Women In White Plaster

On Friday night we went to a reading at Gallery House, a co-op spot for artists.  (I’ll be reading there in January and was on a recognizance mission.)  The gallery is on a side street in downtown Palo Alto, a street lined with quaint little restaurants and wine bars and kitschy shops and a used bookstore.  The bookstore is, sadly and of course, going out of business.

We only stayed for the first 2 hours of the event — hard chairs and no moving air being cited — but we did hear a few fabulous readings.  Andrew Tilin led off with his new book.  As much as I didn’t think I had any interest in this topic, by the time he was finished I was sold.  It’s about doping in sports, yes.  But it’s also about trying to recapture youth in our youth-obsessed culture, and about what it means to be an aging man in today’s culture of Steroids and Viagra.  Perform perform perform.

The next 2 readers were women:  Thea Sullivan and Jacqueline Berger.  Poets.  One had published a few books and the other was, like me, published in a few good journals but with no book in hand.  Yet.  They read beautifully, and their poems were both funny and heartbreaking and real.  I could have listened to them twice as long —- and I rarely say that about a poetry reading, so you know they were particularly good.

And then there was the guest artist.  A photographer.  He set up 4 large framed photographs on easels behind him and, for the next many minutes, just about bored me to tears.  I felt for him, poor guy, having to following the brilliant raconteurs before him.  He opened with “the origin of photography” and I thought, Oh dear god, he’s only got 7 minutes to talk.  Sure enough, by the time he got to himself and his work — his beautiful work — his time had long been up.

But here’s the deal folks.  None of this mattered one whit.  I didn’t buy a single book at this reading, but guess what I did open my checkbook for?  The photographer had barely finished speaking when I leaned over to my husband and said, I have to have the photo on the far right.  I can’t explain it, but I know I have to have it.  And then I barreled my way through the crowd before anybody could beat me to it.

It’s not some grand panorama of nature.  It’s not of real people.  It’s not  fantastical in color or boldness.  It was taken in — are you ready? — a plaster factory.  Funny what grabs you.

Now this gorgeous photo graces the top of my bookshelf.  And you know what?  It looks like it belongs, like it’s always been there.

19 thoughts on “Women In White Plaster

  1. amyg

    that photo reminds me of averil. it’s haunting. (in a good way)

    there’s very few things as satisfying as find art that gets you and then getting to take it home. nice find.

    1. Teri

      Well Miss Amy, you know those 4 women are the women in my family. Great grandmother, grandmother, mother, me. We all lived together, in the same house, for big chunks of my childhood, and they’re the anchors in my book. To say I think about them all, every single day, is no exaggeration. And there we are in the photo, like permanent ghosts, all lined up.

      1. Averil Dean

        What a beautiful thought, to have that photograph to remind you of the four women. All looking up.

        The photo on my blog today reminded me of my mom and sister and I. I’m sure I don’t have to explain which one is me.

        You’re so much classier than I am, Teri.

  2. erikamarks

    I love that you dashed to the front to get that one. Of course you did. It’s captivating.There is nothing so powerful as seeing art that speaks to you, that sense of connection. Now it is in your home and you must be smiling 24/7 to see it there.

    I love too that this is where you’ll be reading. It’s like we can all imagine it a bit now, and, as Sarah said, still wish we were closer.

  3. macdougalstreetbaby

    I would have loved to have seen his face when you bought it. You definitely lit up his life with this purchase. You are so good.

    1. Teri

      He was downright giddy. I plowed through all the people to get to him, spotted the priced (reasonable), and said, “I’m buying this one. Don’t let anyone else have it. I’ll be right back.” He kind of looked around like, did that just happen? He said, “You’re lucky! I’m about to raise my prices!”

  4. Lyra

    Yay you for supporting the arts!

    (And that picture is fantastic but scares the bejeezus out of me. After Doctor Who’s “Weeping Angels” episode, I can’t look at anything like that…..)

    1. Teri

      If you’d seen the monkey bowl — yes, the giant yellow bowl with monkeys on it — that was in it’s place on my shelf before, you’d be thankful for this one. No problem.

    1. Teri

      Yes, and better yet, when I see the four women, the brightest one up front and the fading one toward the end, I wonder what order we’re in. At first, I assumed the one fading in the back was the oldest, my Great Grandmother. Right? Makes sense? But when I think of all they did, all the children they raised (25!) and me birthing zero, I might well be the one fading in the end.

      A writing prompt indeed.

  5. Laura

    I love that photo! It makes me happy to think of how flattered he must have been that you made such a beeline for it.

    Later on, if he ever has any worries about his talk being less than perfect, he will always remember you racing to claim his photo. That is what will matter to him.

  6. lizisilver

    Teri, thank you for introducing me to two new poets!

    Love that you have the picture to inspire you every day, to remind you of where you came from and where you are going (novel!). Four generations of women and of stories to tell. You cannot and will not fade because you are telling the story. (Sharon Olds: “I say/ Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.”).

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