A lifetime of creativity
Juliette IS the original rural avant-garde
artist from Berwick, Maine
Photographer David Mendelsohn visited Juliette back
in 2009 and shot this amazing portrait (above) that truly captures her grace and joy while she sits with just a tiny portion of her vast collection of rescued objects.
This past summer my daughter and I were taking one of those relaxed Sunday drives to nowhere in particular, and we ended up hiking around the grounds of the Hamilton House in South Berwick.
"Mom can we take the historical tour?"
"I don't have any money with me, sorry hon."
"How about we go visit that house across from the dump in Berwick instead?"
"That's a private home, not somewhere people tour."
"But mom, you are always visiting and photographing artists aren't you?"
It's hard to argue with the logic of a 10 year old because they are always right 60% of the time….
so off we went to knock on the door and invite ourselves in…
we found out rather quickly, that she does not, in fact, consider herself an artist.
"Juliette, do you consider yourself an artist?"
"Nooo, i consider myself crazy."
I then spent a good portion of my time with her arguing with her that she is, in fact, an artist, mostly because it made her giggle.
My daughter jumped up and down inside her home and remarked that she had an extremely soft floor that felt great on her feet and Juliette told us how in the winter when her friends go in the barn for storage that she braids rugs to keep her hands busy…there was probably about 3 layers of beautifully braided rag rugs beneath our feet in her greeting room, and the inside of her house was just as filled with collections as the outside. Objects that most likely have no monetary value, she has now assigned a great value to.
We fed the cows and listened to her life story and how she came to Berwick with her family so many years ago and how she mows about 5 acres by herself, feeds the barn cats and shoos the raccoons away from the cow feed and spends most of her day taking care of her collection and arranging the gardens. Her brother is an important part of her life, and helps her with what she needs and raises the cows for food in the winter. She walks the large acreage regularly and she rescues her treasures from the dump across the street and sets them out every spring and gives them each a purpose and a place to spend time…she tells me all this while struggling to keep a soggy wet white bear on a plastic riding toy… "This one wants to sit here, and i'm going to have to tie him to it so he can stay on."
I had a hard time wrapping my brain around how I could possibly share this epic collection she has in a few images, and also depict the joy that I felt in my heart after meeting her.
You can not in good conscious call this woman a hoarder because of the organization and presentation of it all, she's in no danger of it all caving in on her, everything in and out of her home is meticulously taken care of and is bringing her much joy and satisfaction and her passion for it is palpable.
I focused instead on keeping up with her, in every shot, she was 10 steps ahead of me.
Juliette is warm and inviting, creative and original and a person of such caliber doesn't come along to us everyday in a busy modern life. She need not share her aged wisdom with us in words because all she needs to say is right off 236 every time we drive by, and when we run into her warm, calming personality in town or at the transfer station.
It's up to us as fellow citizens to notice the message she's sharing, and to appreciate the basking freedom she enjoys everyday to execute her vision.
I can now confidently disagree with Juliette about her being an artist, a lifetime of dedication to her project vision has earned her that title and has for me, removed any stigmas of lingering local whispers of 'crazy stuffed animal lady' or 'hoarder' that have been spoken of her. She uses the word crazy, because the townspeople have given her that…I think it's high time we re-imagine our label on her and award her with a more appropriate and visionary fable.
I can only hope to execute a creative vision of this magnitude in the future and I am willing myself to grow into a calm, creative and peaceful person like Juliette in my upcoming years.
There's been chatter on social media this week about artist Rick Burns and local band Hilton Park putting together an awareness campaign for the elderly in the community of Berwick. Please be sure and follow Hilton Park and keep your eyes and ears open for an upcoming event. MODspoke supports this with a WHOLE HEART as Berwick has an ever-growing and aging population and there are many people that may be alone or struggling... please keep your eyes OPEN for volunteer opportunities, fund raisers and most of all, embrace your aging neighbor with open arms and help them with just a visit or more, we have much to learn from each of our citizens! Sometimes, just taking the time to engage and listen to someone's stories about life turns into a reward greater than anything imagined.
UPDATE: Juliette passed away peacefully in May 2016
read the obituary in fosters daily democrat
The local gossip says that her land has been given to her brother and put in a trust that will prevent development.
written by: Erin Thomas
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul