just a few worldly BioGRAPHICAL NoTES
My name is ARLENE MARGUERITE GRASTON. I began this human journey in the Champagne region of France, in the city of Reims. I was bestowed a dual nationality which held the clue that I would land elsewhere some day, and elsewhere was patiently waiting.
I began this adventure retaining conscious awareness of the inner life and I fully planned to be merely “playing” at being a human. Life is consciousness, even on Earth—I was quite small the first time I heard someone call a tree,”his tree,” as if a Tree doesn’t belong to itself. Puzzlement began early.
Danny, me, and Evelyn, when we were the children…we still are … for the Heart never becomes anything else.
I’m an autodidact, I simply know I can teach myself and I always have. In school I learned to read and write and left the place right after I acquired these helpful skills. What I primarily learned in school is that this (Western) world knows nothing of Reality and fills the head with a world of sheer invention. I didn’t go to art school either. Art is the voice of the Soul, not of a conditioned mind.
I realize this approach is not for everyone, but it was the only way for me to survive this world. I’ve never known any loss or impairment, to the contrary—I kept my interior world alive. With time I figured out Time and Space and I found creative ways to work around its illogical (to me) and restrictive linear ways. I don’t get in anybody’s way. Consequently, I am an efficient human being in spite of juggling a split perception. It is quite a mistaken notion that artists and people with the sensitivity of insight cannot be practical and get things done. We’re often better at it than most.
I needed to make money, so I used my natural talent for design and turned it into something commercial. I would sorely pay the price later when I went back to doing my natural art. Anyway, while still in France I apprenticed with the haute couture house of NINA RICCI because for a while I toyed with the idea of designing clothes. Considering how I feel about clothes, this was odd, but I learned the true quality of work by watching supremely gifted artisans.
Imagine! Me, a
One day I fell madly in love with New York where my other nationality had been waiting for me. I quickly made it my home while I continued working with Paris to create a lingerie line, a gold and diamond collection, and perfume ads.
Soon I had my own graphics design studio creating projects for major corporations as well as businesses in the arts. I wrote copy, designed logos and catalogues, and produced ads and fashion illustrations that appeared in the major publications. It was fun.
On Broadway I designed the posters for the original productions of BUBBLING BROWN SUGAR and EUBIE! among others. I tell you, I got worldly!
During my interior decorating phase, my trompe-l’oeil murals decorated apartments from Fifth Avenue to Long Island. All in all, I think I can say I tried my hand at everything that interested me.
But the thing I really learned was how people view Life and live it. Relating to people has always been my main challenge. They got in my way so I kept my way very quiet. I wasn’t going to outshout them and their very complicated view of life. But what do you do in a world of people who don’t see the life-affirming substance in simplicity? You just keep believing in it yourself.
When I was planning this Earth trip “up there,” I knew there would be music when I got “down there.” I knew about Jazz even then. I knew its essence, everything is essence up there. If you know the essence of anything, you know the thing itself. Though I didn’t turn out to be musical, Jazz enraptures me; it is free, alive and, after all, my inner being is free and alive. Classical Jazz is simply, divinely earthy, a beautiful, blood-warming daring of improvisation (!) that makes me feel all is right with the world and the Spirit that creates us all. (A true life is lived improvisationally, too.) This uniquely American sound fills me with spiritual reassurance. I’m not kidding. I know it’s another one of my “clues,” for I met my husband, Charles Mathes, when I did a job for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Theatre Library. My Charlie is now a private art consultant and advisor and the author of many mysteries and art books. He is my beloved.
So, too, along the way, I got published when a television show I wrote for CBS’s “Lamp Unto My Feet” became a Bantam children’s book, SPECIAL FRIENDS. A few years later Doubleday published my THUMBELINA. Publishing was not a happy experience for me, I’m better off doing things on my own. But I kept at it a while.
Our award-winning, IN EVERY MOON THERE IS A FACE, is the one Charlie and I created together and waited a long time to bring out. Despite the publishing “experts” we knew this book had to remain genuinely simple and not be turned into something commercial—that is to say, trite, empty of meaning. That’s why it safely sat in a drawer for twelve years before a series of “other-worldly” events caused me to talk to a publisher again.
It is a different kind of book: it shows rather than tells. It has a lovely poem that turns the pages. But it is the story within the pictures that reveals the secret about the nature of Reality. If the reader is alert. This is what matters to me in my work. The viewing of art requires the participation and imagination of the reader for its meaning. It is the ultimate sharing and confirms the oneness of Reality. I laughingly call IN EVERY MOON a spiritual activity book. Children have said that they are not afraid of turning its pages or reading it before bedtime.
Oh why, oh why, have we created a world where what is dark and scary is considered the real world? Our imagination is created from a joyful Mind and for joyful living. The world needs works of happiness even if many people do not know of the subtle world that undergirds them. There are those who call our book a work of fiction but we know better.
I’ve since written and illustrated books that can be considered works of fiction. And yet, they are about the nature of reality and its powerful gentleness. Few people understand my understated work, but I am not here to be a teacher. the implication would be that I know something someone else doesn’t. We all come from “up there.” Reading my own words makes things right for me, because it’s been really challenging being here. I am grateful for my work and happy to share it.
I wish people understood the significance of the images they look at all day, and the images their children grow up with. What the subconscious takes in day after day creates who we become. I don’t need to describe what kind of world we are creating using the principle of contemplation. Mostly, I wish people understood themselves better. We are the individuality of the Infinite Presence. Period. Thankfully, I meet lovely people who do understand these unassuming things. From the quiet isolation of my workroom, be assured: I’m glad you’re out there. Thank you for spending time with me.
This is me and my Charlie (and our sunglasses.)
No one ever told me
But before you go…
… here is a magical video made by extraordinary Ukrainian children. It turns out that these young people were very surprised to find that in New York, America, was an artist who created the kind of work I do. Russian, is the language of fairy tales, after all … so it follows that the magic and wonder I believe in would be felt by people of that tradition. The video is in Russian but the charm, talent, and open-heartedness, is Universal. I am deeply touched by this gift, and so is Charlie. The video is about the two of us and the transcendent joy we put into our work. You will find it enchanting even if you do not speak the language. And most assuredly, you will be made hopeful by the presence and power of genuine Innocence and pure creativity.
(The video is below this brief introduction taken from Natalya’s translation with some of the spellings delightfully unchanged):
The mole and the mouse meet and talk.– Today we must shed light (!) on the problem: who is Arlene Graston and who is Charlie Mathes?– Don’t you know who is Arlene Graston? Maybe. Arlene Graston is Thumbelina.
— No! She is a painter and she lives in New-York!
— No, she is a tale-teller!
— No, she is a wrighter!
— No, she is a Fairy!!
Then they try to understand who is the strange man who often walks in the Magic Garden. At a meeting of the elves, they say: — He is the director of Manhattan gallery!
— No, he’s a wrighter, he wrights wonderful books – full of adventures!
— No, he is an oddball who likes to ride on the cloud and to create poems! Then Thumbelina interrupts:
— We are sure both of them had а private conversation with the Moon!!!!
— I am sure, the Mole declares, that the Moon doesn’t have any face.
— You as a businessman don’t have romanticism! the Mouse exclaims.
— You are also a businessman, the Mole replies.
— Yes, I’m a businessman, but I am poetical because I’m a woman. And I am sure: the Moon can speak.
— Where are your proofs?
— Here they are!
So the Mouse proposes this new “video” filled with dialogues with the Moon and the small tales written by the school children.: