Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Cat is Not Amused (1983-1984)

This transitional piece was painted when my mother came to visit in 1983 or 1984 and brought her watercolor books and supplies to pass on to me. We sat down at the kitchen table, and with her guidance I learned how color can be mixed on paper by applying layers of color. "The Cat is Not Amused" was the result of that session. I have not been able to adjust the colors so that they are true in this reproduction. This is as close as I can get.

My mother, born in 1916, had dreamed of being a writer since her childhood, inspired by the character, Jo, from the book, LITTLE WOMEN, by Louisa May Alcott. My mother attended the University of Minnesota for one year after graduating from high school, during which year her mother was dying of gallbladder cancer. After her mother died, my mother moved to California with her father, her older brother, her sister-in-law and their young daughter. In California, my mother went to business school and worked as a secretary until her marriage to my father.

As I understand, my mother was writing poetry and short stories from at least her early 20s until 1964, when she wrote the following sonnet:

The Inspiration came. It had its birth
Somewhere in Time - no special shining hour.
I've searched for words to dignify its worth
And find in speaking it has lost its power.
Yet something goads me on. The Hound of Heaven?
(Or selfish Pride that slyly begs applause?)
If but my thoughts would rest, like bread to leaven,
The still small Voice within might bade me pause
And quietly perform God-given tasks,
Return to Him the gifts bestowed on me,
Forgetting Self . . . . No . . . . Something strong still asks,
Repetitive, "What means Gethsemane?"
The Inspiration fled. Was God its source?
So be it.
Then rich I am for having felt His force.

In 1966, she revised the sonnet, crossing out the last three lines and writing in pencil:

The answers rise and fall like waves. I wait.
Then blindly stumble on towards heaven's gate.

Around 1964, my mother began taking watercolor classes. In 1967, she abruptly stopped going to church. In the time before her death in 1994, she created beautiful artwork by way of silkscreen, stained glass, batik and Norwegian pattern knitting. She read widely throughout her life and enjoyed writing letters but after 1966 completely stopped writing poetry and short stories, turning her creative energies to the visual arts. I am grateful for her affirmation of me as both an artist and a writer.

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