Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's in Your Closet?

I’m afraid I come from a long line of closet artists. As if this wasn’t already clear to me, my mother spent the Thanksgiving holiday showing off her latest creation: the inside of a spare bedroom closet. Yes, a closet. Where she has painted and hung stuff but not clothes or at least not real clothes.

Virginia was really jokey about the whole thing. Kept calling it “Scrap-Closeting” instead of “Scrapbooking.” Inside there were two little velvet lederhosen that my 3 brothers, 5 nephews and three sons all wore when they were 1 to 3 years old, depending on their individual girth. There was Great Grandma Murphy’s christening gown, all white and frilly, one of my ceramic bats that had been broken and cleverly mended, the fabulous Peter Max ties that my father sported during the 70’s, the pink and blue beaded “Farris” baby bracelets we wore in the hospital when we were born, (much nicer than the plastic bands my kids got) an old needlepoint pillowcase inside an old oval frame. There was another empty frame, a children’s chair, painted with birds and flowers patterns, a few other odds and ends, the shadowy outlines of shadows.

My mother’s closet was lovely, sort of a cross between a window dressing and a walk down memory lane. She says she decorated the closet because my sister Andrea (who has a gift for d├ęcor and has become the defacto interior designer of all of our homes) won’t let her clutter up the rest of her house. This is true. Andrea is really strict about “editing.” But still. A closet?

This leads me to my sister Andrea. She has spent years making her home the most beautiful place ever, in a way that I never could. For example, she is willing to purchase and place three or four area rugs in her family room before she chooses just the right one. Same with drapes and sofas, throw pillows, lamps, where as I chose one accessory and live with it, even if it’s not quite what I had in mind. That’s why Andrea’s house looks so lovely and mine just looks okay.

This past year, two things have happened that have curtailed Andrea’s decorating juices. 1. She has lived in her current house for nearly 12 years so it’s basically done and redone. 2. Her husband bought a boat. Do I even need to explain where the decorating funds have gone?

More to the point: Where has all that creative energy gone?

Much to my delight, my sister has started making art. When we were up North, she spent hours and days arranging beautiful rocks and beach grass on the sand and taking these wonderful Andy-Goldsworthy-esque photographs. She printed them on thick, textured watercolor paper. They are truly exquisite. But instead of putting them in a frame on a wall, Andrea found a beautiful box and stuck them inside, hidden away, where you have to really dig to see it. Because she, like my mom, is a closet artist.

All around me I see in people this need to create. Especially my own relatives. I love this. I am profoundly moved by it. I have a sister who ran a restaurant that elevated dinner to an artful dining, one brother who is a part-time musician, another one who is a design-and-build builder who creates the most amazing spaces to live in. And the third, a guy who you wouldn’t suspect was an artist at all just showed me pictures of his new condo where he had artfully stacked dozens of old cigar boxes along a wall a-la Louise Nevelson. It’s deep in our bones, wired in our DNA, this need to make something beautiful and worthy. Some little bit of art to look at. To listen to. To feel. To engage our minds, all of our senses. I love it. I celebrate it. But I really wish they would step out into the light.


  1. Thanks for the revelation about your family...I just "came out of the closet" with my stained glass...made dozens of windows for friends and family and just gave it away...lo and behold someone saw one of them and suggested I talked with new gallery I loaded up a window and shyly showed her my I have three windows front and center of the gallery...who knew stepping into the light would be so gratifying.

  2. Wow, that's a great story! Thanks for sharing (both the tale AND all of your art!)