Sunday, June 15, 2014

A continuation of the Narrative

When I was a little kid I remember that my mother used to paint. Every Wednesday she would leave me with my nana while she went off for a few hours doing I’m not sure what. Eventually at the young age of four I learned that she was going around Gloucester with a group painting. My mother painted water colors of Gloucester and they amazed me. One day I remember asking her if I could come and paint with her. There was a hesitation in her voice, but her younger soul back then had eventually caved to the pleading voice of my innocent youth.

                             We went to a little beach over near Ten Pound island with a handful of others, easels at the ready to paint. Of course little me with my little easel was horrible at painting and had no idea what to even do, but painting still piqued my interest. Every five minutes while at that little beach I remember pestering my mother about what to do and what color to use. Later on in my life I found out that that had annoyed the ever living daylights out of her, but I wanted to figure out how to paint amazingly just like her. The landscapes she painted always seemed exactly like the setting in front of her, copied with only a brush in her hand. It was an unconceivable concept to me, but I continued to grow and attempt to figure out how she did it.

                             As I did grow I was constantly asked the question in life what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were many options to think about. Teacher, nurse, doctor, vet, judge, President, etc. My whole little world inside my mind thought of so many opportunities, but never art. From what I saw from my mother it was more of a hobby. I saw my mother bring home beautiful watercolor paintings only for them to be stuffed in a closet or bag never to be seen again. Well, a few of them hang in my house, along with a few other Gloucester styled paintings. The point is that she never sold her beautiful pieces of art, and if she couldn’t how could I?

                             I haven’t attempted to sell any paintings or pictures of my own today. I did however decide that I wanted to be an artist after years of contemplation and since that decision of a foolish young child I have refused to give it up. It is hard to cling onto a dream anywhere when given the perspectives of everywhere. The world was pretty gloomy and even the most upbeat kid could get upset just by glancing at what lay in our futures. It wasn’t very pretty to look at.

                             Everything I saw was beautiful. Every painting in every store. Every hand crafted item, whether it be jewelry or a stuffed animal, got my attention. The little details and beauty of everything captivated my mind and imagination to inspire me. Reality hit when stories came to me when not everything is beautiful. Some things just weren’t meant to sell because that is how the world worked. I learned that from my friends in a circle and how Gloucester and Cape Ann are known for their landscapes and seascapes and that is what people come to buy. They think of their Stuart Davis, their Emile Gruppe, Winslow Homer, and that Fitz Henry Lane. There was also Theresa Berstein, Nell Blaine, Jane Peterson, Mary Blood Mellen, Cecilia Beaux, Bessie Hoover Wessel etc. but they aren’t as well known as the male artists anyways.

                             I do not draw in the Gloucester style. I did not want to draw in the Gloucester style nor did I ever want to be one of the few old ladies positioned across the Cape painting the same picture over and over. Art has some many other better opportunities I had learned. I had learned many things over the years, but there was always something that bothered me since I was little.

                             Sitting at the table during a quiet day eating lunch my mother sat in her seat at the head of the table doing a crossword puzzle. I looked over at her and asked the simplest question “Why have you never sold your paintings?” Her answer was simple. My mother just saw art as a hobby as many women back in the 1800 and 1900s did. It was a nice way for her to pass the time and to get days away from her kids when we were little. This is in opposition to the women way back when as their kids came before their mental health, but it seemed appropriate that my mother would do something like that. It doesn’t matter though as the only thing that really matters is that she never went in or sold a painting. My mother kept all of them, and although she did eventually use her creativity for other things besides painting it was those paintings made on the Backshore, Lanesville, Downtown, Rockport, Rocky Neck, everywhere that made art seen hobby or not.

                             And a hobby to one person is a life to another. The only difference being that living off of art will have its obstacles, and you must ride out every wave as if it is the crashing cobalt waves that smash into the breakwater every day.

Back In the Day


                             Mother is just a word to define me. I am more than that but that does not stop two small little arms from tugging onto my skirt and repeating the words as I attempt to clean the home.


                             There is no way to ignore them, they are a piece of me, my love, my heart and soul poured into giant brown eyes. They are a part of my life, and my life, although it may be dull, revolves around them.


                             I put down the broom and turn around, my skirt swooshing and gently touching their face. Eventually the fabric disappears to unveil the star of my show. My small little boy clutching the dress with hands balled and his eyes shimmering. There was a glowing personality about him and it was something impossible to ignore, but why would I go to ignore my own child?


                             “Anthony you know Mother is busy cleaning.”

                             Anthony pouts and drops his hands from the skirt letting it fall down softly to end the show, but his dispute will not end here. He wobbles over in front of me on his barely trained feet towards the broom. Tiny hands attempt to grasp the broom but it is too much, and the broom falls over with a clunk. Shock fills Anthony’s face before turning towards me and pointing at the fallen broom. Yes, the mighty broom has fallen.


                             “Did you do that?”


                             “Anthony I love you dearly but Mother needs to clean. Go back to your nap.”

                             He never goes back to his nap. Anthony, with little feet, follow me around everywhere in our tiny cottage on the Cape. He never leaves my side, but who else is there for him to follow? Father is off working to bring food to our table where as I am here to tidy the home.

                             Our home consist of a few rooms. A room to sleep, a room to sit, a room to cook, and a room to tidy ourselves. The walls and floors are always clean, just the way we want it, and there is always something nice to be eaten whether morning, noon, or night. Neighbors on the nearby shore sometimes come to visit when there is nothing better to do, but there rarely is. The men leave the swirling line of homes, almost all alike, in the morning to venture off in the world, and the rest of us stay to keep the picture still. Occasionally some of the others will go out and attend classes to busy themselves if they have no kid, but not in my case.

                             Anthony is almost three. I have picked up a paintbrush only a handful of times since his birth. Before that, or before his father, paintings filled my little different home. I went to art classes as a hobby my community would say. We all went to art classes to busy ourselves before meeting that one man and settling down. Some of us attempted to continue to paint but we just never had the time. Our children and our homes became more important than our passions. It is the way life is.

                             Some of us though did not marry. Those few continued on in life painting and following their passion leaving social ideals in the wind. I look down at Anthony who at this point is playing with a wooden block taken off of the table. I sigh a little as I put away the rest of the cleaning supplies an go off to grab the sowing needles as Anthony’s father had yet again ripped a shirt that needed to be fixed.

                             The needle goes in and out, smooth, without any hesitation as it mends the beige shirt no longer filled with holes. Just another duty to do. I usually save the sowing work for at night when Anthony is asleep so that he does not disturb the precise movement of the needle. Luckily the blocks placed on the table had found a home within Anthony’s hands and preoccupied him while I began to stitch close another shirt. The process remained in an organized pattern, as it should be, and that way is the way that it remains.

                                                          *            *            *            *            *

                             The light of the sunset gleamed against the lawn. Anthony was wobbling around the house exploring as I cooked dinner. The smell of fish wafted heavily through the home, and even with the windows fully opened the reek of the fish continued to hang everywhere. I coughed a bit as the fish continued to flop in the pan, sizzling to present itself as edible to my family. Anthony at this point, smelling the fish, had climbed into a chair to wait for the food eagerly. He acted so much like his father, and Anthony looked a lot like him as well. Same brown hair all curled. Same brown eyes that, when looked into, act as an endless oblivion. Anthony even acted as energetic and adventurous as his father once was. Maybe it had something to do with growing up on the island…

                             Dinner came and went and with just the two of us I tucked Anthony into bed, his hair sprawling across the pillow and taking up more space than his head. I went alone to bed without any other say. I had no idea when Anthony’s father would be home, but I knew that he would eventually show up. Sometimes I would see his face before I closed my eyes and on those special days I saw him when I awoke. Tonight was not the case as my eyes slowly fell into a slumber to rest and prepare to repeat the process for as long as ever, and to most likely never hold a paint brush again…

                                                         *            *            *            *            *

                             Years later, after two more kids from my husband, I eventually did get to pick up a paintbrush again. It was only a hobby, but holding the paintbrush again was great no matter the circumstance. The kids by this point were all old enough to walk off to school and embrace their island heritage. I on the other hand had remained inside to clean the home by myself. Upon one day of the kids leaving I was left with nothing to do after my daily motherly duties. Looking back into the tiny closet hidden in the home I managed to find an easel layered thick with dust. There was a small set of old brushes and paint underneath the easel and with a strong arm I brought the easel outside on the nice spring day. I cleaned off the easel and the brushes. Despite the years of dust everything was still usable. With the tip of my brush I began to dip it in the water before choosing a color and stroking it against the empty white canvas that was found in the closet. After years of not painting and taking care of my family and home my painting skills were lacking. All those years practicing and all those years painting all for a hobby, even so I was still happy to be able to once again paint for a little while. I wasn’t going to make money selling paintings anyways.


I put the pencil down,
I pick my paintbrush up,
A masterpiece with its owner created,
An image worth as much as the artist,
Their soul splattered onto empty canvas,
But who will buy?

A Fitz Henry Lane piece is said to be worth a lot,
But when discoveries of fraud be placed in name,
Mary Blood Mellen gets no fame,
Instead a masterpiece is shamed,
As much now as back then,
Who paints what is what is what,

No husband no worry-pressure from life instead of hobby,
But her hobby fills her soul
It makes her grow and grow,
But fuck that,
Says the baby inside and husband on arms,
Life over hobby community says,
Your man will make more anyways,

A seascape will make more anyways,
But a man’s will make even more
Please sit- enjoy your life,
stop trying to steal theirs,
but anyone can do anything,
says and said and will always say,
Listens few,
That’s the problem


Our Town

Gray granite arching out of moody waters,
An island only known by name,
fishermen by trade-it’s a game,
Heroin drugs fish and guns,
Our peaceful abode no longer that sound
Was it ever?

Was it ever what we say it is?
Are we all Fitz Henry Lanes,
Do we all paint luminous skies,
Or does our town have creativity,
Of course it does!

Our Town is filled with art,
Unique people every corner,
Stories and masterpieces abound,
So why must we sit around,
Why must we fret?

We fret over little things,
Pleasing people,
The outside we cling onto as a worker to its queen,
A cavernous honey dome centered around one,
We please we please so that we do not sink,

No school of fish are we,
We are a magazine model,
pretty, plastic, altered,
To please- to please,
An image we must uptake,

For one for only,
For upkeep-for safety,
Prisoners at the hand of green,
We cling,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shorthand of Her



-run-free-                                  -follow-yourself