|My graphic spin on the Love design by Robert Indiana.|
This one I stitched with love and a tennis racquet for Norman.
I have always loved fiber arts. When I was a young art student, my dad built a huge table frame in the basement of our house in Whitestone for me to weave on. Even then, I was excited to share my creations with anyone and everyone. While I am very much an introvert and way too shy to dance in front of a crowd, I've always wanted my handcrafted art to take a bow. So back in the day, when Uncle Arnold looked at my woven piece of adolescent art and asked why I would want to make a horse blanket, I was crushed. My mother's older brother may not have had a creative slant to his conceptual mind, but I adored him and I sought his approval. If what you do on a stage or in an art studio defines you and the thrill of it inspires you, you must be an artist.
If you say you can't be an artist because you can't draw a straight line, just pull out that old wooden grade school ruler hidden somewhere in your junk drawer. It'll help. But to be an artist you also need a big and sensitive ego. The instant gratification of an Instagram heart has done more to support the creatives of the world than any ruler in any bag of artistic tools. You may not crave an audience but if what you do matters, you're in.
I often let my art do the talking and my gifting. There is no greater expression of love for me than to share a piece of my soul with the people I care about. I will not go to a Hallmark store any more than I frequent Macy's. Having a birthday in our family meant children running downstairs to the kitchen to see their birthday poster. They knew not to come down the night before because I was busy painting and they all wanted to be surprised on their day. It was what defined a Levine birthday morning.
My gifts to my husband are usually a combination of tennis and art. The cross-stitched Love design was completed just in time for our anniversary. I think our tennis and art theme has inspired me on many occasions. I don't just paint fur, sometimes I go crazy painting grass around a tennis ball.
20x24" acrylic on canvas
Cross stitching took a 30-year hiatus and I finally picked up a piece of Aida cloth again this year. When I was pregnant with Sam, I was told to stay in bed for the remainder of my term. And Zach was less than 2 years old at the time. Can you imagine that? A toddler and I had to stay put. We watched VCR tapes together. We read together. We napped together. And I started a cross-stitch sampler of a teddy bear alphabet for Zach's soon-to-be baby brother. It took 5 months to finish that sampler, but it kept my hands busy and it hung proudly in his bedroom after Sam sang his way into this world.
|Detail from Sam's cross-stitch sampler.|
How great that M is for Music and not Marshmallows!
Just after retiring this year, I signed on to participate in a Torah stitching project. They sent me the Aida, the embroidery floss and a chart to complete one verse of the Torah. I could do this. I did that huge sampler 30 years ago for Sam! With the Hebrew verse, I was given the option to embellish the design. On my computer, I drafted a grid and plotted out a donkey walking along the road.
|Completed Torah panel|
As soon as the Torah project was complete, I was completely obsessed with my new hobby. I ran to buy another kit. This one was filled with other techniques for me to learn. And of course, I changed this design as well. Sam found the word for "Female Artist" and I stitched that at the top. At the bottom, I added a quote from Albert Einstein.
At Ranney School, I was once asked to give a speech to the senior class at a Cum Laude ceremony. I was an art teacher, not a physics or English teacher! As much as I knew that art mattered greatly across all subjects and in life, this was an academic audience. A quote by Albert Einstein gave me the confidence and the beginning of my speech.
"Knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulates progress and gives birth to evolution."
Einstein understood this important revelation, years before Daniel Pink developed his premise on how important design and creativity will be to surviving a future in the conceptual age. My finished cross stitch with another quote by dear old Albert hangs in my art room and reminds me that I was once a proud member of an academic community and I am still part of a greater community of artists, people who matter for the future of this world. As a retiree, I often need to be reminded that I still count.
I do my stitching at the dining room table. We don't eat there much, so Sam and I fill the space with jigsaw puzzles and embroidery floss. He plays jazz music and I stitch away, enjoying the company and the meditative act of pulling a needle through a piece of fabric. Right at the moment, I am between paintings and happily stitching a Matisse nude. This time, no kit. Just a blank piece of cloth and a print of the painting for inspiration.
Some people read, others play tennis. Me? I draw with thread. (At least as long as this obsession lasts!)