My Fondest Farewell -
On Friday nights we would finish packing our van and spend the night with our two daughters, Anna and Maisy. At some point we would have to soothe away tears when our girls would try to convince us not to go to an art show and instead spend the weekend with them. As the pragmatist in the family, I would also have to soothe Marla, who before she began painting was a masters educated early childhood teacher and program director. I would try to remind her that our season comprised about 16 - 20 days out of every year and that her efforts were setting a beautiful example for Anna and Maisy of what strong, indepedent-minded women do to afford great joy for their families. It took some years for me to learn that pragmatic arguments hold little weight in the world of emotion and motherhood. At the end of every season, Marla would be painting relentlessly so as to put her best foot forward for each of you, her friends and patrons, but all the while would look at the last show and the last Sunday as a finish line that represented getting to spend time with our daughters and follow her true passion, being a mother.
We would wake at 4:30 on Saturdays and make our way to Barrington, Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Chicago, New York City. Setting up the booth was usually a 3-hour, fast moving, hot and sweaty, labor of love. At 10:00 AM, we were rarely 100% ready, but people did not mind. The joy that emanated from Marla's booth was palpable and passerbys began to contract uncontrollable smiles. Often the first sales of the day were before Marla knew what her prices were going to be . . . and another happy customer walked out with their small piece of Marla.
Once we were set, the small superstitious side of Marla would come into play and she believed the best way to get the "good mojo" going was to have that first glass of wine of the day - usually disguised in a travel coffee mug. Then we would sit back and watch. Over the years I witnessed thousands of folks enter her magical space and the compliments ranged from:
"This is happy art." "This just makes me smile." "You have a beautiful spirit." "Thanks for brightening my day." "You must love your life."
The compliments were all true and ran so deep through the very being of my beautiful wife. When friends invited us into their homes or asked if we were staying at a hotel that night, the response was always the same, "We need to get home to kiss our girls goodnight and wake-up with them in the morning." After the last show of a season, we would walk into our house greated by jubilant cheers from Anna and Maisy of "NO MORE ART SHOWS! NO MORE ART SHOWS!"
During the winter months when Marla would be painting away and have a five to six month stretch of not doing an art show, insecurity would overcome her and she would always ask me, "Do you think people will still like the work?" This is when I knew best how to put the pragmatist aside and tune into the emotions you all shared with Marla. I would remind her how all of you left her booth in a better mood, with a smile, and in this way she was making the world a better place for us all. I would remind her of the 600+ pieces that are in homes across the country and the world. I would remind her of all the pieces that are hanging in the bedrooms of so many children that she innately cared about so dearly, brightening their days and inspiring those same children to express their imaginations and continue to brighten our world. I tried to explain how we all felt about her, that she shined more brightly than a thousand suns.
So many of you would come into her booth, look at her art and then look at the price and say, "it is so reasonable," or "you should raise your prices." Marla would always respond the same way "I just want everyone who enjoys my art to be able to take it home," and so many of you did just that. Each of you gave my wife's life meaning and purpose that she did not know she would need when she left teaching and began painting. Thank you! When other artists that Marla enjoyed were not having a successful show, she would spend all or more than all of her profits on their work. From Tony Nozero to Eli Ali and Melvin McGee, our home is warmed by more than 15 artists that she loved and with whom she shared inspiration.
As a young girl, Marla would attend the Port Clinton Art Fair in Highland Park. She told me she would always get dressed-up to attend this show and she viewed this event as the pinnacle of success for artists. This was a belief Marla held into adulthood, even after she did a show in the art capitol of our country, New York City. She applied to Port Clinton five times. Three times she was on the waiting list and with hope in her heart, we would pack up the van only to return home later that same morning. With the kind and generous direction of Amy Amdur, the fourth year did the trick. While Marla was originally the first person on the waiting list in her category, she was notified in June that she had her spot. She ran into my office looking like she had just won the lottery. In her mind - she had arrived as an artist! This year, there was no waiting list - she was in, and she beamed that infectious smile that all too rarely exuded pride.
It was only a few weeks ago that Marla was completing a painting and I walked into her room to see her progress. She was standing back, looking at what she had just created. After a few moments of silence she looked at me, pointing at her art and said, "that is good." It took a decade for her to find that confidence. The piece she was looking at will remain in our home forever. And with that being my last memory of Marla, in her glorious world of art, I bid the love of my life adieu and proclaim proudly, "THAT WAS GOOD."