Bricoleur: As used in reference to visual arts, refers to a person who constructs or creates a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available. I think the laymen’s' term for bricoleur would be crafty. As I was choosing a category last week for the blog at CharlestonGrit.com, I noticed that I always tend to use Mixed Messages. The story may first appear to have a clear and concise category, but by the time I put the period on it, it has run the gambit and I feel that I must use this indecisive category.
Words, my first love. For whatever reason, there were only two kinds of books in our house. A Webster’s dictionary, a Bible and set of Bible story books. I remember stating that I would read that dictionary and Bible from front to back and learn every word. I made it to the word aardvark in the dictionary and eventually to the last thin page of King James. I looked for words on objects everywhere. The first big words that I learned was King Edward. He was the dude on the cigar box my mom kept change in. The next was prndl, that's pronounced (purn-dul). Yes-sir-ee, I was proud when I was able to explain to my mom what happened when my grandmother put the prndl stick on the steering column into the wrong gear and backed into a tree. So, looks like my path might be forged right? Well, it might have been if not for my second grade art class.
The teacher, my first bricoleur taught me to open my eyes to forms of art that exist all around me that i could use. "There are objects all around you that you can use to create, you just have to look for them." she told us. Nirvana! Do you mean to tell me that my expression of self doesn't have to end when my tin box of paints dries up? We made Picasso inspired art collages with crushed and dyed egg shells along with 3D art on cardboard backing using beans, rice and noodles. I seriously have never had a boring day in my life again. Well, I thought I would try out this new world of mixed media. Mom's birthday was coming up. There's this pretty blue box in the bathroom under the sink, said Kotex. The box had a big white beautiful rose on it. I cut that bad boy into the shape of a card and pasted paper to the inside with a message. There was a small gathering for a birthday dinner that evening at my Aunt and Uncle's home. I brought the card out from behind my back at the kitchen table, a few audible gasp's and then laughs and nervous giggles. Their response was a little different than I had expected. Oh well, it was fun for me. The next week I made a card for my math teacher out of our Captain Crunch box. Mixed media even made it to the kitchen. I was making breakfast for my sister and brother one morning and decided to spice it up a little after reading Dr. Seuss. I cooked the eggs with green food coloring. That didn't go over too well.
The new genius spilled over into all areas of my life and although it doesn't get the accolades of a single defined art, mixed media definitely gets a response. I search in earnest for things that are otherwise deemed useless and look for ways to give them a new life. Sticks become canes, shells sculpt into Christmas tree's. Projects sit in every corner of my home for me to pick up. Some I have worked on for years, some I will need to go to prison to finish.
I used to long to be the person who, when asked, emphatically says "I am an artist." Which leads to the indelible question, "What kind of artist are you?" to which their reply would be. "Oh, I write," or " I'm a sculpture" or "I'm a photographer." Not anymore, my answer would have to be in earnest "Well, I am a ADD Mixed Message artist. I write, paint floor cloths, make soap, perfumes, unusual jewelry, mosaics, collages and weird handmade books." Next year the list could be totally different. I am so grateful for that art teacher that broadened my horizons.