Mary L.

          On April 14, 1950 I entered this world in Detroit, Michigan and was named Mary Josephine Luquette after my two grandmothers and to honor The Blessed Mother. We were baby boomer kids in a Catholic family. There would be nine of us, 7 boys and 2 girls ( my sister was my birthday present for my seventh birthday). When I was born, my father was completing a master's degree in business administration and my mother was using her nurse's degree to care and nurture her family. We moved 6 times in Detroit and then left for Wilkes Barre ,PA when my father landed a teaching job. Two years when I was 16, we relocated to Gettysburg, PA for a different teaching position. Another two years passed before he was diagnosed as bi-polar and his highs and lows began to escalate which resulted in numerous hospitalizations and eventually 100% disabled. Shortly after his diagnosis my older brother was killed in a car crash. This sent dad into a major depression that he never recovered from and shifted family life from dad, the professor,.. to dad, the mental patient. It was expected that we all were to complete college so I completed a Liberal Arts Associate Degree from PA State. I returned several years later and earned a BS in Child and Family Services. I didn't hate school but didn't love it either. I found a job as a pre-school teacher and stayed with it for 15 years. It was during this time that I met my husband and we married after dating several years when we were both 35. It was not the best marriage but we stayed together because it was comfortable. I now am thankful in many ways that we did not have children.
Then came the shift. Year 2000 and I turn 50 and the world hasn't disintegrated into a ball of fire. I quit a two pack a day smoking habit. Then my husband was diagnosed with Hep C/ severe liver disease and a transplant was needed. I have emergency major surgery. Year 2001, June .. my brother Bob commits suicide, Aug....my job/company folds, Sept ...9/11/2001 and..... Dec.2001 my husband dies. Year 2002.... June 2002 my brother Bill dies from a heart attach at 45. Sept, I need a hysterectomy, Dec. another job loss due a company folding. April 2003 my dad dies. May 2004 my mother dies. During this time my sister announced that she was gay and introduced her partner to the family. Some of my brothers shunned her. The family was already falling apart with personal feelings of grief for each individual family lose and this announcement caused further breakage. As the peacemaker in the family, I continued to communicate and still do with all members of the family. I found a wonderful counselor that guided me through all the grief and helped me discover and supported the artist within me. I gained confidence in all areas of my life and felt transformed from the shy, non risk taking, model housewife that I had become. At the end of 2005 she moved across the county promising she would still be there for me. I never heard from her and my attempts at contacting her were meet with a request to buy her book. A friend suggested a retreat so I did. That turned into completing a four year program in spiritual direction ( non-denominational ). It involved one weekend a month of group and one on one personal intense personal introspective plus a good amount of silence. I was hired by the program and developed an art and spirituality class which I lead for two years. I left mostly because it wasn't financially sensible. During this time I went on a 30 day silent retreat where I stayed in small cabin with limited electric and water. I meet with a director daily and spent the rest of my time writing, creating collages, hiking and just being. The longer I was there, the less "productive" I became which was a good thing.


          I learned to sew as soon as I could hold a needle from my mother. I always enjoyed creating my own clothes. Like many sewers, I began to find the price of patterns, fabric , etc was much more expensive then buying off the rack. I discovered quilting in my late 40's as a way of staying connected to fabric. Following my life shift.... I could no longer deal with 1/4 inch seams and matching seams. My life now had no rules because everything I knew especially how I defined myself was shattered so why should my quilting follow patterns. I began art quilting to express my grief and spiritual explorations. Friends suggested I sell my work and enter them in shows. In the first art show I entered, I won first place! I began having shows and selling some of my work. I had also developed an interest in fitness started by wanting to lose middle age weight and firm up. I became a Y regular and developed friendships with elite athletes that pushed and encouraged me to try triathlons ( I was 60 at this time). First I had to learn to swim and did. I took the challenge and continue to love competing running , swimming, and biking.

          Three years ago, another shift. My sister was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and died at 54 after a 2 year fight. The blessing was that my sister and her partner had distanced themselves from the family including me due to their pain at not being accepted by the family and feeling partly responsible for the family discord. We reconnected after she was diagnosed and I was one of the few people she still recognized up to the end. I created one piece about her but not much more after. Running was easier and I threw myself into it and loved crossing the finish line for medals after months of hard training. I have learned a lot about myself through pushing beyond what I think I can do physically, mentally and spiritually. The other thing is that I need the social aspect that athletics offer. Working on my art means closing the door and turning off the phone. For years I wanted that silence but now I need the company of others because I live alone. I have felt guilty about not working on art but at the same time I know I can't force it. The truth is , I want to be done with grief art work and want to expand who I am as an artist. I, also, need to change jobs. I am burned out of mine but it is comfortable and convenient but boring and I am not growing. I just haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up... I feel strongly that it is time to change many things in my life and create more balance which is why I took this class hoping to clarify my goals for the next phase of my life. I am excited about where I am going next and what talents will emerge. If someone had told me 15 years ago that I would call myself an artist and triathlete, I would have said they were crazy. I strongly believe that we all have so many gifts and abilities that just haven't been nurtured enough to surface. However, I am as guilty as the next person in quickly saying I can't when I haven't even tried something. I am working on it.

Process

          I work best on the fly. I pick up a fabric, have a vision in the shower, hear voices from fabric. I never do pre-planning, drawing, pre-planning. I get an itch and listen to the fabric and go with it. The piece develops at the machine as ideas come to me. I have taken classes in drawing, photography, collage trying to understand art principles with minor success. Usually I end up frustrated because I just don't get the concepts. I never got past the difference between seeing lines and shadows instead of trees and buildings. I know that with more practice I could improve but time is a major factor. I haven't worked on much lately because I hit a wall on creativity and would start pieces but not finish them. So much of my work had streamed from darkness, grief, recovery after major loses that emerged nonstop for years without effort. I have started a new piece during this class that is going well because I lose track of time and look forward to work on.

Content

          I love color! I have a natural ability to put colors together and wonder why people use color wheels to pick fabrics. For me it is so easy and fun. I tend to gravitate to bright fall colors. I didn't realize until one day a friend said they spotted a piece of my work across a room just because of the colors. I love abstract art! I appreciate traditional quilts and realistic art but they bore me. I love the process of picking out new fabric and bringing it home to wash and press and listen to what it wants to become.