01 January 2012


My mom, Bernice Spencer Wilmeth, died on April 15, 2010, and my dad, Joe Crawford Wilmeth, followed her on April 10 of 2011. I am an only child, but I have a cousin who has been close family all my life. For the past seven months, my cousin Carol Sue and I worked every other weekend to clean out their house. It was quite a task, because my mom loved clothes, antiques, china and glassware (not to mention her hobbies of sewing, painting, quilting, flower arranging, bargello...), while my dad had been in the Air Force for 25 years, and then a builder for 35 years, and neither of them ever got rid of anything.

Carol Sue said to me at one point that she could probably have gotten through everything in the house in two or three weeks on her own, but that she was afraid she would get rid of something that she didn't see the value of but that I might want. This picture is proof of that.

This is a very kitschy camel teapot, ceramic with a bamboo handle, that sat on top of my parents' refrigerator; CS would have relegated it to the garage sale pile, and was astounded when I said "I want that!" and packed it to go home with me. I didn't really understand myself why I wanted it; it's not big enough to make a satisfactory pot of tea, and it doesn't "go" with anything in my house. But when I got home and unpacked the box of kitchen things, I took it out, washed it, and placed it on top of my own refrigerator, and it was as if something loosened inside my chest. I realized that the camel sitting there somehow signaled to me that this was home, and even though I have lived in and loved my house for 30 years, the camel tied it to all the homes I had shared with my family, because it sat in that spot in every one. So, I decided to paint it today, to note that I am starting the new year without my parents, but that symbols and memories connect us forever.

Here is a photo of the camel in its spot; the B&W xerox is of my parents and me when I was in grade school, posing for the church directory.

One observation of a technical nature: Has anyone besides me noticed how difficult it is to make a good painting of someone else's art? It's easy to draw something functional--a mug, a coffee pot--or something natural--a tree, a flower--and make it into art, but drawing something that was someone else's creation--like this camel, which is a shape sculpted by someone and then painted with his or her own particular concept in mind--feels unnatural or derivative, and somehow never turns out feeling like your own art.

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