Friday, July 17, 2009

further friends & family art

In that "Hall of Mirrors" there is a lot of the art work we own. This first shot includes a couple of mirrors, a very 3d work by Millicent Greason Spivak and two 5 x 7 oil paintings on cardboard that my maternal grandmother painted in the mid 1920s.

Millicent's barbed wire, rusty nails and polymer, with gold leaf, "It Takes an Egg to Make Vanilla Pudding" is the first art we acquired from her. It was the start of our art collection and the initial inspiration to have and display artworks besides the ones i make. In other words, a full house inventory of my paintings was getting old.

Below Millicent's egg are the two rediscovered oils that Grandmother painted before my mother was born. I never saw these or knew she had artistic talent until recently. And how they survived - she painted on brown corrugated cardboard - is amazing to me. With great fear and hesitation, I varnished them (to clean and preserve) and added frames. Her initials, MSA, stand for Margaret Spigner Avery. And the date '23 is also on one. The Zinnias stand on their own, awkward, sweet and detailed considering it is only 5 x 7 inches.

What Grandmother accomplished with her landscape captivates me more. The lake side scene is more stylized, reaching abstraction. Or maybe just more awkward. I like to think the former.

I imaging she was very taken with Picasso and tried to jazz up her Girl Scouts camp site. There is a canoe pulled up on the shore. And what looks like a happy yellow fish is really the lake water and a handle of the oar sticking up. A long puff of smoke rises from the fire, and the sunset sky swirls above distant mist on the water. There seem to be only evergreens in this forest on the lake, and she painted the little pyramid shapes in progressively paler purple as they recede.

Finally i wanted to show you the last oil painting my mom, Betty Norwood, did before her eyes and back stopped her a few years ago. Although Grandmother never got to study art, Mom did. And my mom has been painting all her life.

Mom's photo realism is truly mastered in her last works, like this one, from the 1990s. It illustrates her willingness to let reflections and light become part of the painting. This painting took years to complete, as she had to paint in every edge on every scrap of bark or blade of grass. This water's edge work is about 24 x 36 inches. Betty took photos and then decided which ones to paint. She employed a grid system to enlarge and layout her work. We are all sad, as is she, that she can no longer work on her pictures.


  1. Love these, makes me think how when Georgia O'Keeffe lost her sight, she took up pottery.

  2. I love Millicent's 3D artwork (I want her to teach me how to do that) and the very charming works by your grandmother. And Betty's painting is amazing!