“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” I don’t remember who said it, but it certainly seems true to me.
The whole month of March I suffered through four very painful surgical procedures, which kept me at home in bed into April. On this one particularly dark winter day, I was flat on my back indulging in a full-blown pity party, complete with tears and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
When the phone rang I managed to croak a fairly normal hello without the interruption of sobs.
“Hello from the Hill Country of Texas,” he announced heartily in his deep voice. “How’s my favorite artist? Are you up for another commission?”
I immediately perked up.
“Now money is no object,” he insisted. I thought about the paintings they already had on their walls in that house on the hill overlooking miles of ranch land below. A commission would be easy, since I know their style already, and what they like.
He went on. “I’m building an outdoor summer kitchen, complete with stuccoed walls, big pillars (so Texas!), a built-in hearth, gas grill, tile floor and imported tile countertops. Big enough to host a hungry crowd of Texans.”
“Wow,” I replied. “I guess you want a beautiful scene of your area, complete with live oaks and blue bonnets? Maybe an Arabian stallion or two?”
He chuckled. “Well, you know that huge crocodile you painted several years ago? I was really ticked when someone else upped and bought it.”
I remember that crocodile well. It was for a family with boys and was titled “Why Gloria Sanchez regrets going hiking in the Bayou.” The crock lies on his back, his huge, bloated belly in the air, and a tiny purple cowboy hat perches on his head. Gloria’s little hiking shoes lay beside him, as her little Sliver cell phone dangles from his tail. Rubbing his enormous green-scaled belly, he flashes a crooked grin.
My heart sinks as he goes on. “I’m thinking humorous, but painted very lifelike. And I’d like it to be a giant wild hog cooking in his kitchen, with two Texas turkey vultures sitting at his bar with wine goblets. Eyelashes, the works.”
All that money my folks spent sending me to art schools to study classical art. I don’t have time for frivolous commissions. I’m a serious artist. Here I am about to start illustrating another book for the Honduran high schools, a project near and dear to my heart. I speak to groups on hope for recovery from brain injury and PTSD, using my art to talk about the different stages. My work with asylum seekers has been sad and very difficult, and it’s spilled over into my art, which has become darker.
Thinking it over, I realize I’ve been much too serious this past year, and I don’t remember the last time I really laughed out loud. Maybe this commission is meant to be art therapy for me. Maybe it’s time to stop taking myself so seriously and walk the talk I spout to my recovery groups.
“Just think,” he continued. “Think of all the famous writers and politicians who’ll sip their wine while they watch me cook my steaks in my fancy outdoor kitchen. They’re gonna love your wild hog!”
I guess not everyone is destined to paint a Sistine Chapel. But to make people laugh? Maybe that’s a good thing.
jeannie hope gibson