I did a watercolor study for this oil on paper piece several weeks ago, but I hadn't had time to get to the actual painting what with Christmas shows, commissions, and the trip to Washington. It feels great to paint again. I drew this out two nights ago and started painting yesterday morning. It's close to done. I'll look at it again with fresh eyes in the morning.
This is the fourth in my series of "woman alone in a large world" series of paintings. The series started in Paris with me sitting on a couch, dwarfed by the enormous two story window behind me filled with night sky and stars. I've been examining my life lately, thinking about direction and how to live to be happy and make the most of my time. Self examination tends toward the literal for me. It is almost always accompanied by self portraits.
I've intended these to be something of a valentine for others also living singly. This is perhaps the most alone feeling, without dog or stars or banjo, but I included one of my favorite paintings I've done, one that was in the Dixon show last year, to be a window out into the wider world and also to have my abiding vocation present in the piece. Every time I do one of these, I hear from someone who is touched and sees him or herself in this place as well, so it's a kind of "solidarity" moment for me to reach out to others. Society gives us romantic couples as the only possible, successful way to live, and that's a lovely thing. But I have also found great freedom and creativity in living alone, as well as periodic lonely days, and I love the independence to pursue my art full tilt. I think it's good to offer different visions of acceptable ways to live, even if there is also great joy in finding a partner. Alice Steinbach (Without Reservations), who wrote a middle aged version of Eat, Pray, Love ten years before Gilbert's book came out, said that given demographics, all women should learn to live alone. That is so very true. My grandmother married at 30, which was quite old for her era, was happily married for 50+ years, and still had another 20 years on her own after my grandfather died, because she lived to 104.
Here are a couple of the earlier pieces in the series. I think my spring show at WKNO will be self portraits, interpreted somewhat loosely. They seem to be where my head is at the moment.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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