I don’t care if dead bodies occasionally bump the side of my schooner — the Times’piece on the houseboat people of the Hudson has me piqued. Anyone selling a reliable watercraft built for two (and a couple cats)?


No, not a Star Trek allusion: the beginnings of an art project. Every generation of my maternal family has had its artist; my great-grandfather was asked by Walt Disney to be one of his original animators, my grandmother (in addition to raising four daughters) focused on oil paintings a

nd still teaches classes to girls in her mountain town (former students of hers are here and here!), and my aunt exhibits her watercolors extensively in San Francisco.

Among my cousins, I’m probably the most artistic, but I don’t have the zeal or dedication it takes to do it professionally. I hate waiting for paint to dry, my sense of proportion and dimension is bad, and I’m prone to destroying anything that doesn’t turn out exactly as I had planned. Still, I have ample art supplies and find that it soothes and distracts me when I get in one of my fussy moods, which is, oh, 90% of the time.

Anyhow, I’ve been brooding about all this since I last visited my grandmother, when she took me up to claim paintings of hers as my own — “The rest are going in a dumpster!” Horrified, I took as many as I could, stored them at my mother’s house, and forgot about most of them until this Christmas, when I decided to reclaim them and install them in our luscious Queens digs. We lugged them back and set them around the room, and it became clear to met hat they … don’t really fit with our decor. We have lots of old propaganda posters from the Soviet bloc (don’t ask), the husband’s photos of Buddhist India, and my own small collection of Indian street art. We needed something to tie all these together.

So I, in a fit of inspiration, decided that I would try and reinterpret her works. Here’s the first of my efforts; her original is a scene with my grandfather fishing in the Tuolumne River. My edition is done in conte crayon and Sharpies, and the limited color palette has lent the interpretation an air of Munch or Van Gogh. I don’t know how I feel about it; I’ve already tried to throw it away once, and was thwarted by the beloved; but I love the idea that I can take something of my grandmother’s, add a bit of myself to it, and come to a new vision of my family and the world.

(Apologies for the blurriness of these; I’ll try and replace them with clearer images, but I was excited to post them at all!)