Our interview today is with Nadine Galinsky Feldman, editor of Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman's Journey of Life, Love, and Art
FQ: For those who have yet to read this book, can you describe the meaning behind the title, Patchwork & Ornament?
Jenny [ed. note: author] grew up in an impoverished environment where her family made curtains and cushions from fabric scraps, dishes that didn’t match, and patched worn clothing. This created a chaotic hodgepodge of colors and patterns. As a young art student, Jenny initially felt drawn to minimalism, but as she aged she drew from the influence of those early years, gradually creating more complex, “ornamented” pieces. She created numerous collages, pulling together seemingly disparate combinations to create a cohesive whole.
As Patchwork & Ornament took shape, I realized that the book itself was a collage of text, written with short pieces of varying styles that combined much in the way she created her collages.
FQ: Could you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the author and what you do?
Jenny was my mother-in-law, who generously welcomed me into the family and became a beloved friend and kindred spirit. We spent many evenings sitting at the kitchen table with her and her husband Norm as they shared stories of their travels. I knew she wrote, though I had no idea how much until she died and we discovered her journals.
Jenny and I bonded as a result of our shared creativity and love of the arts, though I focus strictly on writing. I wrote and published When a Grandchild Dies: What to Do, What to Say, How to Cope in 1999. After grieving a miscarriage, stillbirth, and subsequent infertility, I had found support through books and groups, but few such resources existed for grandparents. I found in this process not only my own personal healing, but the joy of living a writer’s life. I am in the process of creating audio and e-book versions of When a Grandchild Dies that I will offer on my website.
Currently, I am completing a project of meditations based on the book of Exodus to support people in manifesting their dreams. Also, I am putting final touches on my first novel, Blood and Loam, a dark fantasy set in the Midwest. While Blood and Loam may sound out of place with these other projects, it contains a theme that threads through all of my work: the power of human beings to overcome difficulties, even great tragedies, and to find deep inner strength in the process.
I live in Houston with my husband and Jenny’s son, Henry. We have the good fortune to travel the world, and I plan to include these experiences in future writing. I am trying with enthusiasm, if not with skill, to learn French, and I’m also getting into organic fruit and vegetable gardening. We are physically active, and I love to hike and to practice yoga. Henry has two children, Joe and Sarah, who live with us when not off at college.
FQ: What was your reason and inspiration behind collecting and publishing Jeanette's private collection?
Initially, I had planned to organize Jenny’s writings into book form just for the family, but I found the writing so compelling that I thought others might be interested as well. Norm, Jenny’s husband of 53 years, assured me that Jenny would have loved the idea of getting published. Over time, I gathered clues as to which pieces she liked best—these were typed, often with several copies placed in various locations in the house. I also found the occasional attempt to submit her writings for publication.
As Jenny conveys in Patchwork & Ornament, she struggled with creating commercial artistic success. She became worn down from years of effort and chose to create purely for her own joy. Still, the disappointment remained with her for the rest of her life. She believed, as she expressed in her essay "Great Dumpster in the Sky," that her art and writings would be destroyed after her death. I believe that many wonderful, talented artists and writers are never known because they need someone to champion them. By creating Patchwork & Ornament, I want to be that champion for her.
FQ: Was there anything you found particularly challenging or surprising in completing this project?
The biggest surprise was the extent of the writings. We have found stacks and stacks of journals, and just the other day, while digging in the attic, we found yet another essay. Even Norm had no idea how much writing she had done.
The biggest challenge involved the more personal essays. I didn’t want to censor her struggles or pain, but I also didn’t want to include anything that might embarrass her or the family. Since she wasn’t here to ask, I had to make these judgment calls myself. I spent a lot of time praying to Jenny’s spirit to guide me! At the same time, there are odd omissions from her journals. Norm survived cancer, but she mentions it only in passing. I also searched for her impressions of a lengthy trip to Israel that had been meaningful to her, but nothing existed. Perhaps we haven’t found all the writings yet.
FQ: If there's one thing readers should get from reading this book and from Jeanette's life, what would it be?
Many people, whether artists, women, or people with personal struggles such as anxiety and depression, can relate to some aspect of Jenny’s story. I believe that the level of resilience she demonstrated is possible for everyone. In addition, I would like people to remember that art and creativity are not frivolous luxuries. In Jenny’s case, art opened her eyes to a world outside of the South Bronx and gave her a much different life from what she might have had, if art were not available to her.
FQ: Do you have any future plans involving Jeanette's works?
One possible idea intrigues me. In Patchwork & Ornament, Jenny references a project called Blossoms. This is a series of floral drawings inspired by a plant she saw in a hotel lobby in Sorrento, Italy. She created the drawings, grouped them into fancy envelopes tied with ribbon, put them in a box, and made a decorative cover.
She has extensive notes on her ideas behind the Blossoms series that would allow for some text to go with the images. It would make a lovely coffee table book. I plan to finish some of my personal projects first, and will probably revisit this idea in late 2010.
To learn more about Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman's Journey of Life, Love, and Art, please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.