September 11, 2012

The Eyes of My Mother

Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved
There are things I forgot to say when I gave my artist's talk at the BCC gallery. Two important things in any in depth conversation about her life and death.
One: She lived past infancy only because her mother saved her when their house burned in Calgary, Alberta. Her mother threw her from an upper story window in their house into the arms of someone below. Her mother, however, was unable to save herself.
Two: When my family moved to Tarrytown after my father was discharged from the Army Air Corps following World War II, he had a job in advertising in New York City that paid very well. After he lost that job, my mother, who was a nurse, returned to work and saved us from financial ruin. And she continued working for years as a private-duty nurse, often for 12-hour shifts for months without a day off.

Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved

Other things I might have talked about was the once rocky course of their marriage. Of my mother's bout with TB when I was an infant. Of my mother when she was trying to fight off severe disappointment or deep depression singing to herself:
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At he end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.*
I did talk about her manic depression and the electric shock treatments she was given. If you read One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest you know what a toll they could take. I used the reds and yellows and purples in the large print because to me those were the colors of electric shock.
Photo by Susan Geller/All Rights Reserved
 But there were so many things to say about her. In a 15-minute talk you can't fit in everything**.

 Additionally it was extemporaneous. If I were doing it over, I'd make some notes. Those aren't notes in my hand in Susan Geller's photo above. They're photos (like the two below) I had printed to show people during the talks, which attracted more than 30 people combined.

My mother does a handstand.

My mother was able to do hand stands and walk on her hands. In a sympathy note to my father, a friend said she had done handstands at the YMCA even at 58, the age at which she died.

My mother and a friend.
This is one of the photos in our family album of a trip my mother took to Cuba with several friends when she was young.
Photo by Riley Nichols/All Rights Reserved
In this shot my granddaughter Riley, I have just been introduced by Lisa Griffith, the head of the Art Department at BCC.
I am tremendously grateful to her for asking me to do this show - my third for the community college - and for the insightful way she hung it. I took several studio art classes with Lisa when I was in my 60s.
Riley, by the way, has been my show photographer for about five years. She will be 13 next month.

*You'll Never Walk Alone by Rogers and Hammerstein from Carousel.
**I also forgot to say how very much I love her and my father. Maybe that's obvious.

(Visiting hours for my show at Berkshire Community College's downtown gallery on Columbus Avenue are from 2 to 5 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.)

1 comment:

  1. I"m so glad for these notes, Grier - and so sorry to have missed the talk. Hearing your voice - spoken or written - adds a wonderful, additional dimension to everything you're doing. THANKS!!