Monday, January 27, 2014

The poem, the song, the picture is only water drawn from the well of the should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink, and in drinking, understand themselves.

Federico Garcia Lorca

My dad passed away over 3 years ago. I still think of him every single day, and every few days find myself turning to tell him something or remind myself to call to ask him something. I still feel really sad knowing he's gone, sad for my mom who misses his companionship, from a marriage that spanned 50 years. I'm lucky that when I divorced I moved only a few hours from them. I enjoyed their company enough to run home many many weekends to lick my wounds and feel better. I'm so thankful I spent so much time with them, to form a close adult relationship where they were at a point to learn from me just as I was still learning from them. I often think of my brother who lives across the country. I know that I have had this priceless time with them I feel badly for him. It's never coming back.

But he's not really gone.

I know he is watching me and I know he is proud of what I'm doing. I know he is laughing at the things my two boys do. I'm just sad that I can't see it.

About 6 months after my dad died, I started a job teaching art to dementia patients at an eldercare facility, (or "finishing school" as I like to call it).

Years before, he had encouraged me to go by there and visit a Dr. Michaux, who was a distant cousin of ours. My dad was the third Michaux in our family line and we were frequently reminded of our family history --we are after all, from Virginia.  The original  Susannah Rochet was a French Huguenot. The story goes that in the 1700s her father could not afford passage on a ship to escape France (because of religious persecution). He befriended a ship captain who agreed to hide her on the boat as it crossed the sea. She was hidden in a wine cask aboard the ship, at 8 years old, and later called "Little Nightcap". She arrived safely.

It was natural for my dad to want me to visit Dr. Michaux in the nursing home. But I never got around to it, and Dr Michaux passed away.

Fast forward  about 15 years later. I started working in the facility and lo and behold! Guess who one of my patients was: Dr Michaux's wife, Julia! Odd, right? I spoke with her about who I was and our connection but her mind was too far gone to understand.

A few days later my manager asked me how things were going in the area that Miss Julia was in. I related the story of Dr. Michaux and told her that I couldn't believe I was teaching his wife, of all people. Suddenly my manager looked at me with fresh eyes. " You know how you're being paid, right?" she said to me. I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained that I was being paid through an endowment left by a patient whose wife had taken an interest in art in later life, and he wanted to always make sure art was available at this facility. The patient that left the endowment? You got it, Dr. Michaux. Did you get chills?

How can I not see my dad's involvement in that?  I think it was his way of saying how proud he is of me for sticking with my passion, no matter what. And making sure I got paid for it.

Yep, he's still around.

And there are more stories like this. Another time.

Speaking of family, my father's mother was ZouZou, and it is from her that I named my business (another story). From my other grandmother I inherited a lot of old photo albums, with mostly black and white pictures from the 1920s.  I look at these old photos and wonder about about all of their stories. I am endlessly drawn to old sepia photos.

These paintings are based on some of those photos. The top photo is ZouZou and Michaux, Jr. The one here is a likeness of my other grandmother, Lucille, who was a flapper in the 1920s.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars...

Jack Kerouac

Years ago, when I had decided to go back to school to teach art, and therefore devote myself to my passion, my brother told me about a woman in town, an artist, whose work he had just purchased, a painting.  He told me that she led an artist retreat every summer out in the country, close to where my mother grew up. I looked her up, loved her work as she is a colorist also, and began my dream of attending one of her artist retreats. A few years went by, I occasionally heard her name mentioned, met her several times, began to go to her openings, and still I dreamt of the retreat. Somehow I thought it wasn't possible until I was older and retired, or suddenly struck it rich as an artist (ha) to be able to afford such a getaway. By then I was married with 2 very small children, which presented another stumbling block. Whenever I ran into this artist here and there, she encouraged me to attend her retreat.  One day, my husband ran into her and he told her how much I admired her and really would, one day, attend. It turned out to be my lucky day. My husband had gotten laid off work and therefore had time off, and someone had just dropped out at the last minute, for a camp she was doing the following week. Could I go on short notice at half price?

(COULD I?). I immediately packed up and soon headed out, blindly, into a new adventure. It turned out to be one of the most memorable weeks of my life, and one that has continued every year since then. It's my reward in the summer for working so hard, when I get to go away to camp.

I love it because I get to paint for five days, 12 hours a day if I like.  An added bonus is that Laura, the artist from above, is a fabulous artist and it is amazing to watch her paint.  She is also one of the funniest people I've ever met. With a mouth like a sailor. The stories she can tell! We have hit it off over the years and now are in touch with one another throughout the year, checking in, going out, and seeing each other's work.

Recently, THE most flattering thing happened: she has asked me to teach at camp next summer!

Wow, I've come a long way...

Here is one of my favorite sights at Art Camp:  the screen door to her studio that constantly slams
open and shut, covered in a beautiful lineup of paint colors. She's as messy as I am.