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anita_margarita sent me a bunch of letters she got from Penny starting just before Penny went to University of Oregon.

If I can, I will scan them with my scanner that can interpret handwriting, and put SOME of them onto rubyloot ... however, right now, I'm just sitting here blown away from reading them.

People used to write. With paper and stuff. Not email.


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Mar. 30th, 2006 12:17 pm (UTC)
In 1993, back before we were dating, my wife would send me letters from France. She used to insert the early emoticons and page-poses that were in use on a local BBS. For example: [L] for "laugh" or [G] for "grinning."

I thought it was insanely cute.
Mar. 30th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
I know they must be a little tough to read. Penny loved to use felt-tip pens, and they tend to moosh letters together, especially if you write small, as she did back then.

There are more to come when I get to Kinko's next.
Mar. 30th, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
They do get a little muddy in places.

A lot of what's in there I remember. One letter (the one marked October) was out-of-sequence, but probably not by too much; I think it's October 1976, or 1977 at the latest.

The saddest thing for me, reading this, is the utterly untrammelled optimism she felt, before the idiot in charge of the painting department decided to tell her that she lacked talent and would never be a painter. I haven't, yet, gotten to her talking about that, if she did. I think it happened sometime around spring of '76, if memory serves, and it still makes me angry to think that a hack who never got past the abstract exercises of the early '60s was put a position where he could damage other artists.

Unfortunately she had that whole 'acquiesce to authority' thing at the time.
Mar. 30th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
When I went to Portland for the service, and on my way back, I went through Eugene and looked at the dorms, and remembered exactly what you're talking about: how completely innocent and enthusiastic she was(and, I guess, most people in college were at that time). Everything that happened - all the social goings-on she writes about, the classes, living in Eugene - was new and exciting and so different from her life in Redding. She really had a great artistic gift that was squashed by a mean-spirited person who probably was taking out his own frustrations on his students.
Mar. 30th, 2006 09:09 pm (UTC)
You're right about the optimism - the sense that there is an entirely wide-open world and that you can do anything. And, yeah, getting away from Redding, having friends without the mom-snark and the sister-mock and the gramma-censure, that and being able to eat normal portions of food without being furtive about it.

And that advisor ... grr. He was the head of the painting department, for what that's worth.

It was gratifying, if only for closure, to read his obituary, and Penny rather enjoyed it.

Basically, he left under some sort of a cloud sometime in the late '70s, ended up working at an even more remote state college. His career as an artist pretty much ended before he came to U of O, and the obituary said, paraphrasing from memory, "he did some minor innovative work in abstracts but that slight early promise was never fulfilled in his sparse later work." So, yeah, I suspect there was a combination of envy and frustration, and I wonder how many actual promising painting students were ruined by him. I think Brad might've confronted him about it - I know Penny wouldn't let me ask him what the hell he thought he was doing - and from SOMEONE she talked to, academic counseling or whatever, there was the usual song and dance about 'needing to get a thicker skin if you expect to make it as an artist.'

His _only_ valid comment to her was that she needed to learn other media than just acrylic, and even there, based on his complaints about her "over" use of saturated colors (rather than the bleak, muddy smears in his work). Frankly, it would have been easy enough to say "you need to show that you can use more muted colors, washes, and less jewel-tones" rather than "This is all pretty, commercial Disney-crap". Which is what he said.

Yeah, well... That pretty, commercial Disney-crap, like it or not, was much more successful than his four dozen 'skeleton' still-lifes with every space filled in with a contrasting color. We did that shite in Junior High. It was mostly annoying, and the resulting blobs generally inspired a sense of "so what?" And if she'd been able to proceed, then perhaps she might've been able to follow that dream she had of, y'know, actually working for an animation studio. I still remember her talking to Will Vinton at one of the student-union things, where he showed his then-recent 'Mountain Music' animation, and where he told her that if she got to Portland, she should stop by the studio. She took sculpture after that meeting, and she was, frankly, a better sculptor than painter, which is not denigrating her painting. If she'd gone to that immediately, instead of wasting two years on the f'ing teaching certificate that some well-meaning idiot advisor recommended "for artists who can't meet the impossibly competitive standards" ... which must be code for "don't know how to suck up properly to the self-centered prima donna wannabees" ... anyway. Bitter, much, me?

She had the chance to go to apply at Vinton Studios a few years after we moved here, when the Raisins were big - but she had two anxiety attacks that triggered asthma attacks the two times we were going to just go over and drop off her resume' and get an application - and then she went into the "I'm a fat worthless burden" thing. And, thinking back about it, I remember a few phone calls back 'home' around the time of the attempts, which I suppose involved a little poison poured into the ear, as they always did. She didn't EVER tell her mom when she was planning to apply for anything, but I think she did, for a long time, still look to her for support.
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