The Idea

Large Scale Portraits of people with a lot of life experience that integrate the actual words of their stories into the lines and wrinkles of their faces.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cirila's Story

Cirila does not speak any English. So, like the other men and women I painted, here is her story in her own words.

No recuerdo yo a mi padre . Yo estaba en el vientre de mi mama cuando el nos abandono. Cuando regreso yo no lo conosia. Para mi no era mi padre. Yo le desia a mi mama puede irse ese hombre de la casa? porque yo no lo quiero. Siempre lo respete, pero nunca lo quise. Mi mama me decia que ese hombre era mi papa, pero yo no lo quería porque yo no lo conocía. Con el tiempo mis hermanos me decian el es nuestro papa, pero como llo nunca lo conosi ni cresi con el yo no les creia cual, fue una golpe muy duro para mi de niña.

Cuando tenía once años me di cuenta de que era necesario usar ropa interior y zapatos . Porque no tenia ningún idea solo usaba un vestido largo.

Yo y mi hermana, Consuelo, hasíamos nuestro propio columpio para columpiarnos con una cuerda y una llanta. Cuando nos pasiabamos siempre nos caimaos del columpio y salimos lastimadas. No mucho solo un poquito raspadas. MI herman y yo siempre estuvimos muy cerca.

Siempre ivamos al abajo al río en un burro pero mi hermana le tenia miedo y nunca queria suvirse en el burro, Ivamos a jugar con el agua, a bañarnos es un juego muy típico. Los burros. Los árboles. El columpio. Juegos muy divertidos en el campo y al aire limipio. Aquí los niños siempre siempre estan dentro de la casa no hay mucha diversion para ellos. Me gusta que los niños están dentro de la casa porque no ven tanta maldad que hay en las calles, pero no llegan a experimentar el campo libre

Era muy divertido cuando ivamos al rio y nos bañavamos agarravamos la arena y con un puño de areno nos tallavamos. Cuando llo tenia 12años empese a trabajar con mi Hermana en una casa de sirvienta es cuando me di llo cuenta que tenia que vestirme de otra manera fue cuando llo empese ausar ropa interior y a vestireme diferente. Usar zapatos arêtes. Porque cuando era pequeño usavamos ramitas con ojitas como arêtes.

Conocí a mi marido en un baile. Me encantaba bailar. Fue mi primer amor. No sé lo que me gusto de él. Sólo lo vi. Y me enamore. Era muy guapo, Pensé que le gustaba. Era muy cariñoso al principio cuando nos casamos. Pero despues cuando viviamos juntos él cambió muchofue muy mujeriego y me pedia dinero para pasiarese con las otras mujeres.No me gustava lo que me asia, Yo tenia dos bebés.Tenia que pensar en ellos y me alejé y nunca regrese. Por lo tanto, me regrese a la casa de mis padres y le pedi perdon a mi padre y permiso para regresar pero él me dijo que no.

La satisfacción de ser madre es ver a mi hijo trabajando.Él está en México y mi hija esta todavía en San Luis.

Vine a Estados Unidos cuando murió mi madre y mi padre murió y mis hijos se casaron Vine aquí cuando mi hija de vino porque no quería quedar sola. Por lo tanto, he estado con mi hija siempre. Sólo he visto a mi hijo y mi hija en México una vez en 17 años.

Lo que me hace feliz es cuidar de los bebés poco. Me motiva mucho. Me hace feliz cuando mis hijos están aquí. Ha sido mi misión en la vida desde que he estado aquí. No sé cómo leer, por lo que, para mí es muy importante, el cuidado de los niños tan bien que cuando los padres los recogen no quieren ir con ellos. Quieren quedarse conmigo.

El momento más feliz de mi vida ha sido este. Estar aquí con mi hija. Estoy más orgulloso de mi hija porque ella siempre a estado con migo. Me siento mal porque ahora creo que estoy envejeciendo y voy a morir. ¿Por lo tanto quién va a cuidar de mi hija cuando yo muera?

Le pido a mi hija que cuando llo muera no me sepulte. Quiero que me insinere para que siempre lleve mis senisas con ella.Y me lleve donde quiera que ella vaya.

Todavía me gusta bailar. Cualquier tipo de música siempre estoy en la pista de baile.

Me siento muy orgullosa de mí misma. Mi hija creció sin su padre y ella es muy inteligente, trabajadora y siempre ocupada con sus hijos y nietos. Me siento muy orgullosa de tener un a una hermosa hija y que sea creadocon tanto respeto y obedencia . No fue fácil pero estoy muy orgullosa.

Me siento muy orgulloso de mis nietos. Les enseñé a persinarse y como siempre estar unidos con la familia y cuidarse uno al otro Para cuando ellos lla sean mayors siempre recuerden que su abuelita les enseñó.

Audio

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Chance

Tomorrow is your last chance to send people down to vote. Please support this project by telling your friends to help me get into the top ten. All of your encouragement and kind words have been greatly appreciated throughout this Art Prize experience. Thank you for seeing the value in the stories of the men and women I painted and for seeing the value of my work.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Inez, Esther, and Frank at the Opening

Our honored guests : Inez, Esther, and Frank. Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit and for sharing your life stories with us all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Esther at the Opening




Thank you, Marcy for sending me this photo from the opening reception at the B.O.B. I don't think this could be any cuter!

Inez- Transcript


Inez, 93

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT


You see I'm 93 so that would mean I was born in 1918. I've had a lot of good times in my life. I've been fortunate not to have a lot of sadness. I had an Irish father if you get what I mean. He was just a charmer.

I was born in a little town called Fremont, Michigan and I had one friend that just couldn't resist asking me every time I was in front of someone she thought was important, she would always say, "Inez, where were you born?"  to let them know I was from the North Country and I wasn't born with what she thought was a golden spoon. Oh, I had a silver spoon. So Fremont, Michigan- and that in case you don't know is Gerber Foods. My father was on the board with all the growing people and he was in charge of all of the growing gardens. Imagine. And so if one garden turned up a silly big he was the engineer to see that the plants were proper.

I did have three sisters and one brother. All that's left is one brother.

We all loved to sing and dance. I learned to dance on my dad's shoes. We did it all our lives The minute our cousins came in we'd start harmonizing.  And, I want you to know I went on to become the best girl dancer in my senior class. We used to have Sunlight Dances. Just as soon as school is out you go into the gymnasium and then the orchestra director has a band and they go in and just start playing and then the students that want to dance and learn how and just have fun go to the gymnasium and just dance and then we had to be out - it was just an hour and a half - and we had to be out by 5:30. And our gym teacher would help those that were struggling, but I never struggled at all because my mom and dad were dancers. They loved it and my mother played the piano and my grandmother . My grandfather was a violinist and they had a little combo. So we were always in the midst of singing and dancing. It made for a fun life. My other had a basket as we were babies and she would put us in the cloakroom in the basket while they were singing and dancing- when we were tiny.

I started to teach my boys and they said, "Oh, mother." These darn men.

They were more into skiing and boating. We were in the boat business.

My mother was a very good cook. My father would take us ice skating down to a neighbor pond- and we would come back and all our friends and my mother would have hot pork or hot beef sandwiches and cake for all of us. Sometimes there would be 4, sometimes 5, sometimes 10 or 12. But my mom always seemed to have a way of stretching it. That was her part of our entertainment. And, oh we had famous Halloween parties in our attic.

We went to a one room schoolhouse with about 40 students. One time our double quartet- there was a county contest and so our teacher said, "Well, why don't we just try out." And I would like to tell you that we took our turn and we beat the dickens out of East Grand Rapids! And that is the honest to God's truth!

I died a year ago. Yeah, I died but they brought me right back. I was standing on a little balcony outside a hotel window talking to them and they didn't realize that all the medications... I was in California, I didn't care.  Then they asked me if I wanted to die. The doctor said, "We have a problem, you're not doing too well." He said,  "Would you like to go." But I said,  "No, I feel fine. I feel great." But I didn't know what they meant, do you want to go.

I was sharp. I loved Latin if you can believe it. That's a tough one I'll tell ya.

 I wrote a pageant one time. I was in the fourth grade. I wrote the whole thing and all the parts. Why I even decided which music should be sang along with the pageant. It was about life growing up with a mom and dad and how sad it was when the children left home.

When nobody's listening, I sing.

My oldest sister played the trumpet. My next sister was left handed and so she got to take piano lessons which I was dying for and because I was tall and skinny What do you suppose I wound up with? Violin. I didn't like that. I wanted to play the piano. That's why.  So I picked up piano for my own fun. My Mother was very generous with her trio. She'd say, "Oh, you'd like to have the girls? Oh, okay." It was nerve wracking. You never know when you might go off key and that was one thing I just couldn't stand - off key, I just couldn't stand it.

My sister never made mistakes with her trumpet she wound up playing with the Union High band . So, of course I was never to be outdone. So, seven of us in high school decided to be Grand Rapids' first song leaders. So, for the years I was in high school I was one of the song leaders and that was fun.  But I didn't have to play my darn violin, I tell ya!

Mother wanted to know if I wanted to go on to college and I said Marcia and Lenore didn't go on to college you're not going to spend that money on me. But, I said if I could continue education in business I'd like that so I graduated from Lucian's private secretarial school after high school. I was secretary to three men. It was wonderful because a private secretary not only takes all the letters in short hand, types them up, and sends them on. They do all the invoicing and they do all the private letter writing for the bosse. But, also, wives would call and say, "Inez, Phil has to take a pill every 4 hours, would you be sure to remind him?" So I would have to say, "Phil, time for your pill."

I was fortunate. My husband didn't believe in women working unless it was for his sake. He had a big factory- the Wagemaker Boat Company - which had been a family business. It had been office furniture and then he switched it to the boat business and he became the largest builder of small boats in the world- just thousands, thousands, thousands.

He followed me around until one day a friend of mine says, "Why is it you won't accept a date with him? He's such a nice person." I don't know. One thing was he was 14 years older. But I didn't care. I wasn't interested. I don't know how much longer it was he called and said, "It's valentines day. May I pick you up and take you to dinner?" I said, "Oh, for heaven's sakes, alright!"  So he picked me up at 6:30 and took me to dinner and brought me a box of candy. He had a couple of posies of some kind that he handed to my mother. And guess where he took me after dinner- to the Boxing Matches! Oh, I laughed because, you know, I was used to going out dancing. But it was fun- something to do. But in just talking with him I could see- his mother had passed away recently and he had graduated from North Western- his father had passed away earlier- He was quite established in the boat business. I don't know how many - two or three years I think we dated. 

Boating is a fun life.  We were married 25 years.

I found my sister a husband, got rid of her! Well, she was always stealing my boyfriends- tried to steal my husband.

 I loved that he was independent and both feet on the ground - very pleasant looking- not what you'd call deadly handsome- but he was just tall -big guy- beautifully dressed. He was known as one of the best dressed men in Grand Rapids. He just had gorgeous clothes and he also  had gorgeous cars. That was most important. He had a Chrysler convertable. He was really something. It was one of those things- I wasn't out looking for a guy or anything like that.

I loved my girlfriends. I met a couple of gals that didn't have any girlfriends.... I always had a lot of girlfriends. I had never thought about it until many years later that all  my life my closest friends were my church buddies. They definitely helped when my husband died.

When I had my boys life just grew more fun because I had an opportunity to be childish if I wanted to be- to be silly. We were fortunate and very comfortable we had a gorgeous home- 29 rooms- we did things with our children. We had a cottage in Grand Haven. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my boys. Now, wouldn't I be miserable?  I hoped that they would not be spoiled that they would be down to earth real men and that they would appreciate the nice things in life and that they would be good men- good guys- and that's exactly what I got- good guys.

I was very fortunate. My husband was successful. My big deal was I enjoyed working with women . In church we had our circles and I was president 3 or 4 times- we all had to take turns. Then, some older ladies took me under their wings- "Inez do this, Inez come with me, Inez why don't you do this would you" -  I would go to meetings with them and they just pushed me, They were darling women- I just loved them to pieces I had the Spizzerinkdom- the pizazz, the pep, the courage- and it takes courage to lead a group because you have to do careful planning and not appear to be pushing. .Just appear to let it happen and always be yourself. But you had all the work you had to do to let those things run smoothly. I was very fortunate. Ladies literary club- that club was 130 years old and had a beautiful clubhouse. I was president 9 or ten years all  together.  I was president of the women's board at Butterworth Hospital. At one point I was in charge of all hospital guilds for Western Michigan and I also was in charge of all garden clubs in Western Michigan and I also was a flower show judge that was the most important part. I wanted to learn what the details were on how detailed you had to be to do an arrangement and win ribbons and you have to win the blue ribbons to be a judge. I loved flower design I really loved it.  I'm not actually a competitive person. I want others to be happy and win and do but if I happen to win over them, well, good! Next time try harder! I just do the best I know how and hope every body else does.

I have some gals and I look at each one of them and think if I hadn't pushed them they'd have never joined.  It makes me so happy that I was able to start them in the right direction.


I'm a little bit nutty. Nobody knows that my no, they sure don't know that!

Never say hate. Never ever let your heart get so upset that you hate. I think this is really important.

My idea of success is happiness. If you can see something you can do for somebody else you do it. You have no idea how happy I am when I can make perfect oatmeal cookies. Giving something- that's true happiness.

I want to be remembered that I was fun. I wanted people around me to enjoy life and to be lighthearted but if they have a problem, know that I will do everything to advise them to help them. I do like people. So many times there's just something you can do that's just right within your reach that you can do and it would be difficult for them.

Frank- Transcript


FRANK, 92

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

I was born in September the 17th 1919 in Cleveland.


I was there till I moved to Grand Rapids. There was a hotel on the corner of Grandville and Goodrich. That was my grandfather's hotel and the Horse Show Bar. I tended the bar and I went to technical school. I went to Davis tech and when I came out I didn't have nothing to do so I joined the CCC camp- Civilians Conservation Corp. They were segregated so I was with a bunch of my own people. I worked in the forestry cutting trees and stuff. But when I got out, there was a law and the only job I was allowed to get was I had to be a doorman at a hotel or you had to shine shoes or join one of the foundries- do the hard work here.  That was in 1937. I had gone to technical school. I could've done more but I wasn't allowed to.

My dad had 3 Negro baseball teams. I used to fight. I trained with Mayweather- Floyd Senior on Wealthy and Jefferson. I had a Golden Glove team and we all boxed. I trained with Tony Tucker and Dale Newhoff. I won two of the three years. Grand Rapids, Frank.
We were the only ones that had a Black Boxing center. Tony Tucker fought Tyson when Tyson was first coming on.  These were the guys I was training with. We trained them. I got satisfaction out of doing that because we were a target- the only black team in the city. I knew if I didn't do it nobody would. We were the first to do this- a black team.  We had Buster Mathis - he went pro.

But, I was a bad boy because I was always into something- anything that happened in town and my dad having the hotel- he was very affluent- he was discouraged because I
didn't try to be something other than what I was.  Then the babies came whoever they was. I kept getting into little scrapes fights. I was a bad boy really. I cant say I wasn't. Dad had a friend -Walter Cole- a detective - dad told him, "We got to do something with that boy and Walter says, "I'll fix him. " So he went down and registered me downtown- the police department. They say take him down and register him and send him off to the armed service. That's how I got in the Navy. I had two babies by two different women and the babies were due about the same time so I had to get out. Oh yeah, I was a bad boy. There was so little for guys to get into in that time that you do just the opposite. Because my dad was a bar owner and everyone knew about that, My dad was a wrong doer all his life. Dad made whisky and put it in the buggy and put the pillow on top and put me in on top of the pillow and he'd go to his people where he'd do business- he was a bootlegger. I must have been about 6 years old and there was an Indian guy and he and dad were bootlegging and this Italian guy that dad owed him some money and wouldn't pay him. He abducted me and kept me until dad gave him the money he owed him.

I was afraid of my dad all my life. He'd leave home and wouldn't come back for a couple of weeks and I 'd be with my aunt or cousins or something. Then family services took my sister and I. They separated us. I didn't know where my sister was until we were sitting in a movie and I heard a little girl snapping her gum and I thought that sounds like my sister and I turn around and she was right there behind me.

I am 91. I'll be 92 this month.

When I went into the navy I had never been aboard ship. I didn't know how big they were. I couldn't swim I joined- I wasn't drafted. And they sent to me to Norfolk, Virginia. They had signs there- I had never been South, "Niggers and dogs keep off" in the grass. I got scared. I got on board ship and didn't come out.

I went in the navy as a steward mate third.  That's the lowest thing you can be in the navy. I stayed ten years and when I come out I was still a steward mate third. I got no advancements. And I was responsible for these guys- all these guys from the south; some of them illiterate but that didn't bother me. I thought I was going to join the navy and be a Seaman but, these guys was cooks- mess attendants that's what they called ya. All you did was take care of the officers, shine their shoes, get their uniform ready, make their bed, feed em . I wanted to be like the white sailors I didn't know one from the other but I spent the whole ten years working with these people right here.

When they sent me they didn't tell me that I couldn't qualify for whatever it was I could do.  I joined and when I got to Hawaii it was still smoking. We were on our way to Pearl and that scared me quite a bit but I said, "Well, I'll come out I'll be alright" and I couldn't swim but that wouldn't do any good anyway.

They put me in this mess attendants white coat like you serve on the ships and what not but I stayed there. I said,  "Well, I can qualify and be a seaman or a machinist like the rest of these guys" but none of these guys that you see on there had any rank we were all the same including me and I appealed.  The West Virginia was hit 9 times by bombs. When we got there we stayed in housing. We couldn't stay in the West Virginia cause it was sitting in the mud.  They raised the ship up without any insides. We went back to the states with nothing in the ship but water. It was just a hull. It didn't have any furniture and it was war time. It was kind of dangerous going across the Pacific without no guns, no nothing. We didn't have anything. We went back to the states, refitted it and got out of there just in time to get to Iwo Jima . We lost a couple of guys. Then we went to Okanowa and took that Island. A lot of fighting.  But when the fighting would come about there would be an alarm and we'd go below and pass ammunition. I didn't want to go down there with all the doors locked cause the water will break through. Because if your hit you can't get out cause all the doors are locked. You know I went to the officers but none of them could get to the upper echelon.

I was on board that ship for 10 years.  I played football with the team and I did some boxing and I got along with all the officers and I appealed to each one and each one said they'd see what they can do. I said I want to be like these guys.  But all the time I was in  there I didn't get a rating or nothing I got the same story every where I went and I got confused and I didn't know where to turn or who to go to so I just took it.



Everywhere I went I worked for the captain. I was on the Dixie and I was on the Patterson destroyer. I got to be friends with all these guys. Eventually, there was a white kid over us on the gun station when the war started and they gave me a break and  put me topside on the main deck and I stayed there for a while and his name was Todd and he got hit. He got wrecked, you know. He was hollering one night in battle and the tracers he would see there and think they were planes coming in and he just lost it like that and they removed him. The gunnery officer talked to me and they thought enough of me to send me to gunnery school and I was the only one that went out of that group. It made me feel good because my assignment was Todd's place- white kid- and he was in charge of all these guys and the guns. When he cracked up Mr. Broadhagen, his name was, he vouched for me to go to Gunnery school. They taught us how to identify silhouettes of ships. They indoctrinated me. They didn't want to put another white kid over all these blacks. Mr. Broadhagen - he was lieutenant commander - I come out they placed me on top of the deck and I was happy about that because I could see the action. You can't see nothin in that hole and I had a gun on the ship - 20 mm guns. I stayed there with the big helmet on but I never could get the chance to be anything but a mess attendant. They treated me well. Nobody hurt me. Nobody mistreated me but they just didn't move me up. I came from Grand Rapids and these kids all come from the south and they didn't know anything. They were just there to be used like "You do this. You do that. But I was in charge for quite a while.

I begged and begged and begged these guys and I played football with em and I got along with everybody on board the ship but I could never get anybody to feel the way I felt . I just stayed there for 10 years. That's the only bitterness I have against the navy. I stayed in the navy from the day of Pearl Harbor until the day of surrender in Yokohama Bay. That was the end of the war. I stayed on that ship all that time. I came home and I appealed but it come to no end.

I think it was a hand me down thing from the captain. I think the captain of the ship was prejudiced and he didn't think of us as equal but I knew all the crew we got along fine. But that couldn't be nothing else. I never go a chance to have an audience to say, "Well, you're qualified" I never had a test - you know how they evaluate your rank as you go up. We never had that. I just stayed there day after day. Whatever came up, we went along with it. All we did was serve the officers, coddle them, lay out their clothes- housekeepers. But, I couldn't qualify for anything else. I wasn't allowed.

We had one accident when a plane hit the side of the ship and killed two guys.

That was in Iwo Jima. Then, in Yokohama when Macarthur signed the peace treaty I was there.

After that they put me in the CBs. The people that come in and do the work -  a Construction Battalion.

I wanted to live according with the whites.  You see pictures of guys with flags and what not but you never see black guys doing that not in the whole entire thing until Doray Miller. Doray Miller was just like I was, he'd clean up the sheets and what not but, he ran up on deck and saw the captain was mortally wounded. He shot one plane down and they made a hero of him.  He didn't know what to do. He wasn't trained, but he reached and grabbed the machine gun. But they won't mention this. You won't read about it too much. I knew Dory before. Then he was sent to another ship. I got a gun. I was assigned to a gun for a minute shooting.  I seen a plane coming in deck high and the plane blew up about 50 yards away from me and we were firing at it and it just ran out of gas and blew up and I turned my back and one of those pieces hit me. Nobody got hurt but that was pretty scary.
My knees were shaking and I didn't know what was going to hit me next. I had the headphones on and I heard from the bridge Group 19 has been wiped out. That was the ship I was on. You couldn't see nothing but smoke. But you don't run away from a battle. It was a suicide bomber.

Other times you had to turn out the motor and just ease along slowly and turn out the lights because you were in dangerous territory you can't smoke, you cant make a light, your ships dark - blacked out . I got scared a couple of times.

But, I had a sense of responsibility and no place to go.

I remember the day that one of the sailors got hit and the battle was over and they come down with the stretcher and this guy's arm was hanging by a thread- he was dead and they came by and I thought, this is real.






Bill- Transcript


Bill, 99

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

I was born on August 29th 1912 four and one half months after the Titanic struck the iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. On April 14th at midnight the ship struck the iceberg it sank and then I was a fetus inside my mother's body- making me born August 29 approximately four and one half months later . August 29. Yes, in 1912

Nelsonville, Ohio in Athens County - that's 65 miles South East of Columbus. It's 14 miles from the Ohio University at Athens. We call it OU. I went to college, yeah, for a time back in '31, yes. I grew up in Nelsonville. Then I had a time in West Virginia. I had my uncle, oh, and aunt down on a farm there where I went to high school I started in 19... I wanted to do farm work the old fashioned way- the old way- and learned to garden- raise vegetables, raise wheat, oats, corn, and take care of horses and cows and pigs, chickens. My aunt used to take care of chickens. That was on the mountain North East of Fairmont and that's Marion county. My dad grew up on the same farm.

My dad was a mining engineer. Pittsburg Coal Company. There was lots of coal. I grew up in the mines. I worked in the mines. It started in 1930. Workers are getting as much in an hour today as I got in a week. I got 18 dollars a week. That  was 1930 and of course the great depression was on and that was a lot of people have a lot of trouble to get along and they didn't have jobs and a lot of people didn't have much money and lots of people had trouble getting along especially when they had a family- children. You hear stories about trouble today all the world's survived troubles cause there was trouble back then too. 80, 90 years ago there was trouble in the United states and the world so...

I stayed with my mom and dad cause, see I was only 17 years old when I started at the mine. It was 16 miles away. I had to drive. I rode with my dad cause my daddy's  brother owned the mine. I just drove with my dad to the mine. He had a '29 Desota- that's a Chrysler product and his brother - my uncle John Lawson-  went to work. It was tough back then for a lot of people. Some miners got killed in the mine. Got covered up with soot falls. And, well, they were difficult times but they're difficult times today too. Suffering never ceases.

Mom was a little woman. She was a little woman and I was too big a baby for her- a little woman and they couldn't get me born. I was so big the doctor was gonna cut my arms off. He said the baby's dead. They gave births in the home then and they got over to the house and my aunt came down and took a hold of that doctor's arms and said your not gonna cut that baby's arms off- she's ready to clock 'im cause he said, "well the baby's dead." So, they took four people -  the doctor, my grandma, mom's aunts.  Two of them held mom down on the bed and the other two put forceps on the temples and - that's why I've had poor eyesight all my life cause they crushed my optic nerves here where they pulled. The doctor pulled and Aunt put her arms around the doctor's waist and pulled and squished my head. My head's yet out of shape today! I got lumps all over and ridges cause they squashed my head! The baby's head is slightly pliable- new baby's- so it didn't hurt my brain any. But, I were dead so they laid the baby over on the table  and he said, "That baby is dead- baby's dead." Then he went to work on my mom- cause mom was badly torn- for a little woman and my aunt wouldn't give up. She took the baby up and I suppose paddled me and rolled me on the table she said anything she could do what to do to the newborn baby and about a half an hour 35 minutes she said it was the baby put out a little sound and the doc swirled and said "Give me that baby!" and he took me up by the feet and got to wailin' me and out came the normal cry and he told that story all over town about a dead baby coming back to life.


About 1938 or so and I staid on the farm all summer. 'Course was well fed by two aunts- and uncle. They took good care of me and fed me well. Of course I worked hard too- pitchin' hay and hoin' corn and all. You had to work hard back then and learned to handle horses and ride horses and those were my happiest days, I believe. I was on the West Virginia farm. I guess cause I was out- out in the open and I liked animals I loved animals I loved horses, I even liked chickens. I raised chickens back in when we was in ohio. Up until the law stopped it. Then they wouldn't let us raise chickens because for the longest time it was the big industry  they raised chickens  by the millions now and they didn't want people cheatin' on 'em and raisin' chickens in they backyard.

I was never especially serious... there was two or three girls I was kinda stuck on but they didn' want me and then I find somebody else that was a good girl but,  I didn't wanna have her. You couldn't make yourself love somebody You might go on a date with 'em or take 'em to the picture show- the movies they called picture shows but, eh, I just couldn't get the good girls that make very good wives. I jut couldn't care for 'em.

Then after the war I was a few years older and went to California- and met this girl -her name Jean Frances- Frances Gene Alfrey it was a northern Baptist cemetery- seminary. She was goin' be a missionary and we got kinda serious and I was 16 years older than she and her mother didn'  like that. Didn' want that old man marryin' her  daughter. Anyways in due time I finished school and went back home . went back to workin' mines. Of course if the mines were on strike I went back to help my aunt and uncle - and 2 aunts cause I just loved the open life.


I went 1942 I think I went in- drafted by President Roosevelt. I wasn't called on before then  cause I was kind a old - 35 years old. They wanted young guys. Back in that old day- Nelsonville, young guys gathered- hundreds of them - in 19 ... whatever year it was- I forget when the war stared. Anyway, they had buses to Fourt Hays - hundreds of us. All  the restaurants in town gave a free breakfast to all the GIs- potential GIs- soldier boys of World War Two. I didn't like the term GI. I disliked it- Government Issue - like it's something that's not very important- government issue. That's why I didn't like that term GI. Soldier boy sound better to me.

'Cause I was a motion picture operator, besides the coal mines, I learned when I was 13 years old to be a motion picture. They trained hundreds of us. Maybe thousands of us to be mechanics. So, we had so many mechanics we didn't have a place for them. So a lot of guys they had trained ended up doing something else maybe cooking in the mess hall and since I was an operator- I put on my papers I was a motion picture operator in Ohio . I got a break then.  I was willing to give my life for the United States as were many others but I ended up  in a projection booth. I didn't know any place any safer than a projection booth.

Everything changes but not everything changes for the better. There's too much greed today - anything for money and a lot of changes because of the money. They stopped people raising chickens in their back yard!

I met my wife- I was going to university to learn about electronics and there was a this church near by had a party every Friday night and for the students from Northern Baptist Seminary and my future wife was one of 'em - of 'course I didn't know her - All those girls I had. You take a girl to the show or something but them ones wasn't serious- These girls wanted to be missionaries. One of 'em's name was Frances Jean.

Her mother didn't like me I was too old. Of course I was 16 years older and she'd call me that old man because I was 16 years older. 30 years old I was an old man to her and she definitely didn't want her daughter marrying an old man and she didn't want her having any babies with me! Of course she married me anyway.

I bought a farm - I was fond of raising children on a farm and so we settled then. I wanted to teach the children about life what it was like out of the ordinary teach them about animals and anything I could teach them, But her family didn't like that and she got so she turned on me. She didn't have a mind of her own - I had to marry the whole family... and so she divorced me.

We had 5 children. The last one died because Jean- she couldn't stay away from cigarettes. She would sit there and read at night and didn't watch her baby - name was Steven Michael. She said - she told me "I'm gonna getting him up soon" and she went get 'im outta his crib and baby was dead. Been dead some time. I was blamed for that by the parents.

I had never had a drink in my life before. But I got to drinking. And I finally discovered I was an alcoholic. In due time they took her and children and all to Chicago and so I had no children.


The mother called me a murderer of that baby so late one night- I got drunk and I'd a got straightened out in due time but she called her family she always had a call her family they wanted to know everything I did and they threw me out. That brother- Jeans brother- two of the brothers they threw me out that night and shipped me out. Jean said, "Get that bum out of here." Her two brothers threw me out the door, took me down and put me on a bus. But I don't want to condemn them.

I got kinda bad to point I was gettin' arrested. Moved to Columbus- jobs out there. then back to Akron- good place to get jobs- I was pretty good mechanic but I got to hittin' the bottle still and got fired two or three times I got fired. Got a job down in Athens then- same kinda work . They knew what I could do but they didn't want a drunk either so finally got straightened up some.  I had a bad reputation - alcoholic - and bad went to worse and I was down and out. I wasn't evil. I was never evil but, I was a hopeless case.

So, I was an alcoholic. I don't consider myself an alcoholic anymore because I don't drink. If they would listen I would help anybody. I'd tell them don't take that first drink and ask for help - ask God to help you. I used to talk to people about what their problem was. God helps those that help themselves. You get no help from the whisky bottle. Just trying to drown your troubles and when you wake up you're worse than ever.

Now my son knows there are two sides to the story. Lots of times there are two sides.

I tell them live a christian life, go to sunday school, go to church at least, go to church and read the bible, and be forgiving, and be helpful. For if you can be of help if some body is in trouble or a person is bereaved or sick ... any age... you'll be a good person.

I volunteered as a Salvation Army - bell ringer - because I wanted to be helpful.

I often think about an afterlife. Sometimes I get to thinking when things get bad, and don't feel good, I get down to think, I'm gonna die and I don't care how soon. It does me wonders to have a visitor. I feel like I'm getting help sometime. I think there's a higher power. Wherever the higher power comes from I don't know.

It seems that things are geeting worse. Floods! Tornados! I've never seen it so bad. Boy things are bad.

I 'd rather people forget about my mistakes. I 'd like to be remembered as being generous and unselfish and giving. If I had 50 cents I'd give a quarter of it if someone needed it. I see some down and outer want me to buy him a sandwich. I knew what he wanted. He wanted a bottle. I'd go into the store and where they sell some cheap stuff anything with alcohol in it. I'd say what the bum's like give me a quart of that. The guy-  that's what he wanted.  He didn't care about something to eat. He wanted something to drink. No sense talk to a drunk man about what he should do.   He didn't want to get saved.  He wanted a drink right now. I knowed a lotta men didn't care about anything else. One thing I couldn't stand though, is dishonesty. I couldn't stand anyone that would steal for what they wanted. If somebody woulda been dishonest I might given them a dollar, five dollars if they wanted something to eat. We've got a lot of dishonest people in the universe but, more good than bad. More good people than bad.

I don't know what to do about war. I've got no answer for war. There's no way to stop wars. There's lots a bad people. But there's more good than bad that's all I can say .


I'm 99 years old. Why do some people live to be old? Lots of people don't.  I've outlived the people that have died. I think maybe cause I worked a lot on the farm and sleeping 8 hours a night and sleeping soundly, good food to eat. I think that has something to do with longevity- the food you eat. And honey, I drip it right into the cup- in my coffee.

I wore glasses to school. They made fun a me for wearing glasses and called me pretty boy - Pretty Boy Lawson and four eyes.  I didn't like that.

Esther: Transcript


ESTHER, 88

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT


My happiest moment? Hmm have to think about that. When Ted asked me to marry him.

Well, we were riding along in a car and we had decided not to get married until after the war if he had to go into the service and as it happened he didn't -for a short while at least -and so he said to me, "You know, I think we should get married." Surprised me so I couldn't even talk. That's pretty unusual. It was pretty good.

My saddest moment-You were there- I just never thought that he was going to pass away I knew he wouldn't get better but I didn't think he would get as bad as ... That was the saddest - worse than when he actually died- when we were at the nursing home and they were telling us all the things that were about to happen. I just, for some reason, must have blocked the thought of his passing away. I knew he was not going to get well and yet I just didn't think about his dying. I don't know. You would think when you know someone is so ill that that's the next part of life or death or whatever, right? I must have either blocked it away or I don't know.

What did he mean to me? I don't know how to express it, he just.... I can't say... Everything.... Did I ever tell you about the time I first met him? Girlfriend of mine had gone out with him and I guess they liked each other but not enough to have other dates and so she introduced me to him and there were quite a few of us and none of us girls drove at the time and so the guys would drive us home. And it was quite early yet  in the evening when I met him. By early I mean 10 something like that 9:30.
So, we were all in the car and one of the people- guys - said, "Lets play a game" and so I said, "What kind of a game?" and it was a question and answer game. If the guys asked the question, it could be about anything movie stars movies -  anything,  and the one who answers correctly can choose the  person - if it was a guy, could choose the girl to kiss and if it was girl who answered the question she had the choice of the guy. Yes....so......Question was asked Ted answered it and guess who he picked. Me! The second question,  Ted answered it! Guess who he picked. Me! About three or four times he answered the question as fast as could be and finally, I was getting thinking "This is a cooky game. Somebody else has to be the winner" and I don't remember how it ended. I think I said "I think its time to go home" and the others were getting bored too because... yeah. I thought "Gee he's a pretty good kisser. Really. I was 17. He was 17, 18, 19 boy if I was 17 he was at least 20 but, he didn't know it. That's why later on we were going with each other and he said, "I think we're getting too serious and I think it's time to cut this down- off. I started to cry. It was so surprising but, I could see the reasoning and I was 17. For a good close to a year we saw each other in a group but we didn't go out much at all. Once in a blue moon he'd ask me to go to a movie but really we were just in a group and didn't date and I thought, "I'm wasting my time." But then I was close to 18 and it changed him. He just said "Okay." He started taking me out more. Saw him more. By the time I was 18 he asked me to marry him. I don't know why he wanted to marry me. I knew I wanted him so I would think it's the same thing.  I just kind of knew it when he walked into a room. I knew it! I knew he was the one I wanted but I didn't know if I'd get him. That's a long time. That's why I say I didn't know if I was really wasting my time. And I wasn't evidently. So, then we were married .I was almost 19. Three months from being 19. It was February 14th. We were married 66 years.  Advice for married couples- to talk. I really think that really to talk things over that is bothering them in any way. If you don't talk you don't really know. You don't know what ever it is that's causing a problem - can't be solved unless you know it. That's what kept us together so long, plus a lot of love. I'm talking too much aren't I?

I grew up in Grand Rapids on 2nd street on the West Side. No one was poor-poor but no one was rich that I know of - in our neighborhood at least. A lot of kids - children. I had a lot of friends there.

My Parents?.... I'm trying to think because I was pretty young when they died. They were pretty neat. By the time they had us, they were used to children. They had 7 of them so we didn't bother them that much. Umm... They were really nice. We weren't rich but we weren't poor either for most of the time. Until, I was going to say the recession... It was a lot more than a recession... Then, everybody started getting poor almost. It was frightening because you saw your parents were frightened. How could you tell?... just -  I don't know. You know, parents try to keep things from children but, for some reason it comes through.  And then, they were ill too. My dad became very ill with pneumonia during... it wasn't only a recession like now. It was lot worse than this. I would say it would be as bad for almost all the people like it is now for those who are loosing their homes. There was lot of that because of not being able to pay taxes. Same thing as now..... We lost two homes. They were rentals that my dad bought and was renting them out and when the depression came and he lost his job- he was ill too. First, we lost the one house. I don't know where the renters went. I have no idea.  And then we lost the other one. It was a two family house- the second one we lost . We did not loose our home while my parents were alive We still had it when they died but then the Depression - and we couldn't pay the taxes and we lost that too, and we had to move out and we went to my- well we called her an aunt but really they were just close, close friends. And we rented an apartment upstairs in their home. So that's where we lived until I got married. My sister worked which didn't cover everything but, I had enough brothers and sisters that made sure that we had food and, you know, enough money to pay rent. Things like that goes. Between all of them, we -  all... my brothers, myself- we  got along quite well.

It taught me to save- even after I got married and could afford different things and clothes and all that it was hard to throw things away. It just- in your mind you think "Oh, I better save on to that. Maybe Ill need it." Clothes savings, just being careful with things, with money... but you hope you're not so tight you're making everybody miserable in your family. That far I didn't go. I hope. I think. But, you know it really wasn't an unhappy time. It really wasn't. I do not think of my childhood as unhappy at all. Even after my parents died. Oh it was horrible when they did die of course but, there were enough of us to feel safe. At first you don't, you know. You feel... you wonder what's going to happen to you. But when there are enough people to care about you it changes things .



Of course, we didn't have television or anything like that - not that long ago. We read, we played games. My folks would talk to us about their own parents which we never met because- I don't know if they were alive when we were born- Ed and I- they might have been when the older kids were there and we weren't. But, they would tell us about  Poland and their lives and how happy they were here "Where the streets were paved with gold," they thought. That's what they believed you know. Most of the people that came here thought it was really rich back then- what they had. It was a happy time.

I remember Christmases, and I can see it with all of us sitting around the table. And then Ed and I who were the only ones - no my older sisters- no, Ed and I were the youngest and we went to a catholic school and we would read these little poems that we made up in school. And then we'd tell my dad and my mother that we had prayed for them and our whole family. It was like we laid out a card. You know, I almost forgot about that. And that we loved them wished that they were healthy and that we prayed for them and that was a part of our christmas cards. And then Ed would get up and he would have to say it while everybody was sitting- first me because I was older than he- and then after that we went in the living room with the christmas tree and started singing christmas songs. And they thought I had such a lovely voice- Me! And my brother in law wanted me to try to get on the radio where- oh what's his name- it was a program where they took- first you had to try to convince them your voice was halfway decent and you - I almost had the name of the program-  umm - and you sing on the radio and then, I don't know if people called in you know. like on that dance program. And he wanted me to get on because they all thought I had such a great little voice. Sure 6, 7 years old any kind  of a singing voice is really nice. But, you know, we didn't have the money to carry out this thought to get out to wherever this radio program was- Uncle something... no- but it was fun- Fun! And that's about it.

I wanted to get married and have children - maybe, possibly, hopefully and what scared me most was that my parents died so young and  I used to pray that I would live through to see my children grow up. I did pretty good! 88! ... and live to see them grow up.

Being single is different form being married. And you think of each other- husband and wife- but when the children come - especially when their little and depend on you - you're different. Your life is more thoughtful  I think, so that you can provide for the children teach them- It's just you're a different person from when you were just a young couple - which is good.

Did they ever try my patience? Oh yes! Oh yes! They did- time and again- each in their own way. Maybe not often but, you know, when Teddy was about 3 years old or so he took a box of spic and span from the kitchen and spilled it on the carpet in the dining room and it was an evening that we were supposed to go out and so we had a nice little mess there to clean up before the babysitter came.

And then there's other things like when Sharon asked to go to the prom. A young junior in her high school- and she was only in the night grade- asked her to go to the prom and we said "No." and her dad especially said "NO! These are experiences you will have as you get older. You cannot have them now or what will you look forward to?" And Sharon said " But, so and so is going" and I said, "Well I'm your parent, Dad's your parent and we say you cannot go."  She cried so hard. She was as if she had a fever, she cried so hard. Putting cold wash clothes on her head. Oh, that was so pitiful and Ted went to work and leaves me with this to try to console that kid. But, she got over it and I don't know if she thought it made sense but, we just thought she was too young.

Jimmy- He was so sweet- aaaaah!  Yes, but he did. It was when he went to high school -and the other two- they dressed so nicely, so neatly, never changed- slacks and shirts- something really nice- and then the one day - he was probably a junior maybe a se... yeah- junior probably- he came out of the bedroom in jeans that he ripped at the knees and looked like he was going out to play somewhere and I asked him where he was going. He wasn't going to school that way! And he said yes, he was! He was going to school in those jeans! I told him he couldn't go and he said "That's what they're wearing now and I want to do it now" and that's the way it was. It changed. It changed- I don't know if it was for the better- in one way- especially when they went to college - not just him but all the young kids- they didn't have to try to have these beautiful clothes or if they couldn't they felt miserable because the couldn't keep up so that way it was good but, it turned out okay though didn't it.

I wanted my children to be healthy of course- get and education. Do what would make them happy and still make a living- marry the women they loved and man that she loved and have a happy life.

I'm hoping, yes, that there's going to be an afterlife. I want there to be. I don't want to just go into the ground and be nothing.  I only know what I've been taught. Whether its true or not I don't know. I'm hoping for it- that someday - and it's going to be someday because how many years has it been since it's been said that it's going to happen- that we're all going to be with each other and God. That's what I want.

I ask God to take care of my family. That they' will be kind and loving their wives - their families. Yeah, I want them to love me too but, I want more than that for them.

How do I hope to be remembered? Not much more than loving them- my family-and to have them know I want the best for them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Words

Yesterday, I finished adding the words from the life stories of these wonderful people. Here are a couple of photos that my dear friend Deb took of the action.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Maria's mom age 81

I would tell you her name if I could but, honestly, I could not understand it.... I'll have to listen to the interview again to try to figure it out. This wonderful lady is a Mexican immigrant who grew up in a tiny town that was so poor that the children didn't wear shoes or undergarments. She and her family would forage the fields and mountains for food and eat a fruit she calls tuna- the fruit of a cactus. She has lived here 17 years and speaks no English and does not read any language. Her gift is caring for children, who love her so much that they never want to go home with their mothers. She is 81 and still babysits more than 4 children all day, every day. Her daughter, Maria, is her pride and joy and it is with tears that she speaks of how her daughter has stood by her.  Her only fear is that when she dies she will not be able to take care of Maria.


Her words were heartbreaking but her face really tells her story in a language we can all understand.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pretty much done

I have just a couple of little details to add to her sweater but, she is pretty much done. Whew! I'm tired!

Almost done.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Midnight- time to call it quits.

At 12:01 it is officially tomorrow. So here is where I left things today.

Now I'm seeing Inez

I had to fill her all the way in a la Alice Neel to figure out if it actually looked like her or not. I've decided it does.

After I stay up all night tonight, I hope to be finished with this one.



A little less crazy.

I'm making adjustments as I go on this one. Tricky, tricky but, it's getting better.

Starting Inez Wagemaker

Inez Wagemaker- 93 years old; affluent Grand Rapidian and past president of just about every women's club in the city, not to mention kind, generous, and extremely funny human being.

This one is going to be a challenge for me. Inez has Macular degeneration and so wears very thick (and quite big) glasses. I'll have to find a way to keep her eyes in proportion even though her glasses make them look so big in the photo. She has such a great face and so much character, I'll have to be careful not to overemphasize the playful expression that I like so much about it.

So here's her photo and the beginnings of painting number 4. It looks a little (well, a lot) silly at the moment but, I'm hoping to get that fixed tout suite!


Finished with Frank

Frank Lamar- WWII Naval Vet who witnessed Pearl Harbor still smoking, kamikaze planes blowing up mere yards from him, victory in war but, as a black man, never received the commendation he deserved. He experienced the days of Idlewild, grew up among bootlegging and raised children that he is proud of above all else. Thank you, Frank, for sharing your story!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Almost Finished

Skin Filled In - ready for blending and detail

Clean Shaven but, Roughing it.

I'm working on roughing in the skin with a fin brush. He's looking a little funny without his mustache and facial hair below his lip; not to mention he has no eyebrows... okay, okay, and no hair on his head, and no forehead for that matter.... Well, it's getting there anyway.

No time for words- just updates

There! How about I just leave it like that?

Frank- Coming right along.

continuation

A bit more detail in the eyes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

One wise eye.

Beginning to paint in Frank's eyes. Here's a photo to keep you up to date.

Frank Lamar

I have had the fortunate opportunity to get to know this wonderful man, Frank Lamar, aged 92. I interviewed him last week and learned that he is a WWII naval vet; one of many African Americans who risked their lives for our country and were never given the opportunities or thanks they deserved for it. I am truly, TRULY, honored to tell his story here.



I've just begun his painting and already I've wiped it out and sketched it on again two or three times. I kept making his face too big- over and over. About the third time I realized, it is because that is how I see him. He is larger than the life he has known. His story is too important and it has sunken in; affected me deeply.

 
 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bill- Day 3

Well, here he is, William Lawson, aged 99.  I am so pleased with this painting and honored to have this experience with this special man. His kinds eyes were the most important part to me. Painting them was like getting to know him better. A face really does tell a deeply personal story. I am learning so much from this project and I am so touched by the people whose lives are so affecting.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bill- Day 2

It's the end of day two and Bill's skin is almost finished. He still needs some eyebrows and his lips aren't quite done. I think his neck looks a little cavernous but, I'll have to reassess after the hair and clothes are painted.... Then I will be done! I think this painting will be finished after I spend about 5 more hours on it. I think that will work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Filling In.

Bill's Eyes

I'm starting to see Bill in these eyes. If I could just paint eyes all day I would be a happy camper!

Coming along...

This painting seems to be coming together much more easily than my painting of Esther. I tried laying in the background color earlier in the process. That seem to have helped. Really, I think it just makes it look like I've done more.... so I feel all puffed up and proud. Oh well. Fake it till you make it, right?

By the way, check out my junky old corner of the basement where I am working. If I am so fortunate as to win some money at this, I might just spend some of it on a nice bright studio!



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Working on Bill

Here are the beginnings of Bill's portrait. More photos to come.