Monday, April 8, 2013

A Penny For A Needle

An embroidery that I'm working on
A brilliant embroidery that I purchased from Field Museum and neglected to learn more about regarding its origin and maker

It's rainy outside, I haven't painted for days, and I really need to be with brush and canvas, but I had to share something momentous that I learned this weekend.  We visited the Chicago's Field Museum yesterday which is currently exhibiting reproductions of and artifacts relating to the cave paintings of Lascaux.  I've been eager to see it knowing it's likely I'll never experience the real thing.  It was great and well worth the trip.  You should go too!

Part of the exhibit highlighted some tool making procedures and even showed video illustrating the processes.  The last one was the needle!  They showed how humans 20,000 years ago made needles from bones to sew clothing and other textiles.  Not only were they sewing 20,000 years ago, but they were sewing with a tool identical to mine in design.  In fact, the needle hasn't changed in 20,000 years! 

I love this connection to the past and that I'm performing an ancient ritual each time I pass a need through fabric pulling its thread along.  I imagine I'm overreacting and my readers will likely not share in my enthusiasm, but for some reason this jazzed me more than the impressive nature of the paintings.  I guess you could make the argument that we are still painting today, though rarely in caves and largely with synthetic materials. 

In short I love stepping into the past and often feel frustrated that the artifacts have lost their significance.  We can guess at the meaning of the cave paintings, but we can not know.  Abe was similarly frustrated when were studying these abstract, yet very deliberate markings made in the cave.  He was working at an exhibit sorting them by type and likeness, but mourned the fact that we don't know what they mean anymore.  We know what the needle means because we have never stopped using it.  We've never lost that thread of thought.

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