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 years.
Fortunately, a good friend of ours fell in love with, and purchased the painting when it was first exhibited in 1995. He has kindly loaned it for exhibition and reproduction, and In 2013, the Cooper Foundation purchased one of the limited edition prints to inspire patients and staff at their new Breast Cancer Center.
My mother’s chosen subject matter evolved from an early devotion to painting classic oil portraits in the 1960s to her study of the light, particularly as a plein air painter during Cape May’s 1970s renaissance. She is best known for her Cape May landscapes, but they comprise less than half of the 1250 paintings on record. She painted for years before discovering Cape May. She loved to paint portraits, and she worked on them year round, especially in the winter, when painting outside was not an option. She often turned to still life to explore color, texture, and mood.
There’s a certain quality of energy that draws art to itself. When I was a student at the University of California in the spring of 1981, the painter Wayne Thiebaud would walk into the packed lecture hall each week sporting a fresh rose he’d clipped from his garden that morning. The world-renowned painter told us, somewhat sheepishly, “I like to paint flowers.” It was delightful to hear this from an artist of his stature. At the time, I was not close enough geographically or emotionally to my mother to realize how his statement would resonate with her, but as I worked compiling her catalog and the book of her lifetime of creating art, I found much evidence of the ways she followed her bliss, a love of color and life, to create such a legacy of joy.
Following your bliss is the one sure way to restore the energy of gratitude.
Color, fresh air, and flowers are at the top of my bliss-list, how about you? What brings you energy when you find yourself flagging? The persistence of change is another major energy-boost for me, and it can be a comfort, also. Consider the way the sight of bulbs poking through the cold earth reminds you that beneath the apparent sleep of winter, growth awaits.
It’s been a cold spring in New Jersey and I know I’m not alone in wishing for sunshine and promise of summer. If you long for seaside air and summer color, make plans to come to the Cape May Forum Secret Garden Tour on June 11th (click this link for tickets). The painting, “Spring Lilies,” adorns their brochure for an event that promises lavish color and surprises, along with lunch at the Chalfonte hotel, which is another favorite. Ticket sales benefit programs to “educate, engage and inspire” and the nonprofit’s 2016 theme is “Social Justice in America.” Paul and I will be there, and we’d love to see you if you’re in the area!
What are your favorite images? What sights bring you the energy of gratitude? Do you give yourself time with them? Plant some seeds of gratitude and see how the energy returns to you. I’d love to know what you are grateful for, and how you find your bliss. Let’s renew ourselves and our circles with the renewable energy of gratitude, shall we?
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