I used to be a wonderful letter writer. I used to carry letters with me for days writing to the recipient as if they were there to talk to. Describing this and that, musing to them in writing about the little things that transpired throughout my days. I learned this skill I think from my paternal grandmother who wrote me faithfully every month on a script typewriter no less!
One of the most romantic things my husband did when we were first dating was to send me hand written letters, even when we still saw each other most days. Somehow those letters revealed a part of him that was less apparent in person, more intimate and indeed brought us closer together in a truly meaningful way. I still remember receiving an annual hand written letter from a dear high school friend a Christmas. She was refusing to give up on real correspondence, but alas, even that annual letter no longer arrives.
Social media is in many ways the best of worlds and the worst of worlds. I love that I can have easy access to the latest works of hundreds of artists, exhibitions in museums around the world, hundreds of articles tailored to my specific interests and the ability to have a window into the world of those whom I often think of with affection but, because of time, distance, and circumstance have long since moved on from daily interaction in my life. And of course, this convenience means means I haven't put pen to paper as a means of connecting with another person in years. When I think of my students, I lament what they have missed: the anticipation of a letter arriving and then the thrill when it finally appears in the mailbox and the joy of seeing familiar writing on the page as you first look at the contents and so much more. I think of how reassuring it was to have friends "live" with you in your mind and heart as you would write them even though they many be very far away.
We are all too familiar with the shortcomings and the many faceted dark sides of social media. I think one of the worst parts of social media are the illusions it creates, e.g. comments instead of real dialogue, "hearts" instead of true presence, and the illusion of "keeping in touch" when you haven't actually exchanged so much as one specific, thoughtful word with your "friend" in years. I am guilt on all counts but, don't worry this is not yet another blog post in the ironic digital universe on the short comings of the digital world and how we're all going to hell in a social media hand cart...I actually have an idea.
Recently I was inspired by a small Facebook group (see it's not all bad...) that calls itself "Found Art Tuesday." If you are not familiar with them I encourage you to look them up. Their mission is simple: they seek to add unpredictable excitement in life and to try to make the world a better place through artwork. The feed is simply artwork someone has created and then left out for someone else to find. Make beauty, then give it away with no other expectation other than the hope that your work may make another person happy. I like that. But, more it is difficult than it sounds. I think every artist becomes attached to their work in a very real way. I know I do. I like to think that developing the practice of giving away things, makes room for growth and opens up more of life to me. That all being said, I have thought to start "at home" as the cliche goes. If you review my blog and works in progress you will notice that I am quite fond of little postcard paintings, most of which come from my walks and bike rides. So this is my "POST IT!" challenge to myself, quite probably to my students in the coming school year (like they will have a choice), and anyone else who wishes to participate: Paint or draw a postcard, make it anything and send it to someone who is a social media friend. Pick them for a reason or no specific reason at all, let that small voice within be your guide and trust that you will create and give the right image for the right person. Be sure to include a handwritten note on the back, something just for them, to them...remember all the time you spend making, and writing you are truly present to them and they are truly present to you. Set a goal: once a month, once a week, whatever you think is reasonable for you. I am wondering if something then truly wonderful can come from social media...let me know what happens to you!