Issue 44

The Artist


                My partner Rebecca is an artist in everything, from how she cooks to her murals on the walls of our house.

                “What’s this?” I said yesterday, checking a pot on the stove and closing my eyes as I inhaled all sorts of delicious smells.

                “That’s a glaze for the wall in our bedroom,” Rebecca said.  “Do you think it’s too purple?”

                I don’t know why she always asks me these questions.  Like I can imagine what a pot of boiling liquid is going to look like once it’s on a wall.

                One day Rebecca will be famous.  Her “fine art”, the stuff that museums will fight over in the future like prints and batiques, bring wonderful color and life to our home.  No flea market paint-by-numbers masterpieces here.  Rebecca gets an idea, treks on down to her studio, and creates the exact perfect piece we need for over the fireplace.  Either that or she’ll swap with one of her talented artist friends and suddenly I’ll find a pedestal in the living room underscoring an amazing piece of luggage in the shape of a greyhound.

                Most of Rebecca’s art is positive and uplifting, ideas and images that we want to surround ourselves with day after day.  She does have her emotionally tortured images, such as Resulka based on the operatic version of the Little Mermaid in which everyone dies, but most of her effort goes into making our home a brighter place.  For example, Skylar’s room, in Rebecca’s own words, is insanely happy.  Animals from our favorite stories, including a huge Grandfather Frog eating foolish flies, watch over Skylar as he sleeps.  Two mirrors, one cut into the shape of a bird, the other a fish, entertain him while he lays on the changing table.  The ceiling fan is painted like a giant sun against a ceiling of sky blue with fluffy clouds and glow-in-the-dark stars.  And Rebecca’s first quilt graces the bed, next to matching curtains.

                What blows my mind is that she does all this as well as keep the house warm, comfortable, and clean while raising a child.  I can already hear the art critics of the future: “Imagine,” they’ll say with regret, “how much more Art she could have done if she hadn’t had to clean toilets and change diapers.”

                It’s a thought that haunts me.  What masterpieces have not been created because of her mundane responsibilities?  I see the daily challenges she faces as she tries to work on her 4’ kaleidoscope while the house calls out to her for cleaning.  How many other wondrous ideas have to lie dormant as she struggles to scrape together any kind of time for art?

                Observing Rebecca’s innovation and creativity inspire me to consider what art really is all about. It’s kind of ironic that cooking is generally held to be an art – one where the art necessarily disappears as we eat it – while washing a kitchen floor isn’t.  For Rebecca doesn’t look at art as requiring a fancy frame.  She views taking care of one’s home as an art, as part of the whole package of life. For just as a smudge on the edge of a print ruins the whole look, for Rebecca a kitchen counter covered in dirty dishes makes the entire house uncomfortable.

                 And then, of course, there is our greatest reason for neglecting art, our son Skylar, a veritable black hole that consumes all of our free time and energy.  I’m afraid to calculate the number of hours we’ve spent just dressing, changing, and feeding him.  Yet, in spite of this and because of it, he is our greatest act of creation, our greatest work of art, not as a ball of clay to shape as we please but a person to support and build up through our love.  He is also one of Rebecca’s greatest inspirations, and much of the art she has done recently is because of him.

                When Rebecca is long dead and her work with frames hang in renowned museums, everything the art critics will bother to learn about Skylar will be able to be summed up in a single sentence on a white placard taped to the wall.  He’ll be listed as “her son” if they bother to acknowledge him at all.  That’s because you won’t find Skylar hanging in the museum next to her “more important” paintings.  But the truth is, he is worth more to Rebecca and I than every bit of art in our home.

                The rest is but a reflection.


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