speeding toward the top

1966 Phil, Pencil

"Watched the sun go down outside this evening.

Looked like a mountain range with brilliant yellow light rimming the top edges. It was only clouds in the distance.

Wheeled the chair to the middle of the parking lot where the solid cinder block wall is punctuated by a sturdy metal grating about 10' high. Looks out on a grove of citrus trees overgrown with wild flowers." Feb 12, 1994

Beyond anything else that I saw in the home - watching couples in their eighties fall over each other; fights over a man and lovemaking by open windows; that has to be the most surprising. I guess I expected more decorum. Maybe it was just that I did not feel comfortable with my own sexuality - or recent lack thereof.

Whenever therapists, friends or doctors would encourage me to reach out in that direction; my immediate response would be "Why?"

Ecstatic memories were better than the idea of lying immobile with someone! That did not entice me one iota.

Five days a week I'd go to out patient rehabilitation. HealthSouth left a lot to be desired. More negatives than positives by 90%. Most of the workers handed me negative feedback about my future mobility. They had yet to learn that the mind is a powerful tool, especially mixed with faith in the divine spirit.

Although it was a 3 hour ride; Bill would pick me up at Camelot and take me out for a leisurely dinner. The rides along the Intercostals were uplifting in themselves; I'd forget my disability while riding in the car.

Daughter and friends were another boost to my morale. They dressed me in heels and slinky pants for New Year's Eve. Funny sight trying to stand in heels. I had worn 5" heels up to that fatal day; my bedroom's closet floor and door had been filled with pairs and pairs of them. Even sneakers bothered my feet now!

1967 Necklace and Bikini

photo by Edward Samuels




Our apartment on the second floor was quite open. The kitchen was the first room to the right of the narrow wooden stairs. It had one of those large double basin ceramic sinks with legs along the left wall, a small stove, washing machine and refrigerator between the windows at the back of the building.

Across on the opposite wall, a built in floor-to-ceiling china closet that I stripped to its pine purity. It was  filled with our antique collection of colored glass dishes, cups and glasses. We began a Mac Donald's collection also.

The wall above the sink was a disaster so we periodically adhered broken crockery, beads and ceramics to the wall in similar fashion to Gaudi. It was grouted and cemented forever. At least as long as the wall was standing.

I hated the linoleum flooring; all that we could afford. At least it was new and clean. Ceilings were tin and difficult to paint (white). We had a metal topped table with matching chairs and lots of plants. The perfunctory gas heater stood in front of the covered up fireplace. An exhaust pipe led from one to the other. 

Dylan's first bedroom was small; next to the kitchen just enough room for a bed, chest of drawers and toy shelf.

Our bedroom to the right was part of the living room. The brass bed against the back wall facing the front with its two floor to ceiling windows. Cold came off the water to such a degree that we covered them with plastic sheeting. Another space heater, an antique china closet bought in Savannah and our art nouveau couch. My parents had it recovered in maroon naugahyde as a gift.

To the right of the windows - a large bathroom with clawed tub, washbasin and toilet. The third front window matched the other two in size and exposure. The Battery Tunnel was right below; hardly private. Obviously pre-bathroom era situation. Eventually I came up with a solution, Bathroom Window (1967) allowed light to come in and privacy from the street beneath us.

Gaslight fixtures still hung on the walls. The bathroom had a painted floor. Stripped an old pine medicine chest (came with the building), added plastic shelves and a mirror. Nice.

Formerly a storefront; the entire first floor became two studios. Mine was at the back - an extension without any floor above it. A very broken skylight, toilet, and a window with a large exhaust fan looked out to the empty yard next door behind the Italian men's club.

At last I was able to cast the resins and cut the sheets with more professionalism. Swimmer (1966) is still figurative with a new twist. A light bulb at the bottom gave the translucent lady a slight glow.swimmer.jpg (12962 bytes)

Energy was at an all time high. It had to be. Eddie gave me instructions in casting and how toe's on basic shop tools. (My dad had also taught me many skills as a young girl.) 

Our bedroom/living area wall was covered in circular plaster relief's of full sized female and male genitalia. Most friends were artists; others including family members were aghast to put it mildly. I wasn't happy about their in-your-face representations, particularly around young children...especially unhappy when the mailman asked me WHAT (brown paper wrapped) were the books he handed to me PERSONALLY. Evergreen Press. Now the whole neighborhood would be wondering. Put an end to this highly visible erotica.

Up till now my only art sales were for commissioned portraits and those watercolor landscapes of old Savannah. Exhibiting and selling are not necessarily synonymous. This piece, The King and His Baubles (1966) was sold ($200) to an art collector in Connecticut. the king and his baubles.jpg (17438 bytes) It had two small towers with lights in them to add reflections to the situation. Eddie, Michelle and I were the models.

Most of my time was spent using shop tools cutting, sanding and polishing. It was perfect work for a mother and wife. When I stopped for chores and family affairs it was clear when I returned what the next steps would be. Painting requires a consistency of focus.

A Head Start opened in Brooklyn Heights for low income working mothers. They said I didn't qualify because I did not have a regular job. I wrote the mayor. Dylan was admitted shortly thereafter. I made friends with other mothers and once again our circle widened. Lenore Skoble (teacher) and Barbara Grizutti-Harrison were the closest to me.

The group (mothers included) were asked to critique a children's show. We checked our responses on a couple of sheets of paper; in general highly positive. Sesame Street became an historical TV icon.

By this time it became necessary to buy a car. I found a 1949 green Packard. Wood faux panels, tiny rear window and velvet interior. Depending on my mood it was either the green turtle or tank! Next to find a mechanic who knew how to fix any problems that would (and did) arise. Under the highway in a dark garage in Red Hook there existed such a fellow. He also thought I was slightly insane and tried to get me to race his cars out East (Long Island). Eddie didn't drive, didn't want to and since he went to work it was up to me to keep the house and car "humming."

Hanging out at the garage while waiting for repairs became an exercise in stillness and clarity. It appeared that I was the only woman that waited there. Most men, therefore, just thought I was free for the asking. They had never met a female (or even a male) artist. Why else would I be in such surroundings?

Despite my bravado (I kept my maiden name) there was an insidious creeping insecurity 22 . Was it marriage, motherhood, lack of financial independence? All three.

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