When we put together a list of things we want to experience in our lives before we die, there is one thing that is often included. Many people long for a portrait of themselves – painted with something long-lasting and memorable – oils, watercolors or pastels. There is something timeless and regal about owning a painting of yourself. A beautiful image surrounded by a gilded frame. It speaks to legacy and substance.
Having your portrait done is not an opportunity that comes along often. Unless you commission the piece or are asked by a budding Michaelangelo to pose as their next Mona Lisa. I am very fortunate to have a portrait that I absolutely treasure. Part of its charm and mystery is how it came into existence. It is one of those items that has escaped every downsizing initiative!
Patience Fremantle was the mother of a good friend of mine in Boulder, Colorado. Francesca was my Sanskrit teacher at the University of Colorado as my obsession with India was taking shape. After studying Indian philosophy and culture for 3 years, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to go check it out in person.
So, I packed my backpack and with $800 in my wallet made my way to Delhi. Francesca suggested I stay with her mother Patience for a few days on the way. I did and she changed my life.
I loved her quiet elegance and was overwhelmed by the spectacular pieces of her own art that covered the walls in her Earl’s Court flat. I had never owned a piece of art, never met an artist. I had a lot to learn.
The trip to India was crazy wild, and 3 months later I arrived back in London in a rather sad state. It had been an incredible journey but I had picked up a stomach bug. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by 3 months on the road. Patience took me in, and I stayed with her for a few months. She took it upon herself to ‘transform’ me, and help me heal.
We went shopping. I remember her buying me a green skirt and pink jacket, she took me to Vidal Sassoon, and I got a bob haircut that defined me for many years.
She taught me about grace and beauty because she embodied those qualities herself. Patience was the mother I had lost. She was also a creative soul and a talented artist. Her studio was on the top floor of her apartment, and I remember day after day sitting for my portrait. I was amazed by her ability to bring my personality to life with a palette knife and a small canvas. I looked at it closely and was in awe of what she created. I loved it.
The ironic part of this story is that she kept the painting, and I never saw it for 20 years. Then just before she died and was bedridden, I went back to visit. The coincidence was that I was wearing a peach-colored shawl, and she remembered the painting gathering dust in her studio.
We found it and I unwrapped it like a treasured jewel. It came home with me and has been carried around the world for the past 20 years. It is the only large item that I will always carry with me because it represents a beautiful artist and a time in my life that was just spectacularly unique.
Other than my personal portrait, however, I’ve had to let a lot of other original art go in my downsizing efforts. It is another thing that up until my 60th birthday, I carried around the world with me. Then it was time to let them go.
Art has such an emotional connection because I do love to support the creatives who bring their vision and dreams to life, both famous and undiscovered. Quite honestly, it just brings me joy to be surrounded by their work.
In college, I collected posters which were somehow easy to recycle. Modigliani was my favorite and since I could totally relate to his austere yet sensuous and bohemian lifestyle, I was surrounded by his slinky women. Then when I lived in big four-bedroom houses there were walls crying out for color, and I had the money, time and desire to acquiesce.
Then, as I downsized and moved into a small studio, the huge packages of carefully wrapped art just followed me around from storage unit to storage unit. So, one day, I made the decision and let most of my original art go.
Once I decided to let everything in storage go I wanted to find good homes for them where they would be loved. So, I donated a lot to Poncho, a charity in Seattle that auctioned art for good causes. The Salvation Army also received a few pieces. My antique maps of India were rolled up and after many tears, I gave them to friends. Tied in ribbons, it was like giving away part of my heart.
I kept a few pieces. One was by Mary Ann Rock. I love her faces and the depth and mystery of the women she creates. It’s a small piece and it will fit in a suitcase. Another is a tiny piece by Anne Martin McCool. I love her colors, the rust, turquoise, and gold. The magic of her art is the depth of her colors and the archaic images she pulls from deep symbols – the cups, light, serenity. It is still on a shelf in my house today.
Downsizing is not for the faint-hearted. Art for me was like having beloved pets. They came into my life when I needed them. They left when I understood that their real power was in the memory of the time and place they entered and the days they watched from the walls as my life unfolded.
Need further encouragement? Read HOW LETTING GO OF MY CAKE CUTTER DEMONSTRATES THE EMOTIONAL COMPLEXITY OF DOWNSIZING!
Do you have an art collection that you are trying to downsize? How’s it going? What are your plans for it? Will you be keeping one or more special pieces? Why are you fond of them?
Tags Downsizing Your Life