Mar 25, 2018

I must be no more than three in the portrait. I was exempt from posing, the artist having to work from a photograph to imagine my likeness...not to mention personality. As a result, I appear to be a docile creature, more like the doll I'm holding than the stick straight hair, skinned knee ruffian that I actually was. My sisters look more like themselves, at least to me...none of them ever really approved so I ended up with the painting after my eldest sister, its most recent custodian, died last fall.

The painting was always a bit of a sore spot, but not so sore as to have been cast out of our households. Now that it's landed in mine I'm thinking about it a little differently.

It's not a common thing these days, or way back in the mid 1950s for that matter, to have one's children's portrait painted but my parents did. They had neighbors, a married couple, both artists and professors at University of Michigan back in the day. (It's hard for this child of the 60s to imagine her decidedly conservative parents cavorting with "artsy" professorial types but cavort they must have.) These artists' influence flavored my parents' world, and subsequently my own.

Although my most recent painting is a far cry from the dark, symbolic, expressionist paintings or the lively ink sketches that Carlos painted, I feel a kindred link to him. And I thank him for that.

All four of us sisters were encouraged to stretch our creative imaginations in our own ways. And though it has taken me until my golden years to share my work with you and others, I know that my parents' openness to the importance of art and creativity paved my way. I'm just a late bloomer I suppose.

My parents most certainly created a safe place for us to nurture our abilities. They provided the paints and brushes, the fabric and thread, the clay and tiles and grout and ink and paper with which we grew, sheltered and encouraged. Their own imaginations were fertile ground to our own, and for that I am most grateful. So I'm looking at that old painting with new eyes. It represents a nascent seed that they planted in me, that most definitely not placid pageboy hairdo'ed girl in the front.

Painting: Unsheltered © Lissa Banks 2018