March 27, 2004

My mother the alien

Filed under: Art and About Family — admin @ 2:43 pm

I’ve heard about it happening to other mothers, but I never thought it would happen to mine. Women who have raised their children, thrown off the shackles of PTA propriety and started getting tattoos and buying Harleys, or donning bikinis and sipping mai tais on foreign beaches. When the aliens abducted my mom, they left us with a woman who makes art purchases.

My mom never seemed to respond to visual art all that much. Ballet, classical music, colorful quilts and John Denver appealed to her aesthetic. The art on the walls of my childhood home can be easily grouped into four categories — family photos, mosaics made by my paternal grandfather, Asian artwork picked up by my dad during his military days stationed in the Orient, and an eclectic catch-all category of art given to us. My aunt and uncle were artsy types and my aunt even custom batiked some work for my parents. But we didn’t have much emotional attachment to any of the pieces. When I helped my mom pack up the house after 30 years, we gave away most of the artwork without qualm. None of us had any personal investment in any of it, with the exception of grandpa’s mosaics, and we even edited those pretty severely.

Then one day last year, Mom announced that she was purchasing a piece of art by Sausalito artist Jeff Leedy as a birthday gift for my step-dad, Gene. Gene is a wine lover, and apparently responded to a humorous piece entitled, “Now This Wine Has Legs,” spoofing the wine taster’s adage. Since Gene is the quintessential man who has everything, Mom decided this would be a perfect gift.

My mom had several conversations with the artist discussing the various media he worked in, and the variants on the piece mom was purchasing. They talked about his work and his career. Jeff was obviously excited that mom was excited about his work, and they arranged a time to pick up the art at his Sausalito gallery.

The date of the artistic rendezvous was a family event. We made a day of it, strolling Bayside, commenting on the sunlight shimmering off the water, eating a seafood lunch, and perusing Jeff’s gallery. At the end of the day, we took our new baby home, where mom wrapped it and presented it at the birthday dinner. It is now distinctively displayed in the family room next to the thematically appropriate bar, and I’ve watched as guests stroll by and respond to the humor. It is definitely a conversation piece.

The decision to purchase the art made me suspicious of other-worldly foul play, but that was not evidence enough to verify that my real mother must be on a starship speeding out of the galaxy. The confirmation came upon learning that Mr. Leedy’s art has a bit of a price tag attached to it. My old mom bought from the sale rack at T.J. Maxx. We all had to go down to the potato cellar on the days she learned that something for which she had paid full was recently marked down. The body walking around calling itself “Mom” is definitely an imposter.

Perhaps most astounding to me was a recent admission by my so-called mom that the artwork she and Gene are buying on their travels actually touches her life on a daily basis. They have it custom framed, hang it in prominent places and Mom says she relives the trips, smiles at the memories and gets an all-around warm fuzzy feeling. She says she responds to it much more than the photographs they take. Gene is accustomed to this connection with art, but I have never heard my mom talk this way. She has opened up the lines of communication with art, and it has enriched her life.

So you can clearly see, my mom has lost her mind. And I hope she never finds it.

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