Art in the Universe, Down Home

painting of an elderly woman sweeping outside

When a certain Grandmother died what comforted me, a little and now in huge measure, were two gifts: her bone china coffee cups and a painting of her sweeping the flagstone path behind her house. I wasn’t supposed to get the painting. But when B and Eddie asked me what of hers I wanted, I mentioned the painting that I’d seen for years, hung around the house on various walls. That’s the beauty of living with an artist. Or being the niece of one. New images show up. Different things to ponder. The grandma painting popped up. Disappeared. Popped up. Disappeared.

Compare and contrast the living one smoking her Kools, drinking her coffee, her three-fingers of Jack after 5… and one on the wall, doing all of the work. When she’d died I looked around her house and noted that it wasn’t there. The memory of it called to me. I’d seen it so often that I don’t know when the first time I’d seen it. Eddie said that that was not her painting but his. But I could have it. If he could find it. He went upstairs and sorted through the pile that was not on display. They were resting. He pulled it out, addressed it to me.

That’s the thing with relatives sometimes, if you’re lucky. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask for something of hers, but the aunty and uncle knew. I tried to push that forward with other youngsters when my mother-in-law died, and when my parents died.

The painting sat in our sunny hallway when I moved to Montreal. Now it sits as a prominent spot in our cottage up north. My mother-in-law was also drawn to the painting. As soon as I put it up in the hallway in the city, she pulled my fake craftsman chair over so that she could sit in the sun, read, and doze off, all while facing the painting. “That looks like my mother on our farm.” She was adamant. “No,” I told the Director to translate. “Definitely not North Africa,” I said. “Illinois,” I said enunciating every ridiculous syllable.

Unconvinced, she remained drawn to it, even when visiting us up North for extended stays. The chair, the sun, the painting, and dozing off.

When I told Eddie this, he said, “People are always telling me that. Doesn’t matter the painting. People are always being reminded of their own people with my own people.”

Many relatives are in his paintings.

Maybe there’s an Eddie painting that resembles someone you love. Maybe that’s one of the draws to art. So many kinds of art, who knows? Maybe today he can be your uncle. Your Universal Uncle Eddie showing you something about your life accidentally using oils and brushes on canvas.

What do ya think?

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