Ice Pops Oil on Linen, 30 x 24 inches, private collection
There’s something special about this painting, what exactly that is I don’t know, but everybody loves it, even I love it, and honestly if I had the formula for it I’d be cranking them out as fast as I could (I’ll admit it: I tried). I’ve given this some thought, and my conclusion is it’s never one thing that makes a painting hit the mark, such as the subject, atmosphere, color palette, technique or whatever, rather I’m thinking it’s more the effect of an ensemble performance by the selfsame players, a performance which mysteriously rates rave reviews.
To be fair, I should mention that the girls had an entirely different response to the painting, which is the story I’m here to tell.
The girls are friends of my brother’s family, and neither they nor their parents knew that I had done anything with the snapshots I had taken two years earlier. I had been given permission that day to photograph them and spent about half an hour following them around the back yard while they swung on the swings, threw the baseball around, dug in the sandbox, and ran here and there just for the fun of it. When we were done with all that, mom gave popsicles to the girls in thanks for their cooperation. The camera came out again, too, just for fun. The girls were fairly oblivious throughout the proceedings, still too young to ham it up, or mug or preen for the stranger behind the camera.
Before I had an opportunity to present the newly finished painting to the girls’ family, I had a postcard made of it which I sent to my brother. The image was eventually shown to the girls who said upon first sight, in effect, ‘Hey, how come she got two treats and I got one?’ and, vice-versa, ‘Hey, how come I got two and she got one?’ Which is an angle I hadn’t considered whatsoever while doing the painting. In fact there was only one popsicle split between them that hot summer day, and Madeleine was painted holding a second pop for compositional reasons and not as a slight to Anna, who anyway could have been holding her other half at her side behind Madeleine’s back, couldn’t she? if she also had two? I mean, if we take the painting to be ‘real’?
Not to make a big deal out of it, but isn’t this a painfully familiar scenario? Aren’t we always seeking what’s fair and square? We people, we adults? Isn’t that what we truly value? Where there is equity the mind is put to rest, there is no wishing things to be different than they are because all is well: I got mine, you got yours: even Stephen.