… on frames, framing and framed


A part of Mr. Menna’s Rockport (frame intentionally not shown :))

Years ago, when the Nearly Perfect Husband and I could finally afford food and a roof over our heads (and haircuts… that was big if I remember), we found ourselves drawn to paintings and other artworks along the paths we traveled . It wasn’t about investment or prestige or having anything to do with how the external world (friends, family… Romans, countrymen) would react to what we hung on our walls or placed on our horizontal surfaces.

It was about how living with a painting or a beautifully lettered quote or a cool piece of glass made us feel… creating the views of our everydays. Kind of fun, kind of cool.

One day, while conversing with a wonderful, older artist in Rockport, Massachusetts (a very fine place to paint, for sure) I learned about the importance of ‘the frame’. Mr. Menna said the choice of frame could add to, or take away from, a painting.

This was important stuff.

He created his own frames… cutting, nailing, glueing and assembling them. He showed me that had a few shapes to choose from, and would consider them once a canvas had dried. Once he has spent some time with his finished painting.

Often trying each on, he chose the one he felt best enhanced his work. He talked of people considering a purchase, and wanting a different frame from the one he had chosen. Something that went with their decor vs. a frame that went with the painting itself. And he wondered aloud, if not to me, what happens when they move?

Did the painting go with them, or did it stay in the house they were moving from… after all, it wouldn’t necessarily ‘match’ the new decor in the new place…

We chuckled over the idea that maybe they reframe it each time they move.

I remember him saying, quietly, “Could be… could be… what a waste.” And he rubbed some gold paint into a scratch on the frame that he’d chosen, for a painting that would soon be mine.

Mr. Menna’s framing lesson stays with me… floating comfortably in the back of my mind and swimming forward now and again to remind me…

There is value in waiting to frame things until they are ‘dry’, including the experiences in our lives.

After all, we’ll be hanging our Memory Canvases in our mind’s galleries for, like, ever.

Choose the frame too quickly and we risk getting it wrong… damning us to that feeling that something is off – not quite right – when we consider the memory and its framing later, in context. This is especially true for uncomfortable memories.

Maybe we were too dismissive or angry, too quick to cast ourself as the victim, the hero, the villain. Maybe it wasn’t as black and white as we needed to think it was… the world being cast in infinite shades of grey (way more than fifty).

By framing it, pronouncing it done, before we have had a chance to live with it for a while, really understand what it is saying to us, what it can offer us… it may feel like an unfinished work, forever.

And don’t even think about just tossing it into storage.

Doesn’t work.

Maybe then, taking a beat, a breath…

Allowing our selves to realize that each experience lives in a broader context, and will be with us no matter where we are in our lives…

Waiting to choose our frames until we can consider our experiences from the perspective of our own worlds, others involved… their worlds… maybe waiting is not a bad approach.

Sure, we can always take another look, reframe a past experience as our lives moves on. But, really, why not go for timelessness?

Plus, as Mr. Menna once said, re-framing can be ‘such a waste.’

I am lucky enough to have many joyful, wonderful, and laugh-out-loud memories hanging in my own Gallery of Life. I am also fortunate, and profoundly beholden to the universe, to have works that remind me of what I’ve learned and grown from… including private and global traumas, grief… and own my mistakes, my personal trespasses.

As time has gone by, I’ve gone back… especially to childhood memories… and reframed some. One can’t expect a five-year-old to have the patience to wait for a memory to tell her which frame to choose, right? Especially five year old me. I’ve heard my Aunt’s stories.

But, in general, I’ve had to have to reframe relatively little. To succumb to impulse is human – Quick quick quick! Move on, move forward, don’t look back. But to take the time to be thoughtful, to be with and chew on our experiences and decide how we want to frame them, how we want to live with them? This is a gift we can give ourselves.

So it was pretty dang cool, on that summer day a couple of decades ago, to come across an old painter, with a weathered and sunburned face in a room that looked out at the sea… who talked of paintings and framing and the riches found in waiting.

Having complete faith, he did, that it was possible to get it right the first time. And that, then, we could live in harmony with our painting, our art… our memories, our experiences… no matter where we found ourselves in life.

No matter what the decor.

Thanks for readin’.


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