Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Art Department: Still Art

Who signs up a child for painting classes that involve capturing elaborate, formal still life compositions with oil paints? Please keep in mind that I am not talking about the 17th century, but mid-1950s. So, who would do such a thing? My mother. I was eight or nine; she was already a decade into working out her stuff through me.

Good thing I turned out to be artistically talented and already a compulsively neat child, because it could have been messy from the get-go. My art-related psycho mess would emerge years later, but back then everything was tidy inside and out, or appeared that way. My art smock rarely needed washing. I diligently cleaned my brushes and palette at the end of every class, a diligence that I now suspect probably had something to do with huffing turpentine.

Three oil paintings from that time were framed and hung in the family dining room. I hardly noticed them and rarely stopped to look at them. Whenever I did, I was stunned by how competent and adult they seemed. I could not imagine ever having painted them and knew I would never paint anything like them again; never did, although the discipline of starting with still life would endure.

My relationship with art started changing after I left home for Rochester Institute of Technology, where I started as an art major and dropped out as a mess. There's more to this story, when is there not? Stay tuned.

With the glorious clarity of hindsight, I'm seeing how my current wrestling with the angel of identity from the Art Department started long before my recent revelation at Holy Cross Monastery. Fast forward to last night when I finally pick up my new sketchbook, pens, and Inktense pencils.

It's 10:30 PM and I've finished reading Ann Patchett's book, Truth & Beauty. I absolutely know that drawing is the next right thing to do, because it's the next right place for me to go. I don't want to pile my words on top of the words I've just read, not yet anyway. Where to begin?

It has been years since I've sketched anything. For a change, I'm not being my usual hyperbolic self. Years of no drawing. Yet, I quickly discover that I do indeed know where to begin. Not with with oil paints, but with still life. Still art and life still and after all many many years, it's a start.

"Must start again somewhere and beginning with basics -- 
still life is life still after all these many many years."


  1. I love this! I never knew you were an art major... Keep going!

  2. Carol: Now I can die complete because you've left a comment on my blog!!! Yep, art major and major art meltdown. I plan to be writing more about it in 2014.

  3. Looking forward to reading more about your art and seeing more in 2014. You are one talented woman!!

  4. Meredith, I have been a fan of your blog for some time but this post really caught my attention. An intuitive, who does not know me at all, recently commented to me "Your heart belongs to art and you need to be about your business." How could she know that I am a former curator and art historian?

    I am looking forward to your posts this year as you reconnect with the artist in your soul. I'll be walking along the same path.

  5. Yay, Meredith! I am thrilled for and with you!

  6. Jean Ann: She could know because, well, she's an intuitive! You've reminded me of another great story I have from The Art Department.

    Glad we'll be walking? skipping along? trudging? this path together. I've been receiving many interesting responses to this post from other undercover artists who are feeling ready to re-embrace this part of identity.

  7. Meredith, that picture is so beautiful! Wow!


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