Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My heart pounded as we drove to the gallery. I was nervous about the whole thing; talking to strangers about my art, looking (or not) "like an artist", even where my art would be hung.  I was probably hung in the hall, I’d told myself as though I were litterally being hung there instead of my paintings.  It was a long, narrow hallway, darkly painted and dimly lit.  I was just happy to have my work up in any gallery, and I knew that if I could be happy having my work hung in that dark little hallway, I could have a good night.  

As I walked into the gallery, I immediately saw something familiar.  My paintings, those little bits of my life I had slaved, even cried over, were hung in the main gallery, right beside the paintings of the gallery owner.  There they all were in tidy little rows,  21 of my 8-by-8 inch acrylic babies.  They looked so beautiful up there.  Far more impressive than they had spread out on the floor of the studio, my children and the dog hop-scotching between them and the toys spread around the room.  Here, they looked almost (dare I say it?), professional.
I toured around the gallery looking at the other artists work, then snuggled up in my corner next to my little paintings.  I’d been told by the owner I should try to sell my work; talk to folks about it, about my process and my inspiration.  But I was so out of my element.  I’m just a little mama.  I’ll talk about runny noses and poopie little bottoms with just about anyone who holds still in a grocery store line, but I don’t talk much about art.  

I suddenly felt like a cipher, a bit of an outcast amongst my peers who so easily chattered with the smiling, wine-toting gallery-goers.  But soon I noticed that the people who lingered longest at my paintings were the women.  I found it easy to walk up to them and, smiling, say “Thank you for looking at my paintings.  Those are my children.”  Because, although several of the paintings were of landscapes and still-lifes, the rest were of my rugrats.  We would begin to talk about children and motherhood.  It was the thing that connected of us.  Perhaps these women couldn’t paint, but they knew all too well what it feels like when a chubby baby rests a droopy head on your shoulder.  Before long, we were doing what women do best; sharing our stories of the joys and tears of motherhood.
My favorite moment of the night sort of sneeked up on me. Guy had come with the children, and after they browsed the gallery I found myself surrounded suddenly by these five human beings my body had created. There I stood, Jonah in my arms, and Ethan surprisingly close, his eyes level with mine.   Adam stood just behind me with a hand on my shoulder. The girls, in their pretty skirts leaned against my belly touching me on my arms. They all seemed a little lost, and I felt like a watchful hen with her chicks gathered close. I was their safe place in this unfamiliar terrain. I got a sort of thrill out of it all, them snuggled up close to me.  Glancing up from their clean, lovely faces I noticed a woman watching us and smiling. Our eyes met and she did not look away.  She seemed to be enjoying the moment as much as I was, and I smiled back at her. 
I didn’t sell any paintings that night, but I didn’t particularly care. That had never been my point. I wanted to paint. I wanted to paint what I love to paint, without the constraints of dreary commissions. I wanted to be pushed, and oh! was I pushed. But I did what I had doubted I could do, though sweet Guy said he always knew I could.

I think I would almost be sad to let go of any one of them.

Smiling lady, bottom right corner. 


Ruth said...

It was a wonderful night! We had so much fun looking at all the art, especially the paintings we saw when we first walked in!!

Heather said...

Hi I’m Heather! Please email me when you get a chance! I have a question about your blog. HeatherVonsj(at)gmail(dot)com

julean said...

I wish we could have been there. I love the paintings. It was so nice to skype and talk the other night. It had been a tiring couple of days and being able to just relax and visit was just what I needed! Love you, Sis.