I don’t remember any of the expected exhibits at the opening of the Asian Museum in San Francisco when we attended some years ago. The building itself was austere, cold and grey as I think of it. Serious rather than fun. Since it was the opening night it was crowded with erstwhile art enthusiasts, some dressed in colorful artwear, many in more casual jeans and Birkenstocks, a few bearded, grey pony tailed men. The usual group who show up to see and be seen.
It was all very shibui. Quietly elegant I would have described it if asked. Not quite up to the old Gump’s store in San Francisco, where the rich classic and beautiful displays on the third floor was a frequent destination for me. On this night I was drawn to the large black chains hanging from the high ceilings arranged in intricate configurations. Obviously it was the intention of the artist, and I found myself admiring the shadow patterns on the walls more than the chains themselves, even more than the large installations on the floor. Even today when I think of that show, it is the shadow patterns which remain.
Sometimes the separation of the real from the imagined becomes more intriguing. In my art classes I often suggested sketching the shadows of leaf patterns of trees or architectural designs as a jump-start to a student with the blockage familiar to artists and writers at the sight of a piece of blank white paper.
Our memories are the shadow patterns of our life. The bits and pieces of our journey which lodge in the nooks and crannies of our remembrance. These ghostly shadows keep us in touch with our past.
I have a small antique chair which belonged to my mother in law, upon which she worked a lovely petit point seat cover. I sit on it each morning while putting on my shoes and socks. It is old, like me, and also like me, has a couple of creaks. My MIL always laid the blame on Auntie Carmen’s excess weight when she perched on it. My shadow memory kicks in with each creak. I don’t recall an overweight Auntie, rather a nice looking well-dressed, white haired lady who often joined my MIL’s bridge group. The shadow patterns become more complex when that memory segues into another, and yet another.
You could say that habit is a form of shadow memory, which presents a whole new concept. When we bought each of our homes, we made changes which better fit our plans. After relocating a light switch or moving a door, and even the refrigerator, at the beginning of our residence, it confounds me when I reach toward the old position of things which are no longer there. Is it carelessness or shadow memory?