History LayeredPosted: September 2, 2011
These chairs are over twenty years old—the classic design of the Adirondack chair is timeless. Unlike many purchases which, often, at some point you find yourself asking, “What was I thinking?” So misguided are some of those selections that you find yourself too embarrassed to place these disasters on the curb—so you add them to your secret graveyard of design errors. Within that graveyard, etched upon the headstones are titles such as; “I remember Mauve…Purple is the new Black…Large prints make Big statements, Be Bold!” Not these chairs, they are not destined to find themselves wedged between a white leather-like love seat and a blue and green plaid recliner with matching arm-rest protectors.
At some point in the ’90’s–the first time these chairs required painting, I carefully selected what I perceived to be a classic, vintage, barn-red. I carefully laid protective paper onto the garage floor, after I swept of course—not wanting to have any unruly dust invade my newly applied wet paint. I methodically taped over the hardware, using the traditional blue-painters tape as I covered each nut and bolt that had somehow transformed these wooden planks into a chair. The whole event took much longer than I had anticipated and the result was…well, to refer to them as pink is an exaggeration—let’s just say, they were not classic. The traditional Adirondack chairs were lost somewhere between vintage-barn-red and fresh-from-the-vine-watermelon. With the situation being that I had already invested the time, money and emotional energy in this lengthy and trying process, I chose to accept the outcome. I hoped for a rainy summer interspersed with strong, beating rays of sun.
The painting of the Adirondack chairs have survived many evolutions. One such transformation involved my daughter and her friend—two thirteen year old girls (“There’s Nothing to Do…We’re Bored!”) clad in bikinis with music blasting. That was the summer of purple, lime green and teal. It was memorable, even the chairs were mortified. That year, I admit, the chairs were accidentally left outside throughout the winter. Snow and ice can be so damaging!
I’ve grown up quite a bit since the first painting, which I refer to as “the pink period.” With my new wisdom in place, this time as I began the every-other-year repainting cycle which the chairs seem to require, of which I am very grateful, I realized the real beauty existed in the layered history. It was the life these chairs had led—and survived. The parties they had attended, the books that had been read upon them, the conversations they had listened to and the rains, wet swimsuits and lawnmower attacks they had survived, that made them so beautiful. My approach to painting them had also evolved, it had become—different.
To gather the required paint supply I went on a hunt into the dusty crawl space of the basement, it’s rock foundation echoing over one hundred years of solid strength. Dragging out cob-webbed covered quart cans and battered gallons of paint, the names of the colors had long ago faded. The only evidence of what might be held within the dented cans with their hammered on lids was the dried, thick, caked-on paint along the top edges of each can. The cans were now decorated with the remnants of the paint that had dripped down the sides from the age-old process of dragging a paint brush along the rim to remove excess paint.
After gathering my varied array of cans of paint, which some of them were admittedly new and unused—having been opened only once, to a gasp! That of course was due to an error in the color representation on a paint chart…or maybe a bad hair day had affected my color sense…what was I thinking? At any rate, armed with sandpaper, brushes and dressed in a paint-worthy fashion statement, I set off to work. There was no longer a need for a drop cloth, whatever paint spilled on the grass would eventually be cut away by the weekly lawn mowing, somewhat like some of the hair experiments I had participated in through the years. The painters-masking-tape had been long ago abandoned, there was no reason to protect the nuts and bolts, the secrets of how had been answered. And surely, there was no way of stopping history from occurring—it had arrived and was continuing to do so, with or without my consent. The evidence of that history had become a part of me, and it was demonstrated daily. And that, was okay, we deserved each other, this evidence of history and me. There had been some pretty rainy summers and cold bitter winters, and we had weathered them. It was time—and more importantly, I wanted to embrace this layered history, with open arms.
It was during one of the painting sessions, of these two Adirondack chairs, that I discovered that there was something so very beautiful which emerged from within those layers. Depth and dimension was added from that history and an unmistakable richness was born. Now, from that experience a style of painting has developed, which I always thoroughly enjoy. Recently when I was in the midst of a painting project, a passerby stopped and asked me, “Are you really going to use all of those different colors?” I responded with a knowing smile and an enthusiastic nod, “Absolutely! I am painting in layers of history and the story of a life!”