hands, needles and threads,  to  bring the viewer into the world I lived in as a child.

    My slender steel needles become my paint brushes. Multi-faceted beads, found-objects and natural gemstones are my “paints.”  Even though my physical eyes have changed my view of the world around me, my hands are quite capable to create unique new views from my inner vision. I am still the girl on a bench who sees butterflies.

~Lynda McKinney Lambert

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