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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Musings: Art Outside the Box: Not Quite Princess Diana

She might have been a Catholic,A Moslem or a Jew,
Red or black or yellow,Or some other dreadful hue;
But she's Protestant, she's English,And her blood is royal blue
She's a lady, she's perfection, She's Diana
Ya-de-da-de, Ya-de-da-de, Ya-de-daah-de"

(Ian Robb, 1981)

I am somewhat daunted by our attitude towards our public heroes. The fact that someone can sing like a nightingale, throw a football 4000 yards, run like hell, or create good art does not necessarily mean they're a small god or even always a good role model. I'm told Mozart was a drunken sot, although an admittedly very talented drunken sot. We have a news industry made just for exposing the moments when they're in public with they're trousers down, doing something they wish they hadn't. Or that they wish they hadn't been caught doing. It's always a scandal, and I think some people love scandals almost more than they love heroes.

The answer to that of course is to never be caught doing anything in public you wish not to be caught doing. I wish that were completely possible.

I loved Princess Diana. In spite of the fact that she was in a hopeless family situation and  was living with the privacy of a goldfish bowl, she poured out all the love she had, over and over on the people in front of her, whoever and wherever they were. Yet she had her scandals. And I personally would not like to have died being chased by paparazzi while the world speculated about my sex life. 

There's a problem with having heroes. They cannot live up to our every dream and desire. They will, in their humanity, say something or do something in exhaustion, fear, panic or pain that breaks our image of their godlike abilities. They will fail us. Hurt us. Humiliate us. Embarrass us. Say something awful. Then they're left like a cat trying to cover up an indiscretion on linoleum. 

I've often said my job is to be like Princess Diana without the shoes or the clothes. When I go out to teach or lecture, my hope is to pour my care, my love, my dreams and my support onto the people kind enough to hear me speak. The reason for that is not that I have some special talent or ability. It's that I recognize that talent and ability in all of us. It's a delicate thing. It deserves care and kind treatment. The classroom is a gift we give that ability,teacher and student both,a time and space for talent to blossom and ability to grow.My students are my heroes. I am awed by their courage and ability, always. My hope is to celebrate that with them.

Do I fail? I'm so sorry to say, there are days. I make a very bad hero. I arrive exhausted. My blood sugar dips. I suffer from hoof and mouth disease. There are days where my hoof is definitively in my mouth. When that happens, words do fail me. I can't possibly say how sorry I am.

This quilt got me thrown out of an Episcopalian church One woman saw it as an evil thing. It was the Percival legend, with myself looking for the Holy Grail. Of course, I saw myself as a frog. She was so offended. Frogs are evil. Did you know that?

I hadn't got the memo on that myself. She took it as a scandal and ran with it.  There was no way to stay there after she'd discussed it with the whole congregation. It's just as well. I really do see myself as a frog, often, so if she saw that as evil, I needed to be somewhere else. My mistake was to have shown it to her at all. 

I hope you are your best, brightest, most lionized hero. I hope you recognize that the people around you who you admire are not perfect or godlike, but simply good at the thing they do. I hope you can see their humanity when they fail you by what they do or say. I hope you can take the good they've tried to bring you without throwing out everything when they fumble into something inappropriate. And I hope you can find forgiveness for the moments they are awkward frogs instead of princesses.

It's just as well I'm not Princess Diana. I could never wear those shoes.


Uniquely Yours Creations said...

We're all human and nobody's perfect - I always think of that when someone errs or I do.
As far as the woman in church - I can't believe that! How petty. I guess she never read any of the Brothers Grimm or Aesop's Fables - the frog turns into a Prince.... Or maybe she was thinking of...
In the book of Revelation it says that ... he saw three unclean spirits like frogs.
But in Early Christianity, a frog was a symbol of the Resurrection. (slept in the winter and awoke in the spring) I love frogs and I think they're cute!

Anonymous said...

Did I sense a feeling of remorse on your part? I hope not. You are so inspirational, in not just your art but in your philosophic musings. I take heart in them each time I read your blog.
As for criticism from an uninformed busy-body, her actions befit a sad and disappointed and disappointing woman. She deserves no more thought.
Be well and keep on sharing; you inspire.

Sam said...

Interesting that she saw frogs as evil. Here in my spot in the belt bucket of the Bible Belt, we like to use FROG to represent Fully Rely on God. Thank goodness she doesn't venture to the NC beaches! Gorgeous quilt!

norma said...

I have a friend who is an Episcopal priest and he has quite a frog collection displayed in his office at his church. I'm sure he doesn't think of them as evil, just cute. Your quilt is fabulous! Don't let the weirdos get you down!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Ellen. Illegitimi non carborundum...

Roberta Ranney said...

Hi Ellen - You are a princess in the classroom. I had the good fortune to spend two grand days with you a few years ago. You spread good cheer, good feelings and creativity to anyone who was willing to take them!

I had to look up "Illegitimi non carborundum". Thanks to the writer of that phrase - I shall add it to my words of wisdom.

Thanks, Ellen, for your wise words.

Createology said...

Your words are so wise and on target. My mind is so busy taking in what I have just read that I am almost speechless (a rarity for me!). I love your quilt and think nothing evil of it. I am "green with envy" at your talent. Happy creating...

Leslie said...

Wow! as an Episcopalian, I am shocked, shocked I tell you that someone would take it upon themselves to behave in that manner to a guest in the church. Of course, there is one in every bunch, so forgive yourself and her and NEXT!

Cheryl said...

Amen sister. Princess Diana died on my birthday, and it is interesting that I wake up that day and think of her first...
I helped put up your quilts at the Chicago Quilt Expo and was struck not only by the beauty of your work, but the wisdom of your spirit. I hope to take a real class with you someday!

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