What I Do For Love


One of my husband’s best childhood memories comes from going to Coney Island–just a subway stop away from his home in Brighton Beach, but still a big treat for him when he was a kid. After the Nathan’s hot dogs, his favorite thing to do there was at George C. Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park, where he would ride a mechanical pony in the horserace course that ran two miles around the park to the finish line and gave the park its name. If his father had taken him or if he had enough money of his own (sometimes he didn’t), he’d always choose to go on the mechanical horserace ride.

A few months ago, he saw a piece in the New York Times about the rebuilding of Coney Island after the disaster that was Hurricane Sandy in New York. There were a bunch of old photos of the amusement park as it used to be in its heyday, including one of the grinning face that was the iconic symbol of Coney Island. It brought him back to a happy time during a not so happy time in his life, so he asked me to paint it for him. I find it hard to refuse him, though most of the people who saw me working on it could not understand why I would paint such a weird looking guy. The truth of the matter is, a portrait’s a portrait, and the same challenges face a portrait painter, no matter who the subject or how appealing. I’m happy to have survived painting all those teeth for him, especially when I see the smile on his face whenever he looks at Funny Face.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

My husband is my biggest fan.  He loves most of my paintings, even the ones that don’t include pretty women or body parts, but he doesn’t really like my jellyfish.  It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the skill involved, but the subjects creep him out.  He grew up in Brighton Beach, NY, spent his childhood at the beach and apparently had his fill of slimy, stinging jellyfish.  That doesn’t stop me from painting the more beautiful and interesting of the species, but it doesn’t make him like those paintings much either.  I’ve been fooling around with ways to paint other things that are transparent and in motion, as much to challenge myself as to find something he might enjoy.  I decided to experiment with smoke: blowing out candles, lighting matches, watching smoke streams.

Up in Smoke

Up in Smoke


When I’m in Boston, it is my habit to come home from a day of painting at the Acorn Gallery, put my current painting on the easel in my studio (which faces out into my front hall) and look at it.  I stop on my way out of my kitchen and study it; I stop on my way back to the kitchen and stare at it, often having to remind myself that I came down to make dinner or get a drink.  I look at it when I’m bringing the newspaper in, and I see it when I’ve picked up the mail.  But that’s just me being a little obsessive about my work—seeing what needs to be changed, what might be enhanced, what should come next.  I never really expect anyone else to be quite as mesmerized by something I paint as I am.  Until now.  There’s something about staring at that smoke stream in Up in Smoke that keeps you hypnotized.  I don’t know why it does that, but it makes me want to paint more smoke—a series, perhaps, with the smoke on each canvas coming from different sources. Inspiration sometimes floats in on a puff of smoke…