Visual Diary

Each page equals one year.

Each line equals one month.

Each little rectangle equals one day.

I began recording highlights of each day in 1995 when I entered the United States Peace Corps. I was limited to paper available on the island of St. Kitts, and ended up with an extremely non-standard piece of paper. The format was inspired by a calendar that a British friend showed me the year before, and from there, I invented my own visual language, creating symbols for various events ranging from going to the movies, out to dinner to making love.

As time went by, and I began showing the calendars to more and more people, I began to make some changes. Color was eliminated for a more black and white graphic quality. The opening monthly banners disappeared after they were negatively critiqued at Yale.  And I realized that I had started to self-censor what I recorded. What was this urge to censor? What was I censoring? I censored how often I had sex; anger and annoyance at my students, my family; fears. Some of that has changed by the addition of my own code words. Being aware of it allows me to ask myself daily if I am about to censor.  More importantly, I now use it as a discussion point with my students. I ask them to think about their own subtle self-censoring, and how that affects their work, life and living, while I ask myself the same question.

Fast-forward to 2014, and the 20th year of creating this calendar.

I continue to document my daily activities. I discovered that when my exercise documentation increased, that I was typically suffering from mild to intense depression. I tracked my regular headaches to my menstrual cycle and I was able to answer questions like, “Do you remember what weekend we went to Nevis, California, New York or Paris?”

Sometimes I get behind, and I must rely on internet calendars and dwindling memories to fill in the days. Other times I mark each day faithfully. This piece documents HERE, where I am today, often in North Adams, Cheshire, Williamstown; sometimes on the trails, in my studio or the classroom. Always considering how I respond to this place by my daily choices.

15 thoughts on “Visual Diary

  1. Sue L'Hommedieu

    Hi Melanie
    I somehow stumbled on your website today and have enjoyed it very much. It’s so exciting to see all the wonderful art you have created. The last thing I remember was your felted wool coat! I especially like the idea of your visual diary. One question–how large are these?

    I’m so happy to see you have been able to make a career of art. So few people can manage that. Your persistence paid off. Yea for you.
    Sue L’Hommedieu

    1. admin Post author

      Nice to hear from you, Sue! The visual diaries are a weird size, approximately 14×21 inches.
      And wow, the felted wool coat, that’s many lifetimes ago, or so it seems.
      Thanks for the look and the comments!

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    1. Melanie Post author

      Yvonne, you are welcome. I really enjoyed your comments. They will stay with me for a long time. I do hope to see your progress when I return in October…

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