My entire life I felt like the ugly duckling… it probably began in Ecuador as I started hitting growth spurts much faster than my peers and as suck entered an awkward faze much earlier than my fellow classmates… that and my brown hair, freckles and pale skin were not like the warm coffee tones of my Latin classmates and the towheaded that made up of my Germanic classmates. I was somewhere in the middle, and the middle is not a fun place when you are growing up in a culture where women are more objects.
So it was as a huge [insert F expletive here] surprise when I was 17 and I was asked to pose for a series of photographs.
My aunt, Anne Coe, was dating and had been living with a fellow artist, Bill Schenck. I had just finished a stint of living with them as a means to escape the big city high school and be a part of a smaller community. I loved that experience on so many levels. On one side, I got to get closer to my aunt who I don’t recall being completely horrified by my raging hormones and lack of any semblance to being a normal human (what teen is though?). She showed a maternal streak for me that can still evoke a choked up feeling when I recall some of her gestures. Her boyfriend was a wild man and taught me many things. Billy had a love for old movies and I was tasked with cataloging his shockingly large collection of VHS tapes (probably to keep me out of his hair). I also had a rather intense conversation with him about life, music and other stuff one night on a long drive from Phoenix to their place in Apache Junction, it was a conversation that profoundly altered my world view. As I was wrapping up my stint with them, having managed to survive the experience, still somewhat in their good graces, he asked me to go on a photo shoot and pose for some photographs. I was skeptical, and asked my aunt what it was about. She said that he thought I had a great Native American touch to my profile, and a wonderfully Indian nose. So, I thanked my Cherokee and Delaware ancestors and told him that I would and we went up on a nearby hilltop, and he wrapped me and some other folks in blankets and had us pose with some amazing pottery. And it took all afternoon, and it was hot and boring. But, hey, it was an experience.
Up until maybe 15 years ago the whole thing had come up only twice. The first time was maybe a month after the photo shoot and my aunt found out he hadn’t paid me for the time. She was pretty livid about it and got him to give me a check for $35. Hey, I was 17 and $35 was good weekend money.
The second was when I was told that Leaning Tree had used one of the paintings for a greeting card.
Then we fast forward to just around the time I met my husband and we were planning to get married (considering that I met him in February and married him in June of the same year it was not a big gap in time) I went on a road trip with my mom and aunt from Missouri to Arizona. We stopped and stayed with Billy for a few days at his fabulous ranch in Santa Fe, It was here that I learned that those photographs had actually been turned in to paintings and even a series of photographs.
So, shortly after we returned Billy had an opening and I finally got to see them up close and personal like. It was for his photographs but totally out of my price range. Then Billy had another opening, a retrospective, and I walked in and there I was huge as life against a wall! I had never seen the paintings in person before. I was blown away. I think I was for sale for a magnificently hefty sum.
I was stunned. After growing up and visiting museums all over the world, I was immortalized in paint. Which meant that I had to be more than the ugly duckling I perceived my self to be.
|The painting of me that is my favorite|
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
~ Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray