This may seem odd…or sweet…depending on whether you have a suspicious or appreciative personality. I’m a little of both, and I was exceedingly touched; especially so because I could never imagine my own (seemingly oblivious teenage) boys reaching out like this on my behalf.
This Facebook thank you note was even more special because I knew that Cathy’s daughter, Patty, has very limited mobility since birth because of cerebral palsy.
Of superior intelligence, insight and intuition, Patty is a college-educated author, and requires full time physical care…provided by Cathy.
It is to both their credit that Patty gratefully realizes that her mom’s artistic identity needs to be nurtured in order for her to also be the effective and loving caregiver she is to Patty. This was the crux of her thank you note; she was happy that her mom was making some “art friends.” In her previous life, Cathy had been a machinist…thus the work boots in her Chicks painting.
Her daughter had sent me the note after Cathy and I had gotten together with another art friend Susie (she posed for Chicks early on) to go to the Butler Institute of American Art to analyze, criticize and feast on some sour grapes about their legendary Annual Midyear Juried show. None of us had been accepted that year, so it was fair game.
Cathy told us about her life over lunch. On paper, the details are dizzying. She is full-time caregiver for her adult daughter with cerebral palsy. She is also full-time caregiver for her elderly mother, who survived a stroke with multiple impairments. She has another daughter, whose health problems and surgeries often bring her home to Cathy’s house for extended recovery stays. And, though Cathy didn’t know it at the time, her third daughter was soon to be embarking on divorce proceedings. Add to that Cathy’s own health issues that have left her deaf in one ear, with chronic migraines and vertigo since her brain surgery years before and it really is dizzying!
But her lunchtime delivery of this CWB-worthy laundry list was told with humor, pride and a twinkle in her eye. The way she talked about her home life, I pictured an ensemble cast, quirky family movie, where adversity is entertaining, diverse family members are loved and there’s no need for a laugh track because we’re all already having fun. “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Moonstruck,” and every John Irving novel came to mind.
Early in our friendship I asked Cathy to pose. She clearly possessed the quintessential CWB qualities…strength, courage, strong work ethic, joy, passion and a very full plate.
When she finally did come to pose, she had just finished taping an interview for “Artists at Work”, a cable show with host, Carol Medhurst, to spotlight Northeast Ohio’s Artists.
Cathy chose beach balls because her home, though not a lake house, is close to Lake Erie.
The balls are all partially deflated, I saw them as symbolic of all the people in Cathy’s life who, with their many needs, rely on her like the air they breathe. I added the extra balls around her to further symbolize the heavy load she carries…a load she bears, however, with joy, levity…air.
The firmly squished ball she sits on symbolizes her husband, Frank, who, as Cathy will readily tell you, is like gold. He married her with many of the complexities of her life already in place and is a loving rock of continuing support for the family, and for her identity as an artist.
Cathy creates this welcoming home of love so that all the people in her charge can thrive. And, in three years, when her husband retires, Cathy will move her family to a new home in Georgia, so that her patient, insightful and caring daughter, Patty can finally marry the love of HER life.
Patty met Chris, a gifted photographer, online 14 years ago. They Skype every day, write books together, are engaged and have written a blog about their epic relationship. When they move down south, they will all live near each other and Cathy will continue to be there for her daughter and her husband, and this fairy tale romance will become real as they all make their new home in Georgia.
Home is where the love is, and I call this painting, “Cathy’s Home.”
Mark your calendars
and if you can swing it, make your plans…
Chicks with Balls is traveling to Pennsylvania!
Luzerne County Community College
Gallery Talk: Friday Night October 24th at 5:30
Opening Reception Immediately Follows until 8:30
And, I’m teaching a workshop at the college on
Saturday and Sunday October 25th and 26th.
Oil Painting the Figure and Face
with Personality and Grace…
two day painting workshop with instructor Judy Takács.
Luzerne County Community College