|Gourd, Vase and Gray Metal, Judie Myers Still Life, Oil on Canvas|
Six months ago my mother, my sister and I stood in the small studio of our old house. A full-sized dumpster sat outside, already over half full.
When you must move accumulated belongings, forty years of the life of a family and nearly twenty-five of that in the same house, it is not true there is no room for sentiment. There is almost no room for anything else.
To standard household goods and beloved mementos you must take with you, you add the studio work of three artists. You resolve you will keep only the best pieces. You have already decided which are the best – long ago. Nothing else is going to accompany you.
|Gourd, Vase and Gray Metal, Detail |
|Woman with Vase, S. Myers|
But art has a little life separate from its creator, and an artist is often not the one deciding the fate of their works. In two cases here they were not...
Out from back of a stack of unfinished canvases – many of them torn or injured in various ways – I drug a painting; it was red and yellow and gray, vibrant even after the dust and stress of an unheated, uncooled studio. I set it up against the wall.
|Gourd, Vase and Gray Metal, Detail|
It was not mine, it was my mother’s art, when she was younger than I am now; when she was working away in a California college, painting with the style that she favored then, a semi-abstract Cubist/Rayonist style relying on good, heavy compositional technique.
She later eschewed such non-realistic, non-figurative approaches and I was raised with a strong classical bias. Nevertheless I have not gone without my own researches into the Modern – and what I saw on this canvas was recognizable quality. The paint flew toward me without the canvas moving.
This piece was not going into the huge red dumpster if I could help it. I claimed it. When I attempted to express how good I thought it, my mother’s face took on that modest look. Her art professor had evidently made the same appraisal I had. I could have the painting if I really wanted to take it along, my mother said.
So I took the cubist still-life, titling it “Gourd, Vase and Gray Metal”. It has come with me here... Along with another piece I myself had slated for dereliction...
|Woman with Vase, S. Myers Red Earthenware|
It was therefore with much surprise I found myself in the last hours of the last household packing, mending two small terracotta toes on a figure I had intended to leave behind. I had assistance from my mother. If I didn’t want the sculpture, it could go with her, she said. She would wrap and pack it herself once the toes were firm.
It was a less embellished version of a composition I repeated once later – a woman seated on a bench, her right leg drawn up, right elbow poised on the knee to help her hold a fairly large vessel. I have always loved the Tanagra figures and such sculptures of mine do, I think, show the affection.
But I was never sure of this particular piece. The woman was markedly Twenty-first Century in her physique and pose, and her clothes had a soft sun-suit effect that went strangely with classical connotations and a handle-less amphora. Why would she need the pot? I don’t think I was the only one to ask such questions just after I made her, but here she was, being packed precariously into a box a shade too little for her. Well, the strong packing tape closing the top of the box would protect her... her and her pot. And it did.
I don’t know why, but here in the southwestern sun, placed against a plaster wall, she seems all of a piece and my doubts are slipping away.
Of course, I have no doubts at all about that still-life on the wall, with its incredible red and gray and yellow...