Tiny Gallery: September 2020
This month I have chosen two very different works to hang in my tiny gallery at 20 West Main Street in Berryville, Va. Summer and Stomp and Shout with Angels are on display together for a variety of reasons.
Our blended family took a vacation to Virginia Beach in 2011. Traveling with 3 kids, aged 6, 9 & 12, in the back-seat of a sedan, in 90+ degrees, is a far cry from being ship-wrecked in the Atlantic Gulf-Stream. To the parents who are driving, however, it can feel very much the same. We bought the inflatables on purpose for our trip–an optimistic premonition in the floaty plastics aisle of Target. How could we know that one would pop in the pre-hurricane waters of August?
Our headstrong children have gone on to become delightful young adults. When I look at the photograph for this painting, I am surprised to see far less drama than I imagined or felt at the time. It was a quiet moment on the edge of the pool. My son had decided to separate from his older step-siblings to just BE in the water. It was his turn with the green doughnut. All the tears, pushing and screaming that preceded this, were forgotten–if only briefly.
A mother puts many of her professional and recreational activities on hold when children are young- sometimes forever. I have a masters degree in Art History. Late 19th-century painters are my favorite- George Bellows, John Singer Sargent, Gustave Caillebotte, Berthe Morisot, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Winslow Homer, among many others. When I am struck with a vision for a painting, the impulse can usually be traced to an artist I’ve studied.
Winslow Homer’s Gulf Stream was heavily criticized for its drama. In 1906, when it exhibited at the National Academy of Design in Philadelphia, one critic called his work, Smiling Sharks. That same year the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the painting for the asking price of $4000. Someone had a hunch of its future. Painting my son staring through the hole of a plastic lifesaver has very little to do with being shipwrecked with hungry sharks. The strong emotions of a mother struggling to keep her children (and dare say herself) happy, however, are very real. My heart hurt for a little boy who wanted his way as low man on the totem pole. It also throbbed at the intuition that I would not easily find time to make the painting.
I was introduced to The Bumper Jacksons’ music as a potential paring for the opening of my first solo show at the Barns of Rosehill. Now a mother of two, Jess Eliot Myhre continues to perform, and find ways to thrive as a musician in a post-pandemic world. This year at the Washington Area Music Awards, the Bumper Jacksons won best Country/Americana & Best Folk in both album & band categories, for their Live at Wolf Trap 2019. With her band mates: Chris Ousley, Alex Lacquement, Dan Samuels, and Dave “DUCKPIN” Hadley; the 21st -century band has been at the forefront of local virtual music with online events scheduled all summer. As in their song Old Birds, they found ways to bring hope and change.
In her portrait, Jess is flanked by two of her icons: Bessie Smith and Patsy Cline. Patsy had two children, and Bessie adopted a child who was born to one of her chorus girls. It’s inspiring to paint women who combine motherhood with a professional performance career. It pushes me to find ways to continue my career as an artist, and help promote other artistic endeavors. The Barns of Rosehill has been tremendously supportive with their virtual programming during the pandemic. Although Stomp & Shout is not officially part of their Barnstorming Live Auction, From Ruth’s Drive is included in the virtual event. 30% of the sale of either painting will be donated to the Barns of Rosehill.
With the end of summer approaching, virtual schooling and other pandemic September routines don’t seem to be the push that normally inspires me, but they are. This tiny gallery continues to be my beacon of hope and change on this tiny town’s main street. Stay tuned for more mighty shows…