Monday, June 11, 2007

Business at a Funeral?

Grandma Fran, Oil on Canvas, 16" x 20", 2004
b. 1917? - d. 2007

I had the unfortunate experience last week of going through a family funeral; my husband's grandmother passed away from melanoma at the end of a very full life of 88 or 89 years. Grandma Fran as everyone knew her was a remarkable person; she was a person you would not quickly forget. She certainly had her faults but I was fortunate enough to know her for six years. I never had an adult relationship with my grandparents since they all died when I was in high school.

About three years ago, just before my wedding, I was at my in-laws house with the family and Fran had just purchased her dress for the wedding. This was her first wedding of her three grandchildren and she was thrilled. So, she tried on this stunning black dress and it was stunning. Fran was a very stylish and life-loving person; the dress was a further characterization of her life philosophy. I was so moved by her that I decided to paint a portrait of her.

One afternoon I spent over at Fran's apartment doing a photo shoot in the dress, and then I developed the pictures and determined which I would use for the painting. Once the portrait was finished it was included in my first solo show at the Rockingham Coffee Lounge in Boonton, NJ in 2005. Fran attended the opening and was just aghast -- she was amazed.

Three years later, the painting had been sitting in my studio. After Fran passed away, my sister-in-law asked that we display it at my in-laws' home during shivah as a way to remember her. She died very quickly and was not at all herself in the physical form the last two days of her life. Well, little did I know the kind of reaction I would get. Guests sitting shivah were absolutely amazed -- so much so that one person asked if I would paint her mother-in-law. I said absolutely and passed on my card. (I've yet to hear from this person).

So, this painting, as well as a couple of other works that happened to be in the home, became the topic of conversation. It was at first awkward and I didn't feel that my works and what I do should be the center of attention at Grandma Fran's funeral. However, as the weekend wore on, more people were more interested and I let into my instincts and started somewhat selling myself. As an emerging artist, as a small business owner, I hear that you always are working, you are always selling. I guess there's truth to that, but shouldn't there be a time and a place? I guess reflecting on it now; I wasn't pushing anything, they were for the most part asking me and initiating conversation about my work. So, maybe it's not so bad -- it certainly lightened the mood and that painting of Fran really helped us all remember her vivacity and not so much her death.

Here's to Grandma Fran!

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