What’s Your Medium?

For more than twenty five years I have answered the question “What do you do?” with words like Customer Service Supervisor, Software Development Manager, and Marketing Director and I’ve associated the word “medium” with my T-shirt size and my not so secret fascination with the metaphysical world.  I also thought field trips and color pencils were only for kids.

In my quest to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, I jumped on the invitation to tag along with fellow members of the Artists of Yardley on a trip to the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown.  I signed up to join the group for lunch but resisted the urge to volunteer to drive (they really have no idea how fortunate that decision was).

We met at the Janney house and I took the opportunity to stay warm and view the amazing work of local artists on display for the final weekend of the Juried Art Show.  I always find myself torn between feeling inspired and discouraged as an artist when I am exposed to such incredible talent.

Sixteen mature adults piled into a handful of cars and I would venture a guess that more than a few conversations among longtime friends and new acquaintances started with the question, “What’s your medium?”

When asked, I stuttered and stumbled and finally said, “Learning?” and decided I needed to come up with a better response.  A serious discussion about art took place in the front seat and a more casual one happened in the back.  I enjoyed myself so much that I have no idea how long we were on the road and I couldn’t describe the landscape if I had to.

One of the things I appreciated the most was that no one seemed to find my desire to take pictures of random things in front of the museum to be the least bit odd.  In fact it turns out that there are other people who can’t resist the urge to capture a digital image of a swirly leaf and its interesting shadow against the curb.  It’s fascinating to think that a single photo might come to life in a drawing, a painting, within a written scene, or printed onto photo paper and framed.

I got a kick out of the fact that there was another field trip taking place at the same time and the leaders of each group had similar challenges in rounding people up and quieting them down, although I think the six-year olds may not have wandered off on their own as much as we did.

Our personal guide, a member of the group and docent, made the museum come to life through explanations about the exhibits, tidbits about the artists and their relationships with each other and the community, and facts about the founder of the museum and famous author, James A. Michener.  He was raised in Doylestown and the people of the town held the threat of going to the Buck’s County Prison over his head if he didn’t ‘change his ways.’ I found it interesting and ironic to learn that he did indeed end up in the prison located in Doylestown when he renovated it into a museum designed to celebrate life and art.

The Painterly Voice was the primary focus of our visit; through the history and highlights about the pieces and the artist shared by our guide along with the impressions, observations, and insights from the group, I experienced art in a way I didn’t know was possible.  I completed my tour with the story of James and Mari, a man from an impoverished background and a woman who spent part of her youth in a Japanese internment camp who, together, left behind a legacy of beauty and hope. Armed with my iPad I slipped into my favorite spot in the museum, the Nakashima Reading Room, to record my thoughts and collect my emotions.

The visit to the museum was followed by lunch at a local pub filled with lively conversation, plenty of laughs, excellent food, and genuine people.  The conversation ranged from pets to piano lessons and from art to food and family.  I can’t wait for the next field trip and the chance to answer the question, “What’s your medium?”

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