Pegi Christiansen: Distance 2

January 5, 2015

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

Colleen Kassner is the type of person you can count on to share enthusiasm for an idea. Colleen is the Gallery Director for Gallery Grand at the Grand Avenue Club in downtown Milwaukee, where she also teaches art. The Grand Avenue Club provides adults with mental illness a place to come and participate in activities 365 days a year. When I emailed her about taking members to Lynden she responded, “A resounding yes!”

On the afternoon of October 21, Colleen and GAC members Deb Olson and Herbert Walker came with me to Lynden. Although chilly and windy, we had a spirited visit. Deb taught me a lot and asked good questions. She loves weeping willows, so I took a picture of her under one by the pond. The willow’s leaves remained green, though birch trees nearby had lost all their leaves. She recalled ironing leaves between pieces of wax paper when she was young. This inspired me to bring home some sunlight yellow gingko leaves to preserve.

DebWillow_dist2

Deb wanted to know what animals we might see. I mentioned coming upon a group of eight wild turkeys by George Sugarman’s yellow-painted aluminum sculpture Trio one morning. Deb told me there are wild turkeys where she lives at 20th and Layton, too. I never would have guessed this was possible near an expressway interchange.

One of the questions I have been asking people focuses on how you can feel more distance with someone in the same room than with someone miles away. “Some people are coldblooded and can’t warm up,” said Deb. “You can know them for years and years and not get close.” Deb can sense right away if she will be able to make a connection with someone she meets.

Herbert had a huge challenge overcoming distance. As a youth, his Aunt Ruby lived in Minneapolis. Her husband drove a bus and Herbert would ride the bus with him when he visited. They got divorced and Aunt Ruby moved to Arkansas. When Herbert was 21 he was visiting her and she had a heart attack right in front of him. No one else was home. He is 55 now and though Aunt Ruby is dead he has been able to sustain his relationship with her by seeing her children. Her son is a professional golfer and Herbert got to play a round with him. Just five years ago, he met her daughter for the first time.

Herbert was using a GAC camera to take pictures. In the second photograph for this post, he is sitting next to Deb, with Colleen standing to the side. They are at one of the highest spots at Lynden, where we went to view the grounds on this gray day.

DebHerbert2_dist2

After our walk, we warmed up in the Lynden gallery. As we looked at a painting, Colleen explained that in the Renaissance it took six months just to prepare a canvas for painting. The rabbit-skin glue and gesso took this long to dry. She is grateful for modern materials that allow her to paint right away.


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