My mother loved color. It tormented her and brought her great joy. It was part of what she wore, what colors to paint her apartment walls, the different shades of nature. It took her two days to prepare her palettes and she inventoried over two hundred different colors of oil paints.
She loved color in people, from their clothes, to their cultures, to their personalities. She challenged us to bring out our own colors, and she was unlike anybody we will ever know. She loved openly, and suffered silently, hidden in herself.
We can follow her history and spiritual growth through the colors she applied to canvas. She chronicled our family history, her emotional struggles and ultimately her spiritual growth. Starting with innocent portraits of her children, husband and the assigned still-lifes, you can see her immediate gift as an artist. After the breakup of the family, she expressed the struggle of her own transformation to giving herself totally to art. In her painting “Death of the Family”,she reaches outside the box and into her dark side where she begins to explore her own family history.
Family portraits became more complex… The five foot nude painting of Abigail – tall, lank, and anorexic at 14 years old leaning against an invisible wall; Amy, half undressed, reclining with the defiant sensual look of the 16 year old that she was; And me, naked, 9 months pregnant at 18, silhouetted against the New Mexico light of my bedroom window.
She found her personal journey in her art and refuge at UCLA art department and the friends she made there. It was as if she opened the door all the way to her personal calling. Eight foot canvases held portraits of her new friends reflecting moments of loneliness, eroticism and her tormented passion as in the painting, “Bloody Mary’s”.
Having opened the door to her dark side, she painted “Mother”, a canvass that transformed from realism to a ghoulish abstract, exploring her own personal history of anger and struggles with her own mother. Oil paints offered her the tool to transform color into stories and gave her an opportunity to explore deeper than the surface.
The painting “Malcolm”, was of her therapist, with heads floating around the surface. As she was trying to see who she was, she was seeing him.
Upon her brother Fred’s death, she decided to move back to New York City, to the apartment she grew up in. Having faced the darkness of being human, she began to fae her spiritual demons. The painting “St. Michael’s”, helped her heal her connection with he church, and through “Here the Womb Comfort Me”, she began to find her own spiritual solace. Though these were lonely years for her, she created some of her best work and you can see her spiritual transformation as the colors went from reds and browns, to greens and blues. “The Blue Egg”, a masterpiece, is a culmination of personal and spiritual growth. You can see her love for the cathedral St. John the Divine, the Dean, Abigail and music, Theodore the condor, and the wise tortoise holding it all on his back.
Her last painting if of her brother Fred. She adored him and he adored her. Unfinished, yet finished, it is much simpler that her other paintings. He has no defined features but his hand and ring are recognizable as he sits in a boat. It is Fred that she envisioned meeting her at the time of her passing.
The last couple of years, she became too weak to be in her studio for long or at all, but she did start one more painting. Another portrait, she had outlined the beginnings, on canvass, yet to add color. Hidden beneath paper, as she was very private about what she was painting, was a photo of Sam…her lover, mentor, best friend.
My mother said she never worked a day in her life, and that was almost true if you call work what we do for money. But my mom did work, and she worked very hard. While painting, she would sometimes spend 12 – 16 hours a day in her studio. In her own words she would “sit, pray, weep, and paint.” She left many journals of her journey of being a human being, a spiritual being, and an artist.
In the end, all of this work paid off for her. She was joyful in her loneliness, and determined in her decision to be an artist. She used the joy, loneliness, and determination in her decision to let go. She had once told me, “Blessed to live, blessed to die.” She knew deeply the wondrous magic that holds it all and had no fear as she moved towards the next adventure.
My mother taught me many things – she taught me that you must truly want things before you can have them. This was not about material things, but about goals, happiness, and what fulfills us.
She taught me about righteous anger, and sometimes we would use it against each other. We were always the better for it and more determined in who we were.
She taught me that color is everywhere, in everyday, in every person. She taught me to look outside the box and become my own person, my own artist.
In the last days of her life, the colors around her became brighter and she reveled in their brilliance. She laughed a lot at her own jokes and was very much at peace.
My mother challenged us, inspired us, and taught us all to be more colorful in our lives.
Personal memorial at service by daughter, Jane Lumsden.