Left to Right: Dr. Gary Geier, Eva Newberry, me, Emily Newberry
For decades now I have been living the romantic version of the isolated artist’s life: too passionate to be a sell out, smart enough to own every second of my time, and calculated enough to always have a functioning art studio. The big winners from this have been the artworks–they are just what they need to be. The negative has been that I have blocked out friends, family, events, and issues that appear to have no resolutions.
The art has been going very well. I am continuously extending my boundaries, trying new emotions, playing with imagination, and always refining. The threat of homelessness has been greatly reduced, and I have been experiencing a gentle open space. All of a sudden I saw that there were these wonderful people watching me from the wings applauding.
I have been living in a private mental space for over 5 decades and I really love it. Perhaps not incorrectly, opening it up could upset my equilibrium. It is frightening to redesign the program that has been successful for so long. Though it might sound that I am closed off, I love a lot of things and I am curious how they came about to touch me so deeply: a conductor discussing how Beethoven sandwiched the music, pressing it together to create momentum; a friend/teacher showing me how to communicate through another medium other than painting; and taking an abundance of time to be thoughtful.
Last month an opportunity to visit Australia surfaced that would be an opportunity to visit my niece whom I have never met. Instead of the red lights cutting off the trip, this time I felt genuinely excited to visit a new country and get to know my niece.
The elephant in the room was my deceased brother, her father, a brilliant person with streaks of badness that cut him off from everyone. Apparently he was the source of the expression “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” And it was due to him that up to now it was easier to leave out everything about that side of the family.
Nevertheless I traveled to Sydney and took the shuttle to a coastal town where I found a modest home with an American flag flying underneath an Australian one! There I was warmly greeted by my niece, Emily, and her mom, Evi. Emily is a young adult, with an explosion of kinky hair, a dancer, and meaningfully employed. I only had one requirement–to have a few hours to paint pastel outdoors. The next day Emily took me to a couple of eucalyptus covered hills overlooking their Pacific Ocean. One thing I noticed was the color of Australian sand was different from anything I knew from Greece to California, the color is intense peachy-ochre. Over the days I spent with Emily I found lots of surprises. She thought uncannily like my older sister Janet with an exceptional kind of precision. And another shock is how kind Emily is. She has been a dancer since a child with lots of videos of performances of ballet on toe, jazz, etc. I was making comparative comments like something she did well that another dancer didn’t, and she would always reply with the values the other dancers brought to the dance. Very heartwarming.
An unexpected thing that occurred was Emily’s mom Evi always conveyed the love she felt for my brother. This was someone I had blocked out of my life forever. It didn’t change that he was always someone to be wary of, but it was like a miracle that he had the ability to inspire love and bring into being such a lovely person as Emily.
I took a chance to spend time in what might have been an uncomfortable situation, challenging my cherished isolationist artist’s image, but I am so glad I did, and I hope they are as well.