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Julia Kidd, the Landscape Poet

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“I got all your messages and loved every one.”

As Spring was heralded in with warm breezes, blue skies and returning songbirds, something else, albeit unexpected, was a harbinger of this annual odyssey of hope and renewal.

Signs cropped up in the most unexpected of places. Messages of love. Where did they come from? Who made them? What did they mean? Facebook lit up like a switchboard after a 911 call.

Check out pictures of Julia Kidd's signs here.

This is very unusual for Martha's Vineyard. Each of the five towns has it's own government and where each message is placed means that every signpost and message needed the approval of selectmen; building inspectors; sign committees; property owners; town directors; school boards or a combination thereof.

Julia Kidd was soon outed as the artist who had somehow managed to get eleven signs put up in iconic Island spots. The Black Dog's tall ship, Shenandoah, sitting in Vineyard Haven harbor had the message “It is so easy to love you.” spelled out on the side. A banner hung over Main Street in Edgartown reading: “There is so much to love about you.”

And a personal favorite was snuggling down at the Capawock Theater in Vineyard Haven (or Edgartown Cinemas) with a box of popcorn and as the lights went down “I love looking at you.” was projected on the screen. They were all positive surprises, and as Ms. Kidd says the messages are like mirrors, everyone reacts based on where they are, who they are and how they view the world.

The title of the installation “I got all your messages and loved every one.” was in reference to the many messages Kidd received when newly single, in private practice at the end of a dirt road on an island. To her it meant, “I heard you, I got you, I love what you give.” It means “I felt your love and I loved it.” The messages were so powerful and healing that over time they transformed and healed the feelings of isolation. She thought “wow, who wouldn't appreciate a message like that?"

The interesting dichotomy is that Ms. Kidd is a psychotherapist. Not only is she 'putting herself out there', but on an island some who view her art are also her patients. "Highly individualized yet holding to universal themes, what works in therapy is love and appreciation. In the end what heals is self-love". Kidd decided to reach out to a broader audience, to people she didn't know, wondering if the messages would touch others as they had touched her.

This concept started when Kidd was looking out the window over two years ago contemplating how to express herself. Years ago in New York her activity in art was more negatively based. She wanted this time in her life, with a teen-age son, healthy practice and a successful life, to project that positivity. "The message project is about love and the power of our connection to others through love. What we all share is our desire to love and be loved".

In the process of creating the piece Kidd experienced the lessons we all need to go through when trying to manifest something in our lives, whether it be a relationship, getting a job or making a meal. Some things work, some things don't. But with persistence and perseverance the idea becomes reality. “We are first inspired, we have an idea, we visualize it, imagine it, then we take action.”

The clean simple look of the font was important to emulate the visual look of how we relate to one another in today's culture: social networking; twitter; facebook and texting.

The locations were chosen carefully to inform the interpretation of the message; a collaboration of sign and setting as it were. Kidd wanted the messages to be more about the love available from the source rather than an individual person. "When we take these things in that bring us joy; appreciate and admire all the universe offers us; it shifts our energy. We feel better, joyful, thus affecting those around us."

Caution had to be exerted – if a sign was on a homeowner's land, it mustn't look as if the landowner was sending the message. It's a conundrum that Ms. Kidd is now facing. Now that the installation has come down, other's want to use that same concept, same font, posts and design. Will people think it is she that is sending the message? An interesting dilemma.

Something that surprised Kidd was the way others embraced the project, friends and strangers alike. From standing in fields with cardboard signs to lending bucket trucks and hammering posts into the ground, all were delighted to be a part of it. Perhaps they got the message - or the spirit of them en masse.

Many people took pictures of the signs for a lasting memory of the message.

Martha's Vineyard is replete with poets; writers; photographers; painters, etc. For the two weeks the installation was in place, there was a bit of a frenzy on Facebook. One poet in particular photoshopped tongue-in-cheek parodies of the signs inciting quite a bit of controversy. And being an island, everyone had something to say.

A hot topic in all of the local papers, speaking engagements and slideshows of the installation followed.

Watching Ms. Kidd from across the room at a gallery opening this week-end made it clear that she has become a local celebrity. People lined up for face time but they really wanted to be touched, hugged and to tell her how much they loved what she had done.

Kidd received her MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a school well known for it's conceptual slant. She attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study program in 1984 and continued to live and work in New York City. Her artwork at the time reflected social and political concern.

Deciding she wanted to help people directly she went to NYU to the Graduate School of Social Work. Since moving to the Vineyard in 2001 she has maintained a private practice in Vineyard Haven.

This project is different from her work of the past. Her previous work pointed out problems. "This is about what is right in the world. It is about focusing on the beauty, the gifts and the love that is available to us. It is about caring for ourselves, honoring ourselves and our surroundings and most importantly recognizing that each of us is loved and lovable."

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