For another creative project I’m considering, I found myself in need of a pen-name, and intent on using my grandmother’s name I googled her just to see what kind of confusion I might cause in the world if I went that route. That’s how I stumbled across a mention of a filmed tour of her studio in 1993. I wrote to the artist who created the film, inquiring about how I could view it, and she told me that it was still in vhs format, but if they had the time they would find a way to convert it. Despite other demands for their time, within a matter of weeks a DVD arrived in the mail, and I got to see and hear my grandmother again.
I felt my heart in my throat as I heard her voice, and I watched through teary eyes as she described her magnificent art and showed her studio and her house just as I remembered it. She occasionally worked in oil, but her primary medium was hooked wall-hangings, and every piece was a carefully considered masterpiece. She was, and is, truly the artistic genius of my very artistic family. It’s a testament to the power of the internet that all these years after she has passed away, I now have this little piece of her, to view and listen to whenever I want to or need to. And I think it arrived at my door at just the right time.
A few weeks ago, the first dog that Greg and I adopted together 14 years ago passed away after a traumatic battle with kidney failure. Immediately after, I went on a dizzying 2 week roadtrip mostly for work, and when I returned I found myself drowning in work and farmlet chores. My art has been neglected, and I started to wonder why I spend my time painting little pictures of fruit anyway, and just generally feeling sorry for myself. So watching my grandmother describe her art was truly a gift. “There’s a philosophy behind all of it” she said at the beginning of the tour. I was 17 when she passed away. I didn’t identify as an artist then. I wish I had known her when I was older, so that I could hear more about her philosophy. I imagine she would be wonderfully encouraging, especially to a female artist in my family full of very proud men. While always exuberant and full of life, she hints at her own struggles, when she says “to heck with competing, I’m going to keep on creating.” In a sense, she’s still creating.
“This art, and the strain of working it out and resolving it, has helped to knit this broken family… It was a rich life.”
Film credit: nicholsloy studio. Thank you Sandra and Nic.