I dreamt about my grandmother last night. I dreamt she was coming to visit from far away. It had been years since I’d last seen her. I wanted so badly to show her my paintings. My Nana was an artist and she would be proud that her only granddaughter had followed in her footsteps.
The dream involved me running through winding corridors and down narrow staircases to these windowless rooms where I was living (apparently) to gather as many of my pieces as I could carry to show her. I woke up before getting back.
I lay awake thinking about it in the wee hours of the morning. During that stage of just coming awake, the mind makes connections it wouldn’t in the light of day.
My Nana would be proud that I was painting.
When I first started painting and my work began to improve, I believed that to be true. After some consideration, I realized that I could be wrong. She might not be proud. She could be threatened by it and she could be critical. She might point out all my mistakes, flaws, weak technique. I’m pretty sure wouldn’t like either my subject matter or my style. Never one to hold her tongue to spare another’s feelings, she would probably decide that I hadn’t any talent at all and that I was wasting my time. I’d never improve. I’d never be any good.
Cruel? Yes. But accurate. And the funny thing is, she wouldn’t comprehend that I would be hurt by her words. Certainly I would see that she was right…
Years ago, my Aunt Esther took an art class at the local community center and began painting in acrylics and oil. Largely this was motivated by her admiration of my grandmother, her mother-in-law. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….
Lo and behold! Aunt Esther had talent, she became a wonderful artist –painting landscapes, pastoral scenes and still lifes. Nana only complained, belittled and behind her back, insinuated that she had no right to paint. Who does she think she is? My aunt eventually gave up painting.
And so it goes with the women in my family. They tend to be judgmental, fault-finding and competitive. There is never any joy for the success of others unless there is some way to take some of the credit for themselves. I’m not bitter, just realistic.
In the dream, my work was hidden away, out of the light of day, out of Nana’s sight, away from her potential criticism. As in the dream, so in reality. I am glad my grandmother will never see my paintings. That way I can pretend she would be proud.
The painting in the header is by Susan Nagle, my maternal grandmother.