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"Did you paint this?"

 The week of Thanksgiving 2007, with a new space for TDS near completion and all chaotic, the call was out for art for our Opening Show in January.
I considered which drawing to enter.
My recent paintings were small efforts, chips against a two-decade Painting Block, through 2 years of steady painting lessons.  An email arrived, from an unknown woman on Long Island, in search of the artist of a painting she owned. Its signature matched mine, with 1975, the year I finished art school. She sent a photo of the painting, which I loved at first sight, but had no memory of ever painting it.  I was so certain that I had not, that I sadly wrote back to her, “I didn’t paint this. I wish I had.”

 How could I forget doing an oil painting 36” x 24”? But I visited Long Island... So by conjecture, with help from my NY sister, I soon fit a missing piece back into my personal history: My first plane ticket commission! My roommate from college persuaded her parents to fly me to Long Island to paint her portrait. Artist friends gave me a send-off party, I remember that. The painting I did, maybe in an afternoon or two, quick and loose, was more figure study than conventional portrait, and was most likely a big disappointment to my roommate and her parents, as they did not keep the picture for very long in their family. And I put it out of my mind.

It was a revelation to realize that this was my work, forgotten rather quickly through a sense of failure I was unable to process at the time. Now, I am told, it is treasured, hanging in a place of honor. I saw how from that time on, painting had become more difficult for me, ever more labored and tight. Thus I had returned to the safer space of drawing, and pursued a focus on drawing in color.

  The next week I stretched a canvas 30” x 24” and began a new painting for the Opening Show – because now I knew I could. A barrier had fallen, and it was revolutionary for me to remember how painting large felt more natural than painting small, and how even when I thought I didn’t know what I was doing, I went ahead, and the painting led the way.

  Finished inside of four weeks, and ready in good time for the January ’08 show, "Waiting in the Wings" would not have happened, could not have taken the form that it did, save for the sense of freedom and confidence I had newly reclaimed from one forgotten non-portrait of 1975.

Rebecca Olson

See "Waiting in the Wings"

Oil on canvas
36" x 24"

Long Island, NY
June, 1975

Private Collection

Forgotten and Rediscovered
See story at right >