Friday, February 19, 2021

Aesthetic Boards

In my teens I hung up posters on a bedroom wall, momentos like ticket stubs, theater programs. Then, I switched to filling albums or binders with ephemera, inspiration, photographs, love notes, magazine clippings, stickers. They were reminders of what I had done, and what I hoped to do. I loved when my taste, and hopes, or what I wished could be my taste, aligned with real experiences. When I discovered Pinterest, all of the pleasures of creating moods, being inspired, gathering and sorting through ideas, words, images, colors, and pretty things, reminded me of those albums and scrapbooks, of poring over magazines, looking for the one or two articles or objects that I liked, or wanted, or dreamed of, then clipping them out, and pasting them into my own book. Digitally, there is so much more to see and share, and it's all there at the *click* of a key. I compare it with curating a magazine.

When Maria was very young, I would often comfort, distract, or amuse her with a special Pinterest Board I curated just for her. I call it Just to Make Maria Smile. If we were stuck in a boring situation, I could pass her my phone, open to the Board, and she could safely browse all of the kittens, and bunnies, the teacups, and poems, the natural wonders, places, and philosophers. Some nights it was like a bedtime story, and we would snuggle together and re-visit favorite images, of places, of possibilities. When Max started school away from home, and was struggling to adjust to dorm life, I suggested he visit Pinterest, as a calming distraction, when he didn't know what else to do. I had boards of things I'd been curating, subjects, and themes that made me think of him, that I wanted to share with him. Not only did he take to it, but by following him, I discovered more about his interests, the things that make him laugh, comfort him. He still adds things to his Pinterest Boards, which we all visit from time to time, mostly for the jokes and memes.

Now, Maria is in high school, and has had her own Pinterest account for some time. We still share images that make each other smile, but this week, she shared something new, but really not so new... aesthetic boards. I know them as mood boards, or the literal cork boards pinned with notices, reminders, momentos and images. And I was reminded that I made one for a swap with a Peter Rabbit theme, and it was meant to share with my partner an idea of things I like, favorites, and such. I enjoyed making it, curating the images, distilling an idea of what I like, and realizing that it meant thinking, in part, about who I am. It was an interesting exercise, and I have meant to play with it some more, but haven't. Maria has been making many of these aesthetic boards, initially for the Dungeons and Dragons characters she and her group, play. They include original, and found art, clothes, scenes, objects, symbols. Collectively, the 3 x 3 grid creates a whole image, and mood that represents, even evokes, the character she is representing. Recently, she has begun to build aesthetic boards for people she knows, and herself. She showed me the D&D boards, which are a lot of fun, and communicate so much about both the characters, and their players, especially in Maria's hands. She has a knack for distilling the qualities and motifs that reveal the personality. Then she showed her latest aesthetic boards, and I was really captivated.
This is Maria's aesthetic board. Without looking at her, it's like seeing her, seeing into her dreams, her hopes, finding beauty as she sees it, the places in her heart. It feels intimate, true, and personal. I feel privileged, and fortunate, to see all of this that makes her happy, that inspires, and represents parts of who she is. The next one she shared with me, she made for her friend, Amira.

Of course, I know Amira... not so well as Maria knows them, but I see Amira in this board. I know they love pineapples and Miyazaki, that their bedroom is tropical yellow, they draw, and sign, and watch Steven's Universe. Another layer of what Maria composed, and she shared with me, is in the order of the images... pink, then yellow, and blue, like the pansexual pride flag. And the I love you ASL sign, is also like the game, a character, Paul played at with them when the girls were much younger. (Nuh-nuhnuh?)

Maria showed me another, one she is just starting. "Can you guess?" she asked, holding up her iPad. There were only three images in the grid, so far, and already, I could see, "It's Bambi!" Then, I wanted to see me... that is I was curious to see how she sees me. It feels like a unique, divulging way to have one's portrait made, like it could be a collage of what I project, and how she relates to me. I knew was asking for something personal, intimate. I don't make it into many photographs, and the narrative about who I am, the one in my head, is critical. I can't deny that the wish and hope to be seen at my best, through love and mindfullness is irresistible.
She shared this with me, this morning... her aesthetic board of me. I am floored. It's all familiar, yet revealing. It speaks of things I strive for, wish for, reach for, both on the ground, and in my dreams. It feels like one detailed portrait of me, with innermost, unspoken details, composed of many things, and feelings, that I both guard, and wear on my sleeve. It makes me feel pretty, inside, and out. I want to quash the idea of vanity, which just now reared its mean head, like a tiny troll, drawing its breath and preparing to lecture me on the sins of pride, conceit. What is the opposite of vanity? Because, I would like to know... what is virtuous, or worthwhile, about making oneself small, self-effacement, if I lose sight of what I have to offer the world, what makes me move, grow, smile? On the surface, I see the things I like, but the board also shows me the best of what I am comprised of, strive for, and that's a view I struggle to recognize, honor. Maybe some people are comfortable in their own skin, know themselves, but I am not, do not. I have tried to not to take up too much space, be a bother, look in the mirror, for as long as I can remember. There is a momentous gift in what happens when someone listens to you, sees you, knows you, and then takes the time to reflect back to you, the kindest parts of what they see, what they hear, or feel. So, when someone takes your photograph, or writes you a love note, when they reveal what they see you as, positively, unconditionally, not for the sake of inflating your pride, but to share the good, the joy, the bits you have displayed, intentionally, or quietly, I think that is something like a transcendent embrace, a sacred expression of love. I cannot deny that I am honored, even healed, and certainly inspired to see this part of me, and to know that I have managed to project some good. It makes me want everyone, that needs some confidence, some love, to have their picture taken, a poem written, an aesthetic board made by someone that sees them, and loves them, because it feels wonderful.


Teresa Kasner said...

I really like Maria's board she made for herself, kind of neat to envision living in a cute little cottage. I also like the lady with the birds and a halo of flowers. The one she did for you is pretty nice as she sees you in very positive ways. Lucky you! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I like hers, too... it's so much like her, like the music she plays, the art she creates, the things that make her happily sigh, wishful. It reminds me of how she's been describing her dream room, home. And I really do feel lucky to be seen by her in positive ways. I know she sees my shortcomings and challenges, too, but these good reminders are motivating, and uplifting, and feel so nice.
((hugs)) for you, Teresa, and I hope your son is continuing to mend, and recover.

Janece said...

You already know some of my thoughts on this post from conversations had in person. <3

And the aesthetic boards are amazing...It's such a natural artist's thing to do... putting together diverse imagery that comes together into a complicated and beautiful whole.