My name is Miriam Grace Climenhaga. I was born in 1966 which was a very good year. At least in some circles. I am careful to tell my mother happy birthday whenever it is my birthday, because after all…it was really her birthday too. I am married but I adored my last name as I had had it all my life, and I adored my father. So I kept it.
I was named after Miriam Patchen who was a “perfectly horrible” woman that I was very proud to have been named after. She championed her husband’s poetry her whole life, even long after his death. Their influence on my life is immeasurable. His name was Kenneth Patchen and he believed in peace.
I was raised in the Theatre. Both my parents worked in Theatre for the majority of my youth. The maternal side of my family was steeped in it as my grandparent’s were also career Theatre people too. My father always told me the proper way to spell it was Theatre. Notice that’s not Theater. Either way is correct, but it’s most likely that Theatre is the English way. (I would like to take this moment to also tell you that my father always pointed out that a lot was two different words. Not alot, but a lot. This has stuck with me after all these years.) My father was a playwright and a teller of stories. He also had a soft spot for painting. He had a story about how he couldn’t decide whether or not to go into art or Theatre (do you notice how I always capitalize Theatre? Not sure why I do that…) and he also couldn’t decide whether or not to go to UCLA or USC (which he had apparently been accepted into both at the ripe old age of around 29 or 30) so he decided to flip a fifty cent piece. It came up Theatre and UCLA. And thus, many stories were played out and born, all of which ultimately led to the birth of his fourth child…me. I got a degree in Theatre also, and somewhere along the line realized it should have been art. And so an artist was born, again. Both of my grandmother’s painted, and the smell of oil paint is one of those things that always reminds me of my grandma the actress. (Opal Euard) I am pretty sure that the visual life of living in a theatrical family, and the radical life of living with parents who believed in poetry, and not war….love and not hate…dreams and not getting lost in the shuffle…created the artist that I am today.
If I had more money or was more willing to go into more debt than I am already in, I might think it would be nice to go get a degree from some finer institution and have them tell me I am artist. But since I’m not wealthy, and I’m not willing to go into more debt, I will have just have to satisfy myself with the learning that takes place from the observation of the world. I learned that trick from the Theatre, actually, but it comes in quite handy with the world of painting and drawing as well. My art is steeped in memory, and I’m afraid that they might only be memories that I understand. So it is my job to find words to go with them so that they might have meaning to you. Or not. Maybe you just need to take from anything I create, what you will. We all have that inner wish to not leave with this world without leaving something behind to mark that we were here. I see my paintings as fulfilling that wish in me, because it is all that I have to give. That, and an occasional poem. I have a little boy that I love more than life itself, and a husband that I love almost as much as the boy. A dog and a couple of cats for now. I also have hope. Even in my darkest most depressing moments I know that there is hope. Hope for what, I am not sure…but hope none the less…glimmering softly right over there……right. over. there.