Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies
by Lynda McKinney Lambert
I am an artist, and I chose this particular photograph for the central image of the artwork that was named “Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies.” It hangs here on the art gallery wall that I walk toward today.
On a warm day near the end of August, the little chestnut-haired girl sits watching us. Her deep green eyes remind me of the colors I’ve observed when I am in a canoe on a summer day, looking beneath the surface of the water. I call this mysterious color “Bottom-of-the-Creek Green.” She sits alone on a rustic wooden bench looking straight ahead. From this place she peers out over her world, and into the future, where I stand watching her today.
Her dress is a familiar blue and white plaid with a wide, crispy white collar that lies over her slender shoulders. The dress looks fresh, starched, ironed. She is as pristine as a porcelain doll.
“Someone takes very good care of this little girl,” I thought.
I paused, and slowly I walked toward her. She watched me carefully and smiled as I came closer. “You look so happy,” I whispered to her, as I realized she is sitting under the old, deeply textured branches of a Black Walnut tree.
Beside the tree, the little girl is surrounded by fields of late summer wildflowers in full bloom. I could see the delicate Queen Anne’s Lace and gentle butterflies mingling among those ivory blossoms. The scene I observed is motionless, frozen in a moment of time by a Brownie Box Camera.
The vintage photo of the little girl is faded black and white. The child and her world feel like a dream. The photo was laminated long ago to the back of a small, round pocket mirror. Her proud mother once carried the mirror in her handbag. The mirror had cracked in half at some time in the past, but the beautiful photograph was in perfect condition.
“Girl on a Bench Sees Butterflies” is quite a small work that represents a personal and private memory. The work measures approximately twelve inches square. A viewer must come close to it in order to see this child sitting in her backyard garden of delights.
The images on this fiber art piece are hand-worked, over top of the 1940s fabric; the picture was created from a black and white vintage fabric with sharp, crisp white flowers and butterflies dancing across the surface. All this activity is on a solid black background.
There is a surprise burst of brilliant color on the black and white scene. Over the entire surface, the artist added brilliant red leaves and roses that are carved from actual coral gemstones. Looking at the picture, I feel as though a bounty of red coral roses are waiting to be gathered up into a bouquet. Unlike reality, the red roses here will bloom indefinitely. Regardless of the passing seasons, this pictorial world is forever suspended outside of time.
The old-fashioned roses seem to circle around the picture, intertwining with the photo of the girl on the bench. The circular mirror image is also surrounded by layers of delicate, glistening Japanese seed beads. They capture the light from all directions. This scattering of light from multiple sources makes the little girl in the photo seem to shimmer in her round space at the center of the picture. Visitors stop to look at the little girl in her iconic world and they say, “It seems like we have entered into a dream world or an intimate, private vision.”
Throughout the picture on the gallery wall are a myriad of other flower shapes made from mother-of-pearl and natural gemstones. In this small space we can see visions of earth and sky as we enter into this moment of time when the little girl sat patiently waiting for her birthday party to begin.
I am the blind artist who patiently worked out the details of this picture. I created my self-portrait in honor of the little girl in the photo. “Girl on a Bench Sees Visions of Butterflies” was inspired from a piece of 1940s printed fabric that would have been around when I was a young girl. That moment in time, the one I hold tightly in my mind, is the world that brings the viewer into the world I lived in as a child. The creation of this piece was just like the process I learned to use after I lost my sight nearly nine years ago. The creative work is done layer upon layer. This is how we all learn to live our life no matter our circumstances.
My slender steel needles become my paintbrushes. Multifaceted beads, found objects, and natural gemstones are my paints. Even though my physical eyes have changed my view of the world around me, my hands are quite capable of creating unique new views from my inner vision. I am still the girl on a bench who sees butterflies.
Lynda McKinney Lambert is a retired fine arts and humanities professor from Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. She resides in a small village in western Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob, 6 cats and 2 dogs (all rescues). Lynda is the author of Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, published by Kota Press. She writes articles on the humanities, contemporary poetry and inspirational human interest stories. Her themes are typically about music, visual arts, art history, literature, inspiration, and her own life story.
Her teaching career took her to Europe each summer where she taught drawing and writing to college students. She also taught a course in Puerto Rico every spring semester. . Lynda lost her vision in 2007 due to Ischemic Optic Neuropathy. Many of her stories give an inner view of her personal life experiences since that time.
Lynda loves to write, knit. and travel. Lynda holds earned degrees in fine arts (BFA and MFA) and English literature (MA).
Lynda’s visual art is exhibited world-wide for over forty years and is in public and private permanent collections internationally.