Grammie Hannan, Abbie not Monette, could spit. I am not saying that Grammie Monette lacks an impressive spit just that this memory is about Grammie Hannan (Abbie).
Grammmie Hannan is my father’s mother and she was born in early nineteen aught something. 1902 or 1904. All my grandparents were born in the early nineteen aughts and I just can’t remember which was when.
Jubilee, my bonus baby, was born one hundred years later in two thousand aught four. Wow. I had not thought about that before – 100 years. Wow. Grammie Hannan died over a quarter of a century ago. My heart aches that none of my children know her. There were long seasons when Grammie Abigail Stevenson Hannan was my best friend. She was tough but I knew she had my back. David’s, too.
Sometimes Grammie used words like aught. Aught can be used as an auxiliary verb, a pronoun, and a noun. Aught is one of those words that is hard to work into ordinary conversation, but we all know what it means when we hear it.
To be certain that I truly did know what it means, I looked it. I learned that it is considered archaic and identified, in three out of four sources, as Old English. One source credited ancient Scottish roots. If I had found ancient Irish roots, too, it would be a word akin to my own heritage which leans more Scottish and Irish than English, but I have not done the DNA testing so who knows.
Grammie Hannan sometimes used terms and phrasing that was new to my young Texas ears. I don’t consciously recall many of them, but they will occasionally pop into my head and I remember her using them. Or, like today, I am telling a story and there they are. “Pooh” was integral in several color phrases. Don’t stir it with a stick. He thinks his doesn’t stink. I feel like hammered doggie… you get the picture.
My favorite poetic memory from Grammie Hannan ended with, “I don’t know how in hell ‘e can.” It is a great poem. You ought to look it up. (Ought is derived from “to owe.” And, yes, I did spend too much time looking at definitions this morning, but it was genuinely entertaining and mentioned nothing of politics or the downfall of civilization.)
Oh, never mind. I looked it up for you. It appears to be by Dixon Lanier Merritt.
“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”
Don’t you hate it when writers take too long to get to the point. I know I do. Apologies!
So, we loved to go walking with Grammie Hannan in the woods, my sister and I. At least I loved it. I think Brenda did, too. If she did not love it, she was at least game to join us. There were THICK woods behind Grammie Hannan’s house in Liberty, Maine. At least they seemed thick at the time. We did not go back there often, but sometimes with Grammie. Often we would walk the dirt road in front of the house or up the hill to the garden. Grammie was always on the move. AND SHE COULD SPIT. Impressively.
When I tried, if I were sitting, the spittle ended up on my lap. If I were standing the spittle ended up on my shoes.
I was a spitting failure.
The opposite of a flaming success.
Fast forward forty something, maybe fifty years and…
I GOT IT DOWN! Grammie would be proud.
Revelation dawned during an early morning walk with my boxer/ ridgeback mix, Wesley. It was cold. No tissues. Only one option: spit.
Turns out the key to success is seasonal allergies!
Happy memories of walking with Grammie Hannan flooded my heart and mind.
Grammie’s legacy has come full circle.
I hope one day to have grandchildren carry forward the legacy, but without the allergies.
Today we are going to look at abstract paintings that dabble in social justice and resound with hope.
Adoption is 4 x 3 feet acrylic painting on birch panel.
Adoption is a breakthrough painting, it was my first large scale abstract, and it was the first time I had painted on this sub-strait. This painting was my prayer while a family member was going through a painful adoption. It is a painting of perseverance and victory. Adoption explores the power of hope and the beauty of joy.
Late Blossoms, 12 x 24 acrylic on canvas board, is a marvelous expression of happenstance. Of going with the flow and holding plans loosely! One thing leads to another and suddenly one thing is something completely different. This began as a beautiful realistic painting of lilies.
I thought it needed a touch of cadmium red. Then a touch more and before I knew it Jubilee was sitting on the floor crying, “Because you ruined it.”
Poor baby. What she saw as ruined had me doing the happy dance. I kept the title even though the original intention evaded capture! ( would insert one of those laughing smiley faces but I don’t know how.)
The texture in Late Blossoms revved up my texture curiosity and Not By Sight was the next step. Could I paint something that would be interesting for someone who could not see?
Yes! Mixed media and collage on canvas. Paint applied with a knife the way one applies butter to fresh bread- thick, thick, thick! Not by Sight hangs vertical or horizontal. There is a musicality in this painting that I just adore.
Winter Solstice continues the exploration of black as a color and as an ideal. Black paint, when watered down, reveals a plethora of surprising colors. Warm blacks against cool blacks. The purples in this painting is part of one of the black paints.
There is a richness in the black that is seldom explored. A richness worthy of exploration.
So as not to end on a heavy note…
NOPE! We are going to end on a heavy note.
Not a negative note, but a serious note. The Prophet, 25 x 35 acrylic on 140# paper deals with boundaries.
The prophet sees the boundaries, sees the blockades, sees the struggle and in spite of it all sees beyond to victory. The prophet sees the way through. The way to the other side.
There are innumerable boundaries and blockades in our society. The struggles are real and the struggles are endless. But we are not without hope. This painting reverberates with the promises of hope and the promise that we will get to the other side.
I take my position as artist seriously. Something in me drives me to create. So often I am creating out of personal experience. Other times I am creating as a response to what is happening in our world. There are times when I do not understand what I have to say until the painting is complete.
My hope is that you will find a work of art that gives voice to your heart.
Much freedom, Gwen Meharg
PS. If I can help you with any questions my number is 817 832 6952. I often know where my phone is and I make moderate efforts to keep the ringer on. Just in case, though, you can leave a message or email me at Gwen@Gwen Meharg.com
Last night I learned of a friend’s death.
She died in September of 2015.
Joyce and I had corresponded for ten years. Not often, but once a year or so, and we spent time together each year at the International Arts Movement (IAM) gatherings. We would sit together, and share meals, friends, and stories. October 2014 was the last IAM gathering and Meaghan Ritchey did a splendid job putting it all together. That week Joyce and I wondered what would happen to the friendships of such widely dispersed people held together by this brief annual meeting. Artists and creatives from across the states and around the world. For some of us, this connection kept us going throughout the rest of the lonely year. We wondered and hoped for the best. After the glorious grand finale banquet, Joyce and I shared a cab. It was raining and icky out. I was planning on taking the subway, but my hotel was on the way to her’s so it was not an imposition. Besides, the end of something so important is hard and the cab ride extended the event a few more minutes.
I remember the last time I spoke with Joyce, but I do not remember when it was. Joyce called rather than write. It was so good to hear her voice. It did not seem like a goodbye.
Joyce was an important person who knew important people. People whose work I admired while it hung on the walls of my favorite museums. To me, they were abstract art gods, names on labels and in books. To Joyce they were friends. Her stories were not about celebrities, but people. Some of these people happened to be celebrities.
While she moved in big city circles, she lived in Colorado and had a western mindset and heart. Perhaps our pioneer roots connected? Or, maybe it was something more mundane and yet extraordinary that began our friendship.
Wait a minute, I knew about the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation from International Arts Movement (IAM) gatherings in NYC. I knew Marie Sharp! (I wrongly assumed, with the passage of time, that the woman speaking, the head of the Marie Sharp Foundation, was Marie Sharp.)
Sylvia gently, and with a good sense of humor, explained to me that I did NOT know Marie Sharp as she had been dead for quite a while. Eventually, we puzzled it out. The key had been when I told Sylvia that she looks like you.
Sylvia said, “You met my sister, Joyce!”
The world is small. Be careful what you say about people. You might be talking to their big sister.
The next year at the at the IAM gathering my friend and fellow creative, Ping, and I ran into Joyce in the bathroom. Joyce was important and we were not, but bathrooms are great equalizers so I told Joyce the story of meeting her sister. I had forgotten Sylvia’s name, but Joyce knew who had the book so it was not long before we had all the details sorted out. “You met my sister, Sylvia!” Laughter ensued and we all went to dinner and were fast friends ever after.
Joyce was both an encourager and a story teller. So I am.
The next year my oldest two children, Ruth Meharg and Forrest Davidson (I will explain his last name another time), joined me at IAM and I was able to introduce them to Joyce. We shared stories about life, art, and her grandchildren. Our impromptu dinner club kept growing.
Ruth, Forrest, and I stayed on in NYC for a few extra days after the IAM gathering to see sights and we ran into Joyce at the Strand Bookstore. She was adding to her children’s book collection. We compared our finds and she went back in to get a book that we introduced her to. (I wish I could remember which book it was.)
Another year, crossing a street at night, Joyce pointed out two young men crossing from the other side. She called out and they exchanged waves. She told me who they were and shared their philosophies as creatives. Rex Hausmann, artist and community builder in San Antonio, and I connected later on Joyce’s recommendation. A new artist friend. (Google Rex. He is amazing!) So many new friends.
Beyond art and family, we connected on faith. Joyce lived out of her faith. She rubbed elbows with movers and shakers and she was not moved. She was light everywhere she went. She was also tough. I like that combination. My life is brighter for her presence.
I am not sure how we started writing letters. Maybe I sent her a thank you note? Maybe she, a master communicator, sent me a note- I do not remember, but it started and I am thankful. Sometimes we wrote notes and other times letters. I wrote because she had sewn into my life and I appreciated her. I also wanted to share my creative journey. I think Joyce wrote back out of kindness.
I was aware that I had not heard from Joyce for a while, but she was a VERY busy woman and not busy in the fussy kind of way. Joyce got things done. I had no idea how long it had been since we visited.
I am not a linear thinker. I tend to bunch similar events together in my mind. All the IAM gatherings, in my heart and head, are one enormous, glorious event! I had some postcards printed with my artwork on them. They turned out so nice that I decided I needed to get back to writing notes. I wrote to Joyce.
Yesterday came the call from Colorado Springs, CO. The connection was bad. I could not understand who was calling. I asked her to call me back on the landline. By the time the caller finally heard all ten numbers the line had cleared. It was Kathi.
Kathi is Joyce’s daughter. She told me her mom had died in September 2015. I tried not to cry, but I cried a little.
Kathi and I had a good visit. She is a painter, too. I think someday our paths will cross. I hope so. Heck, out of 400+ people in a line I met her Aunt Sylvia and the next year I met her mom in a NYC bathroom. Meeting Kathi would be the least strange connection!
Joyce became sick in July and died of cancer in September. Kathi told me that her mom made the most of the time she had left after the diagnosis. Joyce made the most of her time before the diagnosis, too. Her last months were filled with family and friends. Her youngest grandchild heard Joyce give a talk about her vision. (I wonder if this was the grandchild that she was buying the books for when we ran into her in the Strand. (We crossed paths in the Strand two different years. If you are not familiar with the Strand, it would behoove you to look it up.)
Joyce sang in her church choir for decades. Kathi shared that 70 members of the choir came to the house to sing with and for Joyce. They left and she died a half hour later with her family close. It was a good end.
Tears welled up sporadically yesterday afternoon and evening. Joyce and I were separated by generation and distance, but she was dear to my heart. This morning snippets of that last conversation are coming to mind. Seems like she was telling me about new music the choir was preparing for the 2014 Christmas season.
Write letters. Don’t wait. Surround yourself with family, friends, and people who sing songs.
Do what you are called to do. (Calling and job do not have to be the same to be happy.)
Buy children’s books. Go to banquets. Share cabs. And talk to strangers standing with you in long lines.