Watercolor: Love Kitchen (& Social Media as your Front Porch)

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Love Kitchen 22×13 watercolor on Strathmore plate finish paper (sold)

There are good and bad things about social media. If you’d like to hear why I love social media – as it relates to connecting with my global community, personally & professionally, read on… This post applies to sharing, but I’m writing about it from a broad, aerial view. If you’re looking for verbiage specific to art making, stay tuned for the next post. 🙂

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At an Art Exhibit opening, with four artists friends – 3 I met first on social media: Karla Bartholomew (red floral top), Julie Snyder (brown ruffled top) and Elizabeth Tucker (black velvet top). Karen Winters is in green – we met the old fashioned way – at an art show.

Back in the day, before social media, many homes in America were built with deep, wrap-around front porches adorned with all manner of chairs, love seats and rugs. Families spent summer evenings sprawled with books & beverages in cushioned wicker chairs, or dozing on squeaky bench gliders. Neighbors strolling the ‘hood stopped to sit on the steps & chat. Families piled on with a posse of kids to spread out on rag-braided rugs with board games, paper dolls and comic books.

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A gaggle of cousins & neighbors; my family gathered on a front porch with snacks & beverages in the early 1940’s.

There are still homes with front porches; lovingly restored turn of the century homes with beautiful porches are plentiful where I live in Southern California, but I rarely see people on them. I attended a lecture on the history of architectural design years ago, and the presenter talked about the changes in levels of intimacy in home lay-out over time. Early home fronts were shared spaces; the porch was a social area, as was the first room behind the front door – usually a living room or parlor, followed by a kitchen, and as you receded back into the deeper arrangement of rooms, the private places were at the rear – bedrooms and back yards.  The garage was mostly a utilitarian space (people rarely had cars), so it was more of a work shed, and it was often unattractive, so they were built behind homes too – in the private realm.  After WWII, people moved away for jobs, or went to cities they discovered while serving in the military. The housing boom and plentiful automobiles scooted garages to the front of the house, for the driving convenience of street-to-home access, and they became private (& secure) entries with the advent of garage door openers. Porches, if houses had them, were moved to the back yard – the most private part of a house layout.

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My Great Aunt Jeannette, visiting cousins on their front porch, with a neighbor joining-in from her window in Rhode Island – about 1919.

We raised our kids in a neighborhood where all the houses had garages facing the street, and everyone had a back yard enclosed with a high, block-wall. I loved my house, and my yard and my neighborhood, but we met only a few neighbors immediately next door and across the street in twenty two years there. People around us left for work in the wee hours of the morning, and came home just before dinner. I didn’t see them, but I saw their cars, pulling into the garage, and shutting the door behind them.  It appeared that no one walked in our neighborhood, and if they did, we never saw them, because everyone was in the back yard. On weekends they were doing the same thing we were: taxiing kids to sports practices, driving across the city to attend an occasional family barbecue, or taking the dogs to the vet for shots – all the things we couldn’t squeeze in during the week. If we did happen upon a free morning, we spent it in gloriously quiet solitude on the back porch, re-charging our batteries with a newspaper and a pot of coffee. We often heard fragments of conversations from the back yards around us, in a palpable atmosphere of communal respite.

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Facing the neighbors: the garage as street-access convenience, entry security and privacy-insulation.

Opponents of social media quip that we all need to get off the computer, and go visit each other, face to face. “Social media is a lazy version of friendship.” That argument usually incites me to ask “Did we do lots of visiting before social media?” I don’t think we did. Community used to be celebrated, but now, people are a little guarded about their neighbors. We don’t often know each other. Maybe the pace of life is too fast, and job & familial obligations leave people exhausted, so they don’t have the capacity for daily visits with family and friends. (Or the convenient opportunity never presents itself without that front porch, and frequent walking.)

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My great Aunts – Tess & Lily visiting their sister Mae on the front porch – about 1930

 

 

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An artist’s portrait, by an artist – Richard Schmidt painting Alexey Steele. I learned about & made arrangements to attend after reading about it on social media.

So, yes, Facebook likes and comments and shared photos are a more passive connection, compared to the face to face, cup-of-coffee visit. But it’s still a connection.  Before social media, if I hadn’t seen someone for 8-12 months, catching up kicked off with ‘how is your family’ and ‘what have you been doing’, and the conversation meandered to light-fare vagaries as we strained to recall what the heck we’ve been so stinkin’ busy with all year.  Now, with social media, I know what my friends have been doing these past 8-12 months; I’ve seen photos and left comments on a grandparent’s passing, a son’s winning basketball game, a daughter’s marriage, etc. And they’ve seen my photos and left comments too. When we meet, the conversation starts off with immediate & specific intimacy, and a heap of shared enthusiasm for every event and milestone we posted, because we’ve been present in each other’s minds through social media posts all year long.

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A family reunion; looking at genealogy charts in Los Angeles with cousins visiting from Italy after we found & friended them on Facebook

When we lost a beloved pet years ago, I shared a photo of her and my grief on facebook. Friends and family left a generous string of loving comments. They gathered ’round, wrapped us in typed messages of supportive kindness, shared stories of their own losses, and created an instant, micro community that was as real as if they’d all lined up on my front porch to give us a hug. It was heartfelt, amazing and restorative. And there was nothing lazy about it.

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Editing a video of watercolor paper tests to share with subscribers on my YouTube channel, and participating in a wonderful juried exhibit after reading about it on social media.

My current home has a front deck, and I chat with my neighbors every week now. I see them walking dogs, mowing lawns, or hiking hills behind us. It feels very old fashioned, and lovely. I haven’t sat on a front porch or shared freshly baked banana bread with my neighbors in the past 4 decades, till now. And my social media neighborhood is also huge & festive. And it’s international. I visit & share regularly, and peruse photos of family dinners, back yard birthday parties, job promotions, videos of baby’s first steps, artists painting in their studios and toddlers sleeping on the family dog. And these are not images of strangers; these are my friends, and my family. All the things I’d see if I were strolling through the neighborhoods across half a dozen time zones and continents, visiting people I care about, whenever I want to check in and touch base.  Social media is my front porch. And it’s your front porch too. Come and find me so we can have a glass of lemonade and catch up on each other’s lives every week.

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Sketching on the front deck with a beverage, chatting with the neighbors, and posting photos of my view on social media. 🙂

On the topic of community and being connected, check out this insightful video from a Ted Talk with Yoga instructor and Instagram enchanter Rachel Brathen. Her bravery to tell the truth online, instead of posting curated, polished, marketing-seasoned posts, transformed her career, and changed her life.

Do you spend a good chunk of time each week socializing face to face with friends and relatives? Do you enhance that connection with social media? Share your thoughts (either for or against) in the comments.

Thanks for hanging out, and I’ll see you in the next post –

Belinda

P.S You can subscribe to get these missives as an email as soon as they’re posted here.

Art Quote

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

~Kurt Vonnegut

 

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8 Responses to Watercolor: Love Kitchen (& Social Media as your Front Porch)

  1. kathansen9 06/10/2016 at 12:13 pm #

    I personally love social media, especially FB, where I have met SO many incredible people. Maybe I am lucky and am drawn to the nicest people, but I do believe it is most definitely a balance. I interact daily with co-workers, family, friends and neighbors in person and on line. I love it for exactly those reasons you stated! (Ps…this was a very interesting post…the porches and introduction of cars, etc…very good read!!)

    • Belinda DelPesco 11/10/2016 at 1:14 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback!! I am so glad we agree on the benefits. All the negative press about social media needs a fresh breeze of balance about the good things, so we don’t scare off the folks who haven’t tried it yet. 🙂

  2. CM Dobbs 05/10/2016 at 2:02 am #

    The shift you are describing, for which the automobile was the catalyst, was the true beginning of the unraveling of American society. The shift away from open, shared neighborhood communities led to another, more poisonous shift — the gradual demise of civility. I was fortunate to grow up in a time when civility was still omnipresent, like a protective dome over us all, and everything inside had an invisible but palpable glow. I’m fortunate once again to have moved long ago to another country where, quite unknown to me at the time, that dome is largely still in place. Now my life is filled with the contrasts between the society of my adopted country and the society “back home”. With that contrast, the details are thrown into poignant relief, and I am reminded daily of what’s been lost and just how much it’s contributed to the societal ills that cover the US newspapers like scars. The epidemic of shootings, for example. And sadly, I see the same contrast in online comment streams and forums, as we all do. Sitting outside as I am, I am loathe to report that a large part of the abject incivility we witness is sourced by American keyboards. Of course — and thankfully! — not all. My theory is that those who refrain from such behavior, and find it shocking and inadmissible, are in fact the ones who grew up with porches, in the metaphorical if not literal sense. And with them are the children they raised. And then those who wallow in their dark, bitter, and often hateful anonymity are the product of a post-porch America. That is, the one where sidewalks were no longer deemed necessary in neighborhoods, and those garages on the street were never left open anymore but rather equipped with automatic systems to close themselves hermetically once cars and people were swallowed into the “safety” inside. Of course, the country is a mosaic of neighborhoods, and some have “closed down” more while others are still somewhat healthy, but we all know that the shift has been in the wrong direction.

    Enter the online porch. Despite it all, I am naturally an optimist, and I believe that over the long term both negative trends and positive trends move through our world. It can shift again the other way. While we may have lost our porches, we have gained this shared online space. What a joy to have an international porch! To connect with far flung family and friends — something that was impossible in the world of my youth. Still, what to do about that dark element? My answer is that we need a new law to impose civility once again. It should be made illegal to denigrate someone online, especially someone you’ve never met. And by extension, anonymity should be curtailed. To my mind, this is just a natural extension of anti-slander legislation that already exists. Imagine what such a law would do for us all. The point is, we need not accept a lessened world as inevitable and tragic. We have always had, and still have, the power to act upon it and change it for the better. We can, for example, all push for such a law. And for another, it’s not too late to corral pornography off into a controlled set of internet domains. We just need to find the will do so. Good topics for our porch.

  3. Nancy M. Howes 04/10/2016 at 3:12 pm #

    I remember big porches, playing in the neighborhood and mothers hanging clothes out to dry ( and me taking them in, sometimes frozen). For awhile there was no television, so we played with each other or read on the porch and, sometimes, hung from a trapeze! Alas, sometimes one out of three got left out and found something to do on their own.

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