I was looking at this painting in the studio yesterday. It’s another orphan, one of those pieces that went out into the world and came back without being able to find a home. I normally try to figure out if there is an apparent flaw in these orphans and often there is something that is just not right. But sometimes I notice that these pieces are often pieces that I see as being more personal, more connected with my own life’s narrative. This painting, called No Mail, falls into this category. It evokes a certain time and feeling so vivid in my memory that it immediately emerges for me when I look at this painting.
I went back in the archives for the blog and found what I had written about this piece several years back. I’d like to share it just to show the connections that some paintings make even though they may not reach out to everyone.
This is a piece that’s been bouncing around my studio for a month or so, one that I call No Mail. It’s a smallish painting on paper, measuring about 8″ by 14″. I haven’t decided whether I will show this one or simply hold on to it. It’s a matter of whether I believe others will see anything in it rather than me wanting to keep it for myself. Maybe it’s that I see a very personal meaning in the piece that is reflected in the title and I can’t decide if it will translate to others.
For me, this painting reminds me of my childhood and the house I consider my childhood home, an old farmhouse that sat by itself with no neighbors in sight. Specifically, this painting reminds me of exact memories I have of trudging to the mailbox as an 8 or 9 year-old in the hot summer sun. There’s a certain dry dustiness from the driveway and the heat is just building in the late morning. It was a lazy time for a child in the country. Late July and many weeks to go before school resumes. The excitement of school ending has faded and the child finds himself spending his days trying to find ways to not be bored into submission.
The trip to the mail box is always a highlight of the day, filled with the possibility that there might be something in it for me. Something that is addressed only to and for me, a validation that I exist in the outside world and am not stranded on this dry summer island. Usually, the tinge of excitement fades quickly as I open the old metal mailbox and find nothing there for me. But occasionally there is something different, so much so that I recognize it without even seeing the name on the label or envelope.
It’s mine, for me, directed to me. Perhaps it’s my Boy’s Life or the Summer Weekly Reader. I would spend the day then reading them from front to back , reading the stories and checking out the ads in Boy’s Life for new Schwinn bikes. Oh, those days were so good. The smell of the newly printed pages mingling with the heat and dust of the day to create a cocktail whose aroma I can still recall.
But most days, it was nothing. Just the normal family things– bills, advertisements and magazines. Or nothing at all. The short walk back to the house seemed duller and hotter on those days.
That’s what I see in this piece, even though it doesn’t depict everything I’ve described in any detail. There’s a mood in it that vividly recalls those feelings from an 8 or 9 year-old, one of eager anticipation and one of disappointment.
Childhood days with no mail.