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Auction Block: Western Wonders

Collectors covet works depicting the legendary scenes and peoples of the West

Hadley Rampton, "Chanson" | Oil on Canvas | 40 x 20 inches

October | November: Editor’s Note

The things we hold

Written by Carter G. Walker  
October | November 2015


It first appeared as a parenthetical note in his 1944 poem, “A Sort of Song,” and then again two years later in Paterson: No ideas but in things. William Carlos Williams. (You remember him. The red wheelbarrow. The white chickens.) I wrote it down at least eight times — in the body of my notes and in the margins — the first week of my MFA program. No ideas but in things. Yes. 

This issue for me is about the way that what we touch and hold — and collect — can inspire not only ideas but deep feelings, of gratitude, of longing, of wonder. It’s about the way that what is tangible can transform into beauty that is intangible, but unmistakable. 

In a profile by Todd Wilkinson (“Western Ethereal,” page 110), painter Jim Morgan revealed some of his favorite things about the West. “I still get excited finding a chip of obsidian out in the middle of nowhere that was touched by someone, who knows how long ago — it makes me wonder what they were thinking when they held it in their hands,” he said. I don’t see that piece of rock in his work, but I see its color everywhere — in the fall of sunlight on a swan’s beak, in the wing of a yellow-headed blackbird and the shadowy bark of an aspen in winter. 

Roseta Santiago knows too that what appears on her canvas is tied to what she can hold in her hands. She is as much a collector as she is an artist, and both things influence the other.  “All these piles are possibilities,” she says of her studio (“In the Studio,” page 82) that is filled with things that mean something to her. “Inspiration comes from stories objects have to tell,” she says. 

The pages we string together for you every issue are the things we use to share the ideas and the stories that move us. We try to create WA&A in the spirit of painter Hadley Rampton (“Illuminations,” page 42), who travels with canvas in her car wherever she goes. Painting, she says, is “my way of sharing with others who weren’t there and didn’t see what I saw and felt.” 

Pick up these pages. Pick up the things that you surround yourself with and let yourself be inspired. There are no ideas but in things.