When I don’t post for almost two weeks, even I start asking what is in the air. Something other than writing must be exerting an exceptional pull on attention and energy.
The answer this time is walls. At least, what is on them. Or what was not yet on them two weeks ago.
A framing project has claimed my occasional attention for several months, and the past week finally got me shopping for frames, matting the pictures, buying the hangers, measuring for the exact places on the walls to hammer the nails.
My particular challenge was the size of the images I wanted to display. The largest of them measured no more than three and a half inches by five and a half inches.
My interest was in exhibiting some of the found photographs that I have purchased in the past several years. Up till now I have kept most of them in albums, affixed to pages by black photo corners.
Then this past August I was at the downtown Portland museum of the Maine Historical Society and got to view an exhibit called “Snapshots.” I learned later that the curator of the museum had designed the framing for a collection of small amateur photographs that captured some key events in local history. What was unusual was that each photograph, no matter its dimensions, merited a standard 16x20 inch frame. Four inches from the top of each cream-colored mat a window had been cut to the exact measurements of each snapshot, allowing a half inch border around the edges. Clear photo corners held the pictures in place.
The effect of the framing design was to give the impression that the walls of the museum lecture room had been dedicated to a significant collection of folk art. The uniformity of the black metal frames and the expanse of matting conveyed a message.
Two months passed before I thought to contact the museum for the exact details of the framing. My voicemail query elicited two return voicemails with a generously detailed set of directions. In a subsequent phone call from the museum curator, I even got the name of the frame shop that had been entrusted with the cutting of the mats.
My creative juices were stimulated, I'll admit. My credit card, however, balked at the expense of the museum-quality materials that would have been needed for framing five small photographs.
My eventual solution came after several forays to Target. I bought five identical gallery-style frames with white mats. Inside each 5x7 window cut into the top half of the white mat, I subsequently secured a black 5x7 mat cut to display a 3.5x5 image.
Over several days last week I worked to get five of my favorite black and white images up on the walls – a family posing on a front porch, two men in their Sunday white shirts and ties sitting and talking earnestly by a back door, a lit Christmas tree on the table in a vintage living room, a nun cheerily visiting a man and his wife and son near a wooden fence that needed his attention, a man asleep in a rocker on a porch after dinner.
The overall effect on me, I realize now, was a focus on my external surroundings that temporarily eclipsed the kinds of interests and reverie about which it is easier for me to think up something to write.
I will claim, though, a visceral response to these new walls and their new hangings. I am seeing something different and something that works and something that has my name all over it.
Isn’t that what home should be about?
Photo of Gallery-style Frame from Target