I was taking a break, listening to the wind in the cottonwoods and looking at the contrast of red cliffs and blue New Mexico sky, when I was drawn to the shape of the hat on the wooden table. So I stood above it and snapped this shot.
I have heard that the styles we favor as we hit early adulthood tend to stick with us. If so, this may explain why I still prefer long skirts. And I really like hats. This despite the fact that I tend to look like a mushroom in broad brimmed hats, my favorite. I have a great many hats of all types of brim and fabric, and they all have wonderful memories stitched into them.
It started when I was a little girl. My mom had a couple hat boxes with her favorites of the early 50"s that my sister and I were allowed to play with. I don't know anything about hats, so I don't know the technical name for the style (pillbox?), but I remember a couple with little veils you could pull down over your eyes (not sure why you want to do this, but it seemed to work for Doris Day, even Jackie Kennedy) and a couple that were layered with feathers and would just fit over the crown of your head. I liked the hat box, too, that wonderful round shape, full of mysterious things to wear, emblematic of my mother's mysterious youth---although I had some vague memories (or photos) of her wearing these hats.
Men used to wear hats everywhere, back in the day. My grandfather wore a fedora before I knew him. Then somewhere in the 40's he switched to Stetson, felt or straw. My other grandfather wore a Panama hat. Fine hats. My dad wore different uniform caps or hats. I was always puzzled by those uniform fabric hats that folded into flat rectangles and then were pulled out for a jaunty (but now odd-seeming) stand -up brimless hat.
Other than the aviator's cap with the goggles that I always loved (and made one for myself for a "Come As You Want to Be" party I attended in high school as Amelia Earhart) I prefer hats with brims.
In college it was de rigueur to have a leather hat--- to go with the moccasins and leather vests and fringed leather bag--- and I wish I had kept my hat, but it was really hot.
One Easter visiting friends in New York City, we all bought wide- brimmed black felt hats in Greenwich Village Saturday night, then walked in the Easter parade uptown the next morning, and a grand parade of hats that was.
Oh, the hats. My long time favorite is my River Hat. I bought it in Old Town Albuquerque just before my first trip rafting the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. I bought it for its tightly woven wide brim and leather chin tie, so I wouldn't lose it in the rapids. Plus it was like having a personal tree for shade. That hat did lots of rafting and shading over the years and while nicely worn, it shows no signs of wearing out. I spent hours doing a pastel drawing of it one afternoon in Colorado, lovingly attending to the curves and textures of it, remembering canyon wrens, good friends and wild rapids in a cold river.
The only downside of the River Hat is it is hard to fly with, so I have had a succession of packable straw hats for painting trips, et al. They have been hard to break in, though. A good hat can be hard to find.
So last August I was back in Albuquerque, with need of both shade and loose weave for painting in the desert around Abiquiu. I found the Stetson above. It was perfect for the job, its bright white straw quickly weathered by the red dust and a few touches of cerulean and yellow ochre.
Think of your favorite painting. Is it a Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, O'Keefe, a piece in your city museum, an artist in a gallery near you? If money were no object, how much would you pay to own it? Why is it worth that to you?
Would you die to protect it?
Is there a piece of architecture that makes your heart sing or swell with joy? Would you die trying to protect it?
Recently I saw a documentary, "The Rape of Europa", about circumstances regarding art and architecture in World War II. Much art was stolen and moved from country to country. Many people took great risks to protect, hide and track the movements of their country's art from museums and dealers. The French emptied the Louvre. The stained glass windows in Chartres were removed and hidden.
There was a too-small team of American curators and archaeologists called "Monuments Men". They worked to identify and try to protect treasures as the army moved through Europe. Battle plans by both Allied and Axis forces were affected by decisions to protect or not protect historic places and art.
The filmmakers interviewed citizens who witnessed destruction and theft as well as heroic preservation efforts. These citizens described their mixed feelings and the impact on their lives then and now.
Why does art matter? Why does it seem painful to imagine bombing ancient monuments, or the permanent loss of paintings or works like the Camposanto frescoes in Pisa, or the destruction of the Hermitage in Moscow? Yet it is equally painful to know of lives lost to protect an ancient monastery in Italy----only to have it destroyed later with no impact on the battle.
Why would a shy French woman risk torture and death to chronicle the dispersion of art from Jewish art dealers in Paris? Why in the last 60 years has there been such intensive effort to return art works to rightful owners and national museums?
The great art of humanity means something to us. It is not just great beauty and history. Nor just about monetary value, although, for some, it is about acquisition of power, treasure, status. Art bears witness to the best in us, to resilience, creativity and transcendence. Art records our longings and seeking. Art speaks to and creates connection. It is about individuals and the collective. It is about worlds in the past we can no longer know except through art, monuments and stories passed down to us. Historical works of art make their way into the collective unconscious, informing not just present art, but the metaphors and meaning we make now.
Think about the art you encounter every day, or when you visit museums or travel. Centuries ago, millennia ago, artists made sculpture, structures, jewelry, pottery, murals. Did they imagine these things would last, be viewed lovingly and in wonder in a far distant future? And what about the commitment of the cathedral builders? Workers for generation after generation, for 200 years or more, constructed what they knew they would not see completed in a lifetime.
Today there are artists everywhere driven by those some creative urges and longings that made our ancestors paint on cave walls. Know any local artists? Write them a thank-you note for keeping our pathways lit up with beauty, discovery, truth telling and joy.