My Aunt Joy gave me my first piece of art--a needlepoint abstract tree she created. When I told her I really liked it, she took it off her wall and handed it to me. I also have a painting Joy did of me when I was two or three. It's dark and moody and sometimes creeps people out, but I have always loved it and it's right over there as I type this. My grandmother, Tweet, was Joy's sister and pretty much every time someone comes in to my studio and sits on the chair next to me, they comment on the abstract, modern-art, needlepoint cushions she hand-made. Their youngest sister, my Aunt Pat, was a sculptor/painter/visionary who combined her interest in native American art and found-objects into the most beautiful sculptures and paintings most of the world never saw. Their sister, Pookie was the first person who ever bought any of my drawings and she covered her apartment in them--framed them and put them up right next to the Picasso print and the paintings she had picked up in galleries along her way.
I've got a sculpture by my cousin Peter in the window of my studio and a drawn Christmas card from cousin Amy up over there too. My cousin Steve recently told me he's returning to making his sculptures that are so large and intricately built, they're practically architectural. My great-uncle Norm wrote a Broadway play that played for a week.
On my father's side, my great-great uncle was an abstract painter and sculptor--a contemporary of Picasso--who was so ahead of his time that he's only now getting his due. One of his sculptures--it's in a museum somewhere now--used to be a doorstop at my Aunt Rose's house when I was growing up. My dad is an acting teacher and a director and my step-mother is an art-historian whose research on quattrocento renaissance frescoes had my brothers and me shuffling our feet in Florentine churches and museums when most kids are out playing baseball or something.
All of which is to say when I tell people I don't have any formal art training, that's strictly-speaking true, but far from reality. I was raised in a split family obsessed with artistic expression on both sides of the aisle.
My little cousin Halle came down with a serious case of flu the other week. She got so sick she took it upon herself to tell her doctor that she needed to go to the hospital. I don't know all the details, but I know that by the time she got to the hospital her lungs were so full of fluids, she had to be intubated and essentially placed in a medical coma for a couple of scary days.
She's been recovering this week at home and, from what I understand, there have been ups and downs in a general recovery trajectory that we have all followed closely via Facebook and texts and phone calls. Yesterday her grandmother wrote me to say that Halle had had a dream of a green zebra while she had been knocked out and was wondering if I would draw it for her.
So, here's your zebra, cuz. You're from a blood-line of people who work hard and dream their way through life. I hope you feel better soon . . .