I’ve always appreciated this image but was recently struck by the number of ‘likeable’ elements; as if any privileged white person might see themselves in the face of the mother or her children and decide it’s polite enough, even desirable, to empathize with. This is the image of hard times I can face and maybe even hang in my office. I wonder if Net-a-Porter does Depression-era button-downs?
Her well-formed fingers lightly grazing an educated face; we assume the differences and judge accordingly. Toned forearm holding itself parallel to the collar-bone and exposed ribs; modern day mainstream upper-crusty, accessory kit. Her symmetrical face and smartly layered, subtly tattered ‘poverty chic’ ootd. The highlights and haircuts her children wear are what we request, nay demand from single-surnamed salons.
This is just one of many providential ingredients; people see it when they’re destined to See and even then we always have a choice. Look or look the other way.
Either way, Dorothy, a privileged white woman, took a beautiful photograph of poor people which is exactly what the government had asked her to do. So sad. So chic. Does it come on a recycled canvas tote bag?
Anyway, today I finished the unfinished woman and for whatever reason she reminded me of the dressed up shadow self of the Migrant Mother whose real name happened to have been Florence Owens. Here’s the story behind the photograph.
As for the story behind this painting, I’d finally gotten sick of seeing her incomplete. Filling in the blank space required committing to decisions about color and texture; fleshing her out from one to multi-dimensional, parallel to my book which now has two additional chapters. I want to be done but it needs to be done right.
While I have little desire to revisit certain places in the past, the stories refuse to go unwritten. Surrender has given way to wreckage and all the rest. And Ms. Owens, my strange and dazzling bird, is ready to fly.
“Wish you could believe in me.”-Sally Owens