The Women in my Life

You may not always recognize when a special person joins you for a period of time, takes a walk with you in life and helps you choose a better path. I can think back and recognize many of those moments, however brief.

I always reach out to the women in my family when I need advice. Words from my mom still ring true 35 years since the day she left this earth, and words from my daughter continue to make a difference every single day. I will ask Katie for her opinion about something as insignificant as a painting, not because I am unsure of my ability to paint, but because her advice is offered in a gentle way, and she knows how sensitive I am about such matters. Is it just a female trait to be spot on and compassionate in approach, or is it just my daughter? I think I must know the answer. Katie has been my therapist daughter for many years now and she encourages me to be an artist, simply because she understands what makes me happy. If I think of a woman I respect above all, I think of my daughter. She has grown into a person I am proud of and someone who defines the strength and glory of a woman.

Even with the small stuff, I try not to sweat things and instead recall the words of my female friends, moments that stand out like a highlighter on my memory. At camp, my friend, Doris, once told me when she heard my complaints as a young mother with little time for my creative pursuits, to assign a night for me. Tuesday is what she said. I can remember little else from that bustling period of time, but I remember she said to make Tuesday my night to paint. My kids are now grown and I would still move a mountain for them if they ask, even on a Tuesday, but as I reinvent myself in retirement, I am trying to build a routine for success and Doris’ glow in the dark comment reminds me to make that a priority, one day or one hour at a time. My new habit of writing in the morning is an ode to my friend, Doris. I owe much to the women I met at camp.

My friend Sue Smith had my back and held my hand through many years of camping together. How I adore Sue. Our favorite summer moments were staying out all day painting the sets for the camp musicals. She taught me how to be organized in thought and in space, how to laugh at the insane, and how to kiss away such a gloriously fearful moment as creating a screen that has to last through 600 tie-dye T-shirts. She taught me how to appreciate the talents of another and how to be thankful for a wonderful day, just because she was in it. She gave me the confidence to say I am an artist and she taught me how to be a teacher.

At school, two women have become my creative muses beyond the classroom. Ave Maria is a printmaker and a landscape painter. I took printmaking in college and I understand the process. Understanding the process does not describe what my friend can do with a metal plate and some ink. Her prints are brilliantly composed layers of color, detail, and design. The printmaking language she is fluent in can be translated into her paintings through layers of complementary colors that vibrate under your eyes and build up into a crescendo of beauty. Ave and I both have a deep appreciation for art and for each other. I hope to reach new heights with every painting I work on and she is never far from any brush stroke I apply to my canvas. What would Ave think? I step back and look at my work with the sound of her voice in my head. Now that Ave has moved to Kentucky with a winter home in Florida, our voices are mostly heard through emails these days. I bubble over with excitement to see her name in my inbox.

Ocean Grove is the beach we dip our toes in the sand and it is also the home of Beverly Sirianni, an artist with a talent as beautiful and as generous as the small exquisite town that allows us to spend our summer days. Beverly is a magician with wood. The shapes and finishes she brings to life out of a piece of wood come from a creative mind I can’t begin to compare to. I enjoy flat work. I can draw and paint. So can Bev. But I cannot envision a form in a block of wood any more than I can understand the financial crisis of this country or visualize the statue of David in a hunk of marble. Her work is brilliant. Her hands are brilliant. Her sculptures are always the highlight of any exhibit she enters. Bev is an artist, unequaled in her craft, and so generous in her friendship, both as a fellow teacher and now as a fellow retiree. I will always look to her to enjoy my life to its fullest.

My degree in college was not in education despite the teaching career I just retired from. My degree was in how to apply paint to a canvas. If you ask me who I am, I will tell you I am a wife, a mother, a sister and a friend. I am Jewish, I am a woman. I am an artist. I have been honored to know a few special artists during my life. These women have touched my soul deeper than most.

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Barbara Levine

Barbara Levine

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In the days following my retirement from teaching art, I began a journal. I found art in my words and I want to share that with the world.