Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Mother's Paintings...

(My mother in the art room at the University of Tennessee.
I think this was one of her favorite photos of herself.)

My mother was a painter. This I know. The presence of oil paints and palette knives...the pungent aroma of turpentine...the scratching sounds of brushes connecting with canvas...these were all things I remember. She was extremely talented, and I inherited my artistic streak from her. Geneva Jo Blazek (she legally changed back to her maiden name many years ago) passed away in August of last year. About seven months ago. It doesn't quite register with me yet. It's not a 'space' I can properly articulate. I'm experiencing a neutrality of feeling that has me in a sort of solitary confinement. How can I describe how I feel, when I don't even know how I feel?

I have been planning to post this entry for a few days now, but not knowing what to share was making me put it off. There are many things about my growing up that laid the foundations for the distance I placed between my mother and I. I spent the bulk of my life trying to get her to meet me half way. Something that I finally learned would never happen.

I had not seen nor spoken to my mother since the mid-1990's. I severed things. I know I have family members who don't understand why I did so. That's okay. Thinking about the questions that might arise from my even posting this much is what was holding me back from writing anything. My mother is gone now. What purpose would be served by delving into the details now? I will write my "memoirs" soon. If not to share, then just for me to get everything out. The last few years, there had been a prominent thought hanging around the vaults of my mind. If my mother passed away and I had not seen her again, how would I feel? Well...I have no idea how I feel. My mother and I corresponded for the last year or so on a very casual level. An effort being made on my part to keep it that way. I wasn't quite prepared to see her. I was working on it though. Then I got an e-mail that my mother was in the hospital. My aunt and uncle had found her disoriented on her bedroom floor (she had Alzheimer's). Later that evening I got a call saying that she was doing better. Less than an hour after that I got the call that she had passed. (She had signed a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order when she learned she had Alzheimer's.)

Known as Jeep to her friends and family, my mother had a great sense of humor, and a rapier wit. An extremely talented artist, she had tried to motivate herself a few times to approach painting as more of a career and had a little success here and there. I wish she had pushed herself more because I think she really could have gone places artistically. I've had a few friends ask to see pictures of some of her work, so that was going to be my chief reason for posting this. The slide show is of various paintings she did. Most of the pictures were on slides, so I took photos of the projections. Not the best way to capture them clearly or get the vividness of colors, but close enough. I have four of them, two of which were in her garage to be tossed. I'm glad I was able to get them.

(Another college photo...)

The slides were among many in a box from my mother's condo. I had finally gotten around to sifting through them. In the bottom of one of the boxes was a collection of papers and photos from her earlier years. The time before I came on the scene. Looking through photos from her days in college made me feel like I didn't know her at all. That's my mother in those pictures and I know nothing about her. Not really. I don't think we ever really knew each other. To her I wasn't me, I was the person who didn't meet her expectations of who she wanted me to be. There are many things I wish could have been different between us. Now I'm just trying to sift away all of the garbage to hang on to the good stuff. I need to get rid of this confusion before everything stagnates.

The above piece is one that she won several art competitions with. It's one of her college pieces, and is called "Brushy Mountain". When my brother and I were going through my mother's belongings, we came across this hanging next to my mother's desk. We assumed it was my mom's work. Assumed. This was something she had done in college, had had for years under the same roof as me, and I couldn't remember ever seeing it. It wasn't until I was going through the boxes of slides and saw the articles in an old scrapbook that I realized what it was.

This drawing was done by one of my mother's fellow art students at the University of Tennessee, Manfred Rink. It's his interpretation of her. It's hard to see the finer details in this photo, but it is done in pen and ink, and quite detailed. It's all done with fine lines, right down to the shading.

Whatever transpired in my past with my mother, it's all water under the proverbial bridge. I'm just happy that I have these elements of parts of her that she passed on to me. Her creative gene, and her love of art.

(One of the rare pictures I have of the two of us.
This was taken on a trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC.)


  1. you have no idea how lovely i think this post is. i am going through a lot with my mother and this speaks... i thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Adriana. I'm glad that you got something from it. I was agonizing over what to say, but when I started typing this is what came out. I think I can safely say that I don't have any major regrets now, but there is a lot of stuff I need to let go of. Then I can embrace those things that are left.

  3. It's good that you have these positive things to remember about her.

  4. I have 2 floral paintings done by Manfred Rink, and 1 ink drawing which is apparently supposed to be of an angel. If you have any more information concerning Manfred Rink, I would be very interested. I heard that he was schizophrenic and committed suicide. I've inherited these artworks from my grandmother.