More than twenty three years ago I found four little girls sitting on the steps of Prospect Primary School in Devonshire Bermuda. They were as cocooned as four little girls could be. Three were serious thumbsuckers, need I say more? For those of you who never sucked a thumb or finger you might not know that thumbsuckers don’t talk a whole lot, for talking allows the thumb to grow cool in the air, best to keep it warm.
Twenty three years ago on a school sports day, I found them nestled together, seemingly not in need of anything more than their own company. I was annoyed when I realised that I was low on film for my camera. I had to hop in my car and go quite a distance along the North Shore Road to buy some. The whole time I was certain that I would return to find them gone, after all it was sports day and It was unusual that they were off by themselves in the first place.
I returned to find that they hadn’t moved. They had remained right there on the same step where I left them! You know they didn’t even care about me and my camera. They ignored me, they were in truth in a world of their own. I remember thinking that there was no place to hide and I didn’t have a zoom lens so I took the shot from fairly close up.
I knew I was given a gift that day. Usually when children see a camera they ham it up or naturally become self conscious, but not these girls. I left with that particular satisfaction I experience whenever I find exceptional source material from which to paint. Remember this was the era before digital cameras, so I couldn’t check the photo. Sometimes you just know you captured something good.
When the painting was completed and framed ,I hulled it back to the school. I remember that it just about fit into my car.
I asked the principle to help me find the girls. She had no trouble at all. She told me that the thumbsuckers were always together. I remember being excited to see their responses.They bounced into the office as only girls can do. I unveiled the painting. They went quiet as they looked and recognised themselves. One child walked right up to the painting as it was propped against the wall. She touched the glass as she spoke”Oh, look at me ! Look at my shoes, look at my hair ! Look at me!”
Early this week I received an e-mail from someone enquiring as to whether or not I was the artist that painted a picture of four schoolgirls twenty something years ago. I acknowledged that I had indeed painted such a picture and forwarded the image. “Yes, that’s the painting. I’ve looked everywhere for it. I am one of the little girls!”
Three of the four thumbsuckers came to meet me this week. The fourth is currently in the U.K.I had an odd feeling of really wanting to see little girls walk through the door, even though I knew they were now women.
It was a little heady to meet them in 2013, to hear their voices for the first time, and to accept that they are now adults. They have kept in touch with each other over the years. I was the one who felt strange. I felt like the mother who had left them. I painted them as little girls and they have remained in my mind as children. I never expected to find out who they were after so many years, then suddenly there they were on my doorstep. Three laughing women At last I saw the face of Murrika which is turned from our view in the painting.
Kristin now has a son of her own, Murrika and Cherie will both be getting married this year. Each of these young women will make personal decisions about what will grace their walls, and what it will take to create the atmosphere of peace and comfort in their homes. Bermudian Schoolgirls was more than a portrait of these four school children. It is a record of a time and place. It represents a part of our heritage. It is symbolic of each of us that wore a school uniform – a navy gimp with an oxford crisp white shirt and brown oxford or Buster Brown shoes.
Bermudian Schoolgirls is a part of the ACE Collection.
I meet so many people who admire paintings but never believe they can own one. Just the idea of it feels decadent. I’m here to tell you that you can have one, it’s just like buying a chair or a bed. Ask about terms. It’s time to give yourself permission to own a beautiful original painting of your own.
When you choose paintings for your walls, choose art which speaks to you.