Portrait of the artist

Learn to live from the inside, the bull’s eye of your true being. -Sandra Walston

Attitude (18 May 2020)

There are always three people at play in my work: Toothpick, the inner artist child who conceives of the ideas; me, the adult with the hands and the materials necessary for bringing them to life; and Frankie, the inner writer child who comes up with the titles, sometimes as soon as Toothpick pinpoints the stain she wants to work with when we get home. In the case of Attitude, whatever it was that oozed out of a trashcan on the southwest end of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park.

Frankie is away the day Toothpick and I work on this piece. At no point in the process does she tell us what it should be called. Nor does she contest when, later that evening, I show it to my friends during a Zoom happy hour and one of them says, “Call it Attitude!”

The suggested title sticks, but I don’t necessarily love it. The woman in the painting is beautifully dressed and coiffed, and she appears quite confident, but she doesn’t have an attitude.

Frankie might very well agree with me on this fact, but if she doesn’t speak up to offer a more fitting title, perhaps it is because she believes the one my friend gave it to be right on target.

Frankie being a child, and children being close to God, she surely has a more far-reaching comprehension of the word than I do. While I fixate on the negative connotations it conjures up based on my very limited past human experience, Frankie sees something more positive that only time will reveal. The woman’s stance suggests forward movement; there is change on the horizon, there is an opportunity to make positive adjustments to an attitude that has, up until now, prevented her from fully accepting her authentic self.

Stain for Attitude

“You painted yourself,” the youngest of my three brothers exclaims when he sees Attitude. I don’t agree. There is, of course, the right arm and hand that evoke my guitar playing, but nothing more. The woman herself is far too beautiful to be me, far too cool. And the confidence! Look at her! She’s flat as a board and yet rocking a tube top without any kind of padded strapless bra? Are you kidding me? I would never have had the courage to do that pre-breast implants! It wouldn’t have looked good!

Ultimately, though, my brother is right.

It is Toothpick who conceived of this portrait, who guided my hand in painting it. This is me the way Toothpick sees me. The way even I, with the little change in attitude Frankie understands is possible, could one day see myself: a beautiful, cool woman brave enough to rock the body God gave her. I had the courage inside me to do this, the painting shows me where: at the bull’s eye, the center of my being. My heart.

Thank you to Sandra Walston for her piece Bull’s-Eye Courage (21 September 2021, https://www.sandrawalston.com/2021/09/courage-hitting-the-bulls-eye/)

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