I encountered an O’Keeffe coffee table book years ago, when my knowledge of art was young. I did not know much about Georgia O’Keeffe except that she was female, American, and liked big flowers. As I paged through the colorful, glossy book, I felt slightly embarrassed, as if I was looking at something too private or too explicit. Yet, I knew there could be nothing morally wrong with her art because I completely trusted and respected the owner of the book. Since then, I’ve never seriously studied O’Keeffe’s art, or even taken a serious interest in it, but my appreciation of her art has changed from slightly embarrassed to mostly sympathetic. Here is a woman painting flowers, scenes from the landscapes she is familiar with, and she is doing this with boldness, unashamed. I don’t know what her own personality was like, but I’m guessing her art spoke louder than the rest of her. I can sympathize with that.
It was at the theatre and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really lived; the rest was but a sleep and a forgetting. This was Paul’s fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a secret love. The moment he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odour behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid, brilliant, poetic things. The moment the cracked orchestra beat out the overture from Martha, or jerked at the serenade from Rigoletto, all stupid and ugly things slid from him, and his senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.
–“Paul’s Case,” Willa Cather, 1905
I love Willa Cather’s artistic characters who operate on some higher level, breathing brighter air, striving for excellence. I wonder if that is how Cather felt when she wrote, and if so, I wonder what triggered that “fairy tale” part of her life. I can understand Paul’s feelings in this story. Thankfully, my home life is not as “stupid and ugly” as Paul’s, but there are moments when I’m lost in a good book, and I do feel that possibility within me to write something brilliant. It’s not really vanity; it’s more of a hope. It’s why I keep reading, no matter what.
A Flower in the Heart of the Painting is officially released for publication! The journey to publication has been wonderful, and I thank God for blessing me with one of my life-wishes–to be a published author. I thank my blog readers, too, for being interested. It is a nice feeling to know my book and all its characters and places can now be known by others.
If you want to immerse yourself into the quiet worlds of my stories, you may purchase your own copy of A Flower in the Heart of the Painting at Wiseblood Books and Amazon. Enjoy!
With the release date of my collection of stories drawing near (November 1!), I thought it appropriate to have a little talk about the painting on the book cover. My husband looks at it and expects the girl to start moving, sit down at the table, etc., similar to the magical paintings in the Harry Potter series. My friends wonder if I painted it, because it does indeed look like something I might enjoy painting. My editor says the painting echoes much of the delicacy in my prose. Sandee, the character in my novella, claims the painting is “beauty in simplicity.” What do I think about it? I think I’d love to be that girl, quietly watering a row of houseplants, feeling the fresh air blow in the open window, letting my mind wander to whatever it fancies, enjoying a solitary moment in a house that is not lonely.
This painting has an important role in my novella, “A Portrait of Happiness and Love.” Previous to this excerpt, Sandee has bumped into Patrick outside the drawing studio. Sandee is returning his book on Velazquez, confused as to whether or not Patrick had romantic intent in lending it to her. Patrick asks her out to dinner.
“It’s settled then!” He beamed at me. “Oh, here, I’ll write down my address.” He begged a pencil off one of the students, tore a corner from a piece of scrap paper on the floor, scribbled a street name and number, and inserted it as bookmark into Velazquez. Handing it to me, he said, “Seven o’clock. I look forward to it.”
I watched him leave, and then opened the book to the marked page. Las Meninas… Later, in my office, as the familiar whir of the copy machine allowed normalcy to calm my nerves, I considered the significance of his page choice. The man caught in indecision in the doorway at the rear had decidedly left. He was that man. But (and this question caused me to lose track of the number of copies so I had to start counting again) was I the princess in the room, or was I perhaps someone else, someone behind the scenes, to whom the man had decided to turn? I both feared and longed for the dinner we would share that night.
Ever since learning about it in an art history survey class, the Bayeux Tapestry has been close to my heart. Not actually a tapestry, it is embroidered linen depicting scenes leading up to the Norman conquest of England–a stitched story, if you will. Hand-stitching can be an art, not only a craft to keep women’s hands busy.
Two of my stories in A Flower in the Heart of the Painting involve characters who stitch pictures. The title “On Eagle’s Wings” actually refers to the eagle cross-stitch the main character completes during the story. In the other story, “Craft Day,” a group of women work on their crafts together. The evolution of one woman’s free-stitching creates a very strange effect on another woman. Find out more about my book here.
— The Star (Dancer on Stage), Edgar Degas, circa 1878
Sandee, from my novella “A Portrait of Happiness and Love,” has her own copy (a copy she painted in high school) of this painting hanging on her wall. On a night when her mind is particularly attuned to spiritual matters, she derives from the painting “a picture of what God sees looking at me. The entirety of humanity looms in the background, but I am in clear focus.”
Impressionists like Degas are known for their untraditional vantage points. In this case, the viewer looks down at the dancer, as if the viewer is in a balcony seat. Sandee’s insights, however, make me wonder what the artist (any artist) thinks of his works in terms of spirituality. Some might faithfully try to duplicate God’s creation. Others create a world of their own design. And perhaps Sandee is right; some artists might try to paint what God sees. This gives us a whole other way to wrap our minds around art.