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My Mother's Paintings

Heather Ross20 Comments

Pat's Barn, by Tess Beemer

I have been collecting and buying my my mother's paintings for years. There aren’t many of them out there, unfortunately. Before I had my own baby I wondered why she didn't paint more while I was growing up, but that was when I didn't know that what little mental and physical energy remain at the end of a day of parenting are used up obsessing about whether or not you are any good at it.

My mother was barely able to paint at all when we lived on West Hill, where the priority in winter was tending the potbelly wood stove that sat in the center of our two room house like a giant furious baby bird. She managed to do more during the years that I was in high school, when we had moved into a big falling down house with electric heat in town specifically so that I could more easily stumble out of bed and into the path of a school bus. It also helped that I required  much less attention in general because I had sudden access to neighborhood friends (or as my grandfather put it, future co-defendants) and was finally able to focus entirely on running absolutely wild, the only thing about me under any semblance of control being my bangs, Aqua-Netted into an utterly frozen, totally flammable state. As soon as the leaves had dropped and it was too cold to leave the house unless it was on fire or you had run out of cigarettes, my mother would set her easel up in front of a window and paint what she saw through it. I realize now that a winter landscape in a harsh climate is probably almost always painted by a native artist,  because unless you were painting the way she did, through the windows of a warm house, standing still for more than a moment isn’t possible. I barely looked twice at these paintings when I was young. I remember walking - or running - past them on my way towards our flimsy front door that could barely keep our cats out of the road,  much less me.

Frozen Laundry, by Tess Beemer, collection of Halsey L Beemer

When summer came back so did our relatives, and many of these paintings went home with them in the fall. I would see them again, years later, hanging on the walls of my relatives’ houses in New York City and Bethesda, Maryland, and wonder how we could ever bear to let them go. How had I not noticed how beautiful they were? After that, whenever I would visit my mother, I was the one who would take home canvases. Standing in front of these paintings now its as though I’m standing in the front room of that house, looking through the windows on the front of the house towards the road, just about to leave.

We were renters there, and eventually the house was sold and we had to move out. Shortly afterwards it burned to the ground. I think it was a managed, intentional fire set by it’s new owners who lived in Montreal and spent weekends next door. They told us that they considered it a dangerous building in need of too much repair, I think, but really it was a wonderful old place. I think they just saw their chance to eliminate the possibility of ever having neighbors again and struck the match.

I have seven of my mother’s paintings grouped together on my living room walls, right above a sofa covered with Denyse Schmidt quilts and pillows. Their work looks beautiful together, maybe because they both went to RISD, or maybe because we are all from small New England towns with their solid, square little houses in need of warm quilts and wildflowers on the roadsides and printed on the cottons. Over the years a lot of people have expressed an interest in these paintings, so I decided to ask my mother if I could offer prints of her work for sale. She works with a really good giclee printer in Vermont, and has agreed to some small runs (only 50 in each size, all signed and numbered) to be made and sold here, on my website.

We will take orders for the next few weeks through my online shop, and then have everything printed, signed, and shipped directly from Vermont. Giclee printing, if you are not familiar with it, is an amazingly high quality method for reproducing paintings. All four paintings in this offering are offered in two sizes (dimensions listed refers to paper size) and on both heavy watercolor paper or canvas. Shipping is $10 within the US. All proceeds beyond the cost of printing and shipping will go straight to my mother, who is currently in the process of putting in her vegetable garden. I’m doing this for her as a Mother’s Day gift, partly because I know that when she runs out of money she will try to move in with me and I’d like to delay that, and partly because I love her, but mostly because I want more of the world to see how truly gifted an artist she really is.

PS: your words of support and encouragement to my mother - and to every single artist and every single mother - are just as valuable as your orders...

 Froze Laundry, by Tess Beemer, collection of Halsey L Beemer

Montgomery Center, by Tess Beemer

 Gloria's House, by Tess Beemer, collection of Chris Beemer