Tag Archives: Painting

Courage at Twilight: Wall Hangings

The negotiated terms of my ouster included me rescuing my children’s artwork from the attic storage closet.  I wanted these paintings displayed and my children honored.  They had made oil, acrylic, and collage paintings on old plywood, cardboard, canvas board, and posterboard.  Many pieces were very good.  Determined, I took a framing class at the Tooele Army Depot morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) facility.  I learned to measure and cut the mats and the glass, assemble the frames, and apply the backing.  I felt joyful and proud to hang these excellent art pieces on the walls of my apartment, which my father came to call my “art gallery.”  They included scenes of Lisbon streetcars, Rio de Janeiro’s Cristo Redentor, the romantic streets of Paris, African villages, Korean dancers, and New York City street corners, plus a Panda Bear and a Great Blue Heron.  The most venerable painting hanging on my apartment walls was an oil Dad painted in the 1950s of two children, a boy and a girl, walking hand-in-hand down a forest path.  To move them safely, I wrapped these jewels in plastic and stacked them carefully in the Mom’s and Dad’s basement.  After two weeks, I found myself ready to decorate my two rooms, too small to accommodate all the paintings I had framed.  And I suddenly found that my connection to them was touched with old despair.  For now, I will gently store them to await a time of greater healing and permanence, when I will take them out and again proudly display them.  Now is not the time or the season.  They are like so many priceless museum pieces wrapped in protecting plastic and stowed in crates, awaiting their grand retrospective.  In the meantime, I have hung in my rooms several of Mom’s beautiful needlepoints, prints I bought on various trips, and the old oil of two children walking through the woods, holding hands.

Sphere of Absence

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Sphere of Absence by Erin Frances Baker

I exited a posh downtown law firm revolving door to accompany several high-priced litigators to lunch.  As a municipal attorney, my city was their client, and I its representative.  Hundreds of people walked every which way, moving single-mindedly toward their various destinations.  Car horns honked.  Crosswalk lights chirped.  People talked animatedly.  Buses dieseled by.  Trolley car power cables sizzled.  On the corner, in the middle of the commotion, sat a homeless woman, dirty, dressed in rags, her hair ratty.  She sat and rocked and wailed inconsolably.  No one paid her any mind.  They merely arced around her from their many directions, creating a sphere of absence around her.  I approached her, but not too close, to see her better.  I ached for her, yet feared to enter that intimidating sphere.  I marveled that she remained invisible to the bustling world around her. Still, though I saw her and felt for her, I too arced clear and moved on to my worldly business.  Below is my poem describing the encounter, entitled “Sphere of Absence.”

My daughter, Erin Frances Baker, adapted my poem for her acrylic-on-board masterpiece, changing the character of my homeless woman to the lighter, but still isolated and nearly invisible, figure of a street performer.  I hope you enjoy the poem and the painting.

SPHERE OF ABSENCE

She sat on the corner
of a bustling city street:
a surreal reminder
of an unfriendly reality;
a sad black-and-white cutout,
pasted, out of place,
into the noisy, colorful hustle
of illusory pursuits.
Mute faces ate and laughed
behind thick glass panes;
wingtips and heels stepped past
in all directions,
carving a polygonal sphere,
untouched, unvisited,
seen but ignored, unknown.
Unknowable.
Above the train-wheel grind and clatter,
the honking horns,
the crosswalk chirps,
the biting wind,
and the chatter, rose
a soft, wailing cry,
a muffled desperation,
a distracted pouring-out
of a fractured soul
into the lonely sphere of absence.

 

My book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, has recently been published in print and for Kindle.  You can read about it here.