Tonight I’m having an art show. A beautiful coffee bar generously offered her very large and abundant spaces. I had never even seen the seven Black and White, Red All Over canvases hanging together, not ever. And when I step back and look at them, I see that they are good. And I feel satisfied. Much like our God must have felt when he made the animals, oceans and then man and woman. Even later, when the serpent came and spoiled the scene, He still knew it was good.
Of course, I don’t think I’m God or that my paintings are as miraculous as the beginning of time and earth but I do think God thinks that. And that She enjoys all our creations, even the ones that aren’t so great. Remember? I’ve talked with you before about how happiness and life depend on creating. Therefore, since God is first Creator, nothing deepens our connection to spirit like creating. It’s as if stopping the spinning and just being, completes us. Even if we don’t believe, it still happens that way. You must know this deep down. Ruffling ourselves with fretting, worrying and rotating on an axis other than uplifting ones, we chaff against our very selves and our loved ones.
Frequently, I refer to my oldest son as my first creation. It’s not really so but he is my first “big gynormous, Wow did I really do this ah ha” creation. However, long before he was born, my Momma made sure that I could create practically anything. She insured my abilities with lessons and practice in sewing, piano, Girl Scouts, bell choir, youth choir, youth group, cheerleading, swimming and on and on until the groups and lessons and where do you go to learn how to do this went on forever. By age 10, I could sew a dress for my piano recital while baking a cake for the church supper.
But lessons and doing something well, right or good are not creativity. And that’s why tonight’s show makes me nervous. “Is that a ship, Mom?” my artistic middle son queried when I showed him a painting and asked for his opinion. “No,” I quickly retorted, “no, it’s not a ship, it’s a rock formation.” “Ah,” he said, “who cares what it is? I like the colors and maybe nobody will ask anyway. I don’t think they will even care.” I pulled the painting to the side and we laughed together. My husband describes, “Julia’s art is between Outsider art and other Art.” And what does that mean, I think, pretty sure that it is not exactly a compliment but then maybe?
If I compare my work now to the paintings I did in 1999 when it all started completely by itself, I see a slow and steady progression of one dimension transposing to two. Two dimensions that is. I’m pretty sure I have already been an angel because when I first started painting, all my views were from above. I painted everything from the clouds, as if I were hovering. That made them really flat. I didn’t even know it until my husband and the same son pointed it out. My first reaction was “Man, I must have spent a lot of time up there. What a great view.” But it made my paintings look awkward because nobody else saw it that way.
So all this to say, that when my friends and family ask me if I’m excited for tonight, I know what they want to hear. “Yes, it is going to be really fun! I’m a creator after all, why wouldn’t I want to show off my work? Yes, I’m really looking forward to it.” But I’m not. Not really. I think I would rather stay home and create. Paint a picture, sew a dress or dig in the garden while others walk around and say things like, “Wasn’t she lucky to be raised by nine dear, sweet, strong Southern women?” or “Don’t you like the colors in this landscape of the New Hope Creek?” or “Is that a ship?” and my son could tell them proudly even without me there that “No it is not a ship, it is a rock formation!” Imagine how shy and disenchanted God felt when he was stuck with all of us and the rest of the world too. He tried to take it back once when he created the flood. Then he sent the ark and rainbow to tell us how sorry he was, “that was a mistake and I won’t do it again, I promise.” Which is what my artistic son said when he accidentally threw his shoe out the glass window on a snowy 22 degree day. And what can you say but “You better not.”
Wondering if I will do this again, it could happen without me you know. I wouldn’t have to hear from anyone that they can’t read the words on the collages or the poems on the paintings or why is the Lumber River green in one and blue in another when we all know that it is always brownish black? And I like the hands on Auntie but am not recognizing her eyes. I told a friend that showing your work is more like taking off your clothes and walking around the room slightly dazed and exposed, trying not to unravel. I told my husband when he asked me if I thought I’d sell any that Van Gogh only sold one just before he died. And Van Gogh didn’t kill himself either. He was shot by two cruel village boys instead. If you don’t believe me just read his latest biography. They never found the gun and when is the last time you shot yourself fatally and then got up without spilling blood and hid the murder weapon? Never that’s when. I love Van Gogh and I wish I had been beside him just one time when he painted a cypress tree or his mistress.
My daughter misunderstood when I asked her to give some announcements to her friends and instead went and cold called the patrons at Weaver Street. Isn’t she still amazing? “I can feel love and devotion for me and my work all the way from your college campus and back around the world again.” She is the star of the show after all. Remember, the height of the red canvases are 52” which is how tall she was when I quit work and started painting. And don’t forget about My Baby Take II. Me standing above her on the dock watching her swim around the edges of the ladder like a crab. That moment was a lovely creation for both of us. Sometimes I wish I had created two of her so I could keep one with me while she runs around the globe measuring phytoplankton but other times I feel like one is just enough. Don’t miss her. She’s in the small room off to the right all by herself. It takes a whole room to hold her. Trust me.
I keep telling myself that it will be fun. I’m trying to remember my Momma’s morning devotion about courage and not fretting and not ruffling yourself and those you love. I hope you remember it too. If you forget, pick up your paint brush or knitting needle, garden spade or sewing machine, or or or, and have a little fun. It is only up to us how we spin it. Right? Remember that’s the rainbow’s promise. All we really have to do is show up and spread some love and inspiration. I think I can do that tonight at the Open Eye. I think you can too. Perhaps we can do it together.
ADDENDUM: An addendum to a medical note allows the physician to add pertinent information to confirm or disprove a diagnosis. X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, lab work, physical findings or vital signs can support or refute a hypothesis. This addendum is being added to let you know that the art opening was FUN! Lots of folks came and we ran out of chocolate tarts over and over and kept having to pull them and extra macaroons from the kitchen. Folks said things like, “Wow, Dr. Burns, I didn’t know you painted or I bet everyone of these women could make a coconut cake or how do you get those bumps and texture in the water fall?” There was laughter, “Is that Wilton? How old was she when you quit work?” “Six years and 52 inches tall, just the height of each red canvas.” And you’ll have to believe me when I tell you I sold some paintings. Hey, take that Van Gogh. It was fun. And I didn’t feel a bit naked or unraveled and nobody asked me if my rocks were ships and even my son said he’d never said that.