August 2019's Post-it note art from Instagram

Over on our Instagram page, we’re posting a weekly installation from Clare Johnson’s Post-it Note Project, a long running daily project. Here’s her wrap-up and statement from August's posts.

August's Theme: Once Before

I seem to have made a tradition of bestowing post-it choosing duties on family members in honor of their birthday months. August is my mother, albeit with some external parameters—she asked me to pre-limit her options, for greater ease. I was about to spend the month at a surprise residency in Boise, where my mom grew up, so she chose post-its from my first time at this residency, a couple Octobers ago. We share a fascination with family stories and strange lands; I think it’s safe to say that for both of us, her home state occupies the epicenter of both loves. Back then I was working on a cozy project, making drawings inspired by favorite books. I was expecting to be a little swamped with dead grandparent memories—or very-much-alive cousins and their kids—or feel like a short-haired sore thumb, sorely lesbian in public—or surprised by people’s plainspoken friendliness too—and wandering around town never disappointed, on any of these fronts. But that residency looped my different lives together with a thoroughness I never expected. Outside was the old desert oasis of grandparent-cousin summers, changing seasons in a way I’d only heard about from my mom. But inside, quietly roaming this art-filled house left behind by a gone-too-soon painter, life was improbably twinned with times in England—teaching Saturday morning classes in Cambridge—an ancient house—art in each new corner—strange modern additions disarmingly charming—hallowed modest rooms, carefully preserved—a secret familiarity—allowed to touch the furniture, long before open hours—this beloved space I’ll never regain. I regained it. Meanwhile spending most evenings chatting with my closest cousin, random walks in the foothills or hanging out at his house with his family, casually last-minute plans and joking after work or weekends like it was no strange thing, living in the same place just natural. We’d only had that once before, as teenagers—medical visits to Seattle forcing him to moonlight in my high school memories—all our grown-up times are summer vacations, divorced from normal life. In this Boise house I lived teenage me, childhood summers me, England teacher me, Seattle artist and writer me all at once, I was calm, everything made easy sense. Having just achieved my unlikely dream of living there another month, this time as a writer, I have to admit I still feel the same way I did making this first post-it, the night before the residency even started—staying in my cousin’s guest room, gently engulfed in old music and posters, a quilt made by my grandma’s big sister. Other evenings found me swimming in palatial YMCA pools, sharp turquoise echoes, vast emptied 8pm’s in a town where everyone else has kids, expected home for dinner. Luxuriating in deep waters strangely all to myself, like I’d stayed late in a childhood memory of nighttime fall swimming lessons, my mom gone home. Taking breaks from work to walk along the river at the end of the street, the ragged art of every moment overwhelmed me, too many things to say at once, strange humor, lovely pathos, odd perfection of each detail a little creative ache. At my exhibition, someone paid me an enthusiastically mysterious compliment, surprised by my slideshow of paintings and post-its, so different from the dip pen drawings I’d been making. If anyone knows what he meant please explain, I confess it’s beyond me. (Does Scarlett demonstrate confusingly diverse artistic talents I’ve forgot? Did Margaret Mitchell sneakily paint??) Halloween was my last night in town, my cousin’s toddler in her flamingo outfit a deadpan delight. That post-it appeared online while I was driving home from this year’s residency, the strange calm of that time-traveling house behind me and belonging to another artist and a new month now, just my usual self again, it drives me crazy I can’t be everywhere at once.