Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Nicole Baart | Works of Art

February 4, 2012

Nicole BaartFAR FROM HEREIn FAR FROM HERE, my beautiful, quirky, only slightly neurotic protagonist, Dani, is a bit of an artist. She doesn’t paint or draw, nor would she likely be considered an artist by most people. But she is. If you look up the definition of artist, and scroll on down the list to the very bottom you’ll find: “a person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.” And there’s no caveat that the work in question must be some form of traditionally defined art.

I think we’re all artists. We all create. In our own small (or enormous) way we try to make the world just a little more beautiful than it is. And I believe that is art.

Some people paint pictures. Others snap them at exactly the perfect moment with their camera. Still others take those pictures and arrange them in such a way that when you walk into a room you have to pause, if only for a moment, to admire the way it all fits together. Maybe you’re a virtuoso in the kitchen or you can make perfect strangers cry when you slide a a bow across the strings of your violin. Perhaps you make people laugh, and I believe that is a very fine art indeed.

As for Dani, she restores furniture. She takes forgotten tables and chairs, cabinets and curios, and makes them new.

When I was a little girl my mom did a lot of furniture restoration. I remember her working away in the garage, stripping and sanding and staining and varnishing until something that had been destined for the garbage heap was an item of great beauty. The piano that now sits in my office was one such salvage story. When I play it, I love to think of my mom taking something that was broken and ugly and making it new. I like to think of her hands performing an act of salvation on the very instrument that my boys will learn their notes on.

For some reason, I imagine that furniture has a personality. Mission style is austere and clean-cut, sharp angles and neat lines. A professor. A teacher or principal… Someone who follows the rules. A Queen Anne chair is a lady. Proper and well-groomed, but feminine, too. Soft. A professional woman just a little past her prime. Elegant still, and beautiful because of her wrinkles — not in spite of them. Of course, anything from Ikea is uber-modern and unisex, an androgynous youth in skinny jeans and lots of layers to hide any betraying curves or lack thereof.

In FAR FROM HERE Dani’s obsession with relics reveals a lot about her personality. I didn’t intend to use her hobby as a metaphor throughout the book, but sometimes I don’t have a choice in these matters. They are what they are. And whether I planned it or not, I love what that metaphor communicates about Dani. Much of who she is can be discerned by analyzing what she does. And why.

I can’t help believing that in the same way that Dani’s art communicates deep truths about her person, our own creations have much to say about us. Like I said, I believe we are all artistsSo, what do you create? And what do you think your creations say about you?

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