Last Friday would’ve been my mother’s 85th birthday. Five years ago she died after living with Alzheimer’s for at least ten years, the last 4 being the most difficult. As the executor of her will I made certain that my brother and I plus a few other step-siblings received their intended inheritance. The majority of mine was used to build an art studio and I have enjoyed it for nearly four years now. Then, last year I opened Gingko Leaf Gallery, an art gallery downtown Marshall, TX where I represent about 40 east Texas area artists including my mother’s work. She taught art and was a freelance artist all my life. Her paintings were sold and/or given to hundreds of individuals over the years and though we all chose paintings by which to remember her, no one’s home could’ve held all she had created. After heartfelt deliberation my brother and I concluded it was time to allow her remaining work to travel its own journey so several were offered for sale in my gallery.
I was always amazed by my mother’s talent. She had a Divine spark that showed in her work as subjects and themes were always inspired. Knowing the back stories to much of her work was an added bonus. As admirers commented on their favorites it was nice to share a little about her growing up in Marshall and her lifetime of teaching art. I’ve had the thrill of seeing a few of her pieces touch a customer’s heart and then leave with them. I felt she’d be happy knowing her work was still bringing joy.
Last summer I used a small portion of my remaining inheritance to sponsor a “legacy award” at a local art competition. The winner was chosen without my influence and I was happy to hear that our local high school art teacher was the recipient because teaching art was a passion of my mother. A former student of hers for over twenty years also recently came to visit and brought me a piece of Mom’s artwork she’d bought and though it belonged to her she felt I’d like to have it. I ended up giving her a different one to take home because any teacher who’d influenced a student to carry on the legacy deserved to still have a piece of her teacher’s work. We were both thrilled.
My mother’s generosity, legacy, and influence still carry on five years after her death and if I am able, will continue into the future through her work that will gradually be passed on to future generations, float from one home or venue to another, and even wind up in some estate sale decades from now where no one knows the artist, but knows the work was created by one who truly had the spark of creativity and shared it with abandon. That is also a legacy I want to pass on…the giving…the sharing….the telling….the making of art that will bring a moment of respite, a place for eyes to rest and get lost in the color, line and story. I hear her voice behind me saying “Look at that gnarly tree, the way the light hits it on the right-hand side, the way it contrasts with the sky” and I wonder if her ideas are being shared with The Creator as they paint a morning or evening sky together, a scene that inspires the next artist standing before the red, purple and turquoise sky to lift the brush, camera lens, or pastel and once again carry the torch. I just wonder.
Claudia Lowery, daughter of Barbara Casey Barlow Carpenter
April 19, 2016