First Father’s Day Without My Father

Wicker Love

My father got things done. He applauded us when we got things done. So last week, when I arrived in Cape May, I vowed to restore two wicker chairs my father had cared for years ago. I thought it would be quick work, as the paint was peeling. I’d just shake them off, maybe use a wire brush, then coat them with the oil-based Cover Stain primer our friend Marc Shenfield (a certified wicker nut) recommended. Marc likes to get things done, and he had lovingly restored the rocker in the painting … [Read more...]

Can You Keep a Woman’s Secret?

Self-Preservation in a Time of Misogyny: While International Women's Day honors the known as well as the unknown stories of those who have long kept a woman's secret, I believe we honor ourselves when we honor our mothers and grandmothers, ancestors, and women of all races, creeds, and eras. Therefore, I'm not content to confine this activity to one day, or one month: it is a daily practice of awareness. You may recall that the academic study of Women's History began in the 1970s, during a … [Read more...]

Defying My Mother, Again

                    Today marks fifteen years since my mother's death. As I awoke this morning, I remembered her last words to me. And I will defy them. I'll tell you about that soon, but first I need to set up the event of losing my mother so you understand how tangled this mother-daughter way can become. For the last two decades of her life, I considered my mother to be my best friend. She was a passionate artist. … [Read more...]

Spring Lilies Evoke Energy of Gratitude

When my father planted the secret garden of our alley with spring lilies in 1994, he couldn’t have imagined the lasting energy of gratitude those simple bulbs would evoke over the years. They bloomed so brightly, so shamelessly, so vibrantly the following spring that my mother was compelled to paint them in their glory. And now, decades later, “Spring Lilies” has become one of her most beloved paintings of all the genres and all the moments she memorialized in her work which spanned fifty … [Read more...]

MOM Fix III: M is for Mercy

Jan's Bouquet, 1966. Alice Steer Wilson oil on board, 9 x 6 inches. From Alice Steer Wilson-Light, Particularly, by Janice Wilson Stridick.

Even when I was an angry teenager, long before my mother and I forged our way back to forgiveness of each other and ourselves, we shared a love of the colors of nature. I was grateful for the beauty of the roses my father grew in our garden, and when I picked a few and gave them to my mother, she expanded the gift by creating the painting above. Later, when I prepared to move across the country, she gave me the painting as a memento. The 3rd profound shift to lighten and reframe the … [Read more...]

MOM Fix II: O is for Openness

Be My Guest, 1992 Alice Steer Wilson watercolor on paper

The open doors of her third floor studio inspired this black and white watercolor my mother painted to illustrate my grandmother's poem about aging and seclusion. When the three of us started working on The View in Winter, Alice planned to use her skill as a colorist to brighten up her mother's poems. I argued against the use of full color illustrations because I wanted the art to complement, not overpower, the verse. Alice agreed, reluctantly, to work in black and white, and later, she was … [Read more...]

Art Sale as Autumn’s Release

The summer of 2015 went by too quickly, as many summers seem to, but this one was remarkable in the level of excitement and discovery that stayed high all season. The last time I posted, I had yet to open the exhibition of Alice Steer Wilson's works at the Carroll Gallery. Since then, I have collated and sold a record number of card packs and prints. Next Friday we will host a closing sale and celebration of the works, and all the stories as well as old and new friends they have brought … [Read more...]

Thrilled to unveil Alice’s Cape May, the part represents the whole . . . .

Fifteen years ago, Saturday, my mother began painting a large oil portrait of me. That may sound unremarkable, since she was a painter and I am her daughter, but it was highly charged for two reasons: I was busy, healthy, and I hate to sit for portraits. She was weak, breathless, dying of breast cancer, and she had never been satisfied with any of the previous portraits she’d attempted of me. In her home, and my sibling’s homes, there were plenty of portraits of the rest of the family. Her … [Read more...]

The Promise of Mothers and Daughters

...this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don't like too much ...   Jamaica Kinkaid, "Girl" Will you be there?  ...  Can you hear the truth?    Tori Amos, "Promise"   It's been a lovely meditation for me to sit down and write daily tributes for Women's History Month. Now, on the last day, I'm returning to the relationship with the most elemental power­: the Mother-Daughter bond. So … [Read more...]

Virginia Tabor: Artist and Best Friend to Alice, Cape May

Today is day 28 of Women's History Month, and I'm beginning to panic. There are so many women on my heart and mind. I'm starting to think in categories, such as: Best Friends, Sisters, Aunts, Letter Writers, Diarists, Newly Discovered Relatives, Mothers and Daughters, Musicians, Asian Women, Latina Women. I only have three days left! I can't cover all the women or even the categories of neglected women! I choose the painter Virginia Tabor because she is an awesome artist, a surrogate "Mom," … [Read more...]