Long before I was born, my grandmother was a painter. The inside of our ranch house looked more like a museum than a homestead in the Arizona desert, the walls were covered in her paintings from her life as an impressionist in the Pacific Palisades in the 1950s-60s.
As the wife of a cattle rancher she was a paradox. She cooked gourmet meals, she made her own clothes, she loved her dogs, she was elegant, always proper and a bit of a recluse. And though I was in my 30’s when she passed away, I had never seen her paint.
A few years ago, I was cleaning out a storage area with my Dad and saw a stack of frames in a back corner. “What is that?” I asked. “Those are your grandmothers, they stay here.” My dad is a man of few words, and when he says something he means it, so case closed. Once a year, in conversation, I would ask about the stack of paintings and he usually growled a “no”. But this year, he said, “ah well, I guess we could take a look at them, but I think the only thing thats back there are the nudes”. If I wasn’t sitting down for that conversation I would have stumbled. After hanging up, I held my hands together tightly in front of my face and smiled, thanking the universe for my good fortune.
Nudity can be tough, it’s difficult to be realisitc about the human form in todays photoshopped world. Nudity, sensuality and sexuality and vulgarity are often confused, but not here, in these paintings. For me, having these nudes is a mark of self acceptance, a connection with my bloodline. When I look at these paintings, I see my grandmother in black and white, wearing flat canvas shoes and a painting smock. I see her eyes close and her teeth glow when she throws back her head and laughs.
This isn’t the same woman I grew up with, but this is the one I remember now. Once upon a time, long before I was born, my grandmother was an artist, and an adventurer. The nudes have told me so.