My sister, brother, and I are putting together an art show in October. We have never shown together. My sister has been making her living as a ceramic artist for 30 years and runs a gallery and studio in Ann Arbor where the show will take place. My brother is a sculptor and I am a painter, printmaker, and book alterer.
Tonight my sister emailed this image of all of us together with our Dad, who was also an artist (but a sign painter to make a living), with the note: So, do you think this might look good incorporated in our postcard [invitation for the show]? She titled the image: Artists.
OK, maybe it is because I just got home after a very long day at work. Tonight was Parent Open House and though all went pretty well, I was embarrassed with a misspelling on one of my handouts (an affect/ effect thing), which was pointed out by a parent.
Maybe it’s because I got up at 5:00am today and it’s now almost 11:00pm and I am completely wiped out.
Maybe it’s because when I opened the email, seeing a picture of my family from 42 years ago was the last thing I thought I would be looking at.
But the shock of this picture made me burst into tears.
The date makes me think that this was when the family took me to college (the November date because that’s when the film was developed, not taken). My father was a sign painter and had written a paper company in Appleton, Wisconsin from whom his company bought their paper, telling them he was taking his daughter to college and he would like to tour the company while there. The paper company thought my Dad was the owner of the sign company, not just one of the several sign painters who worked there, so they gave us a cabin to stay in for free, complete with a fully stocked kitchen, and took us out to dinner one night at a fancy restaurant. (These gifts were revealed after we arrived. My parents did not anticipate being treated so royally.)
The whole time my mother and Dad thought it was pretty funny and Mom kept teasing him about being the “CEO.” The two of them would put on fancy airs, throwing sarcastic jibes about the wealthy back and forth, and then burst into giggles. (When my father started to laugh, it was very difficult for him to stop.) They both kept up the ruse, thinking it more embarrassing to tell the truth to the paper company representative. Dad discussed paper types and costs with the representative, replaced the word “shop” with “company” in his conversation, and used all sorts of coded words to describe his shop in downtown Toledo across from the strip joint where Rose La Rose danced and 10 year old gypsy children would hang out in front smoking cigarettes.
From the looks on our faces, especially my sister’s, I am thinking my mother is saying, while focusing the camera, “OK, everybody,…smile…and then we’ll jump in the Maserati for a spin around the campus before your Dad’s emergency board meeting.”
And now we are all artists–pushing clay, paint, wire, and words–trying to make it viscerally visual.