I am in "past reality overload" due to being around my family yesterday. It is overwhelmingly uncomfortable and slightly maddening. I have decided to share a nice memory to take my mind off of the insane thoughts racing through my brain.
It was a turning point in my life because he found this statue of Michelangelo's "Pieta". It was the day that I discovered art and beauty in the form of this beautiful statue. It was not beautiful when it came out of that little space under the stairs however - it was covered in years and layers of gook and dust.
My maternal grandparents were overtly Catholic, attending Mass weekly and religiously praying before each religious family meal feast. In our home, however, we were not so overtly religious as my mother was ex-communicated from the Church, and my father and his family were Protestant. My Mother left it to us (my brother and I to make our own decision regarding religion when we were old enough to decide.
Before we moved to West Pittsfield, while I struggled to come to terms with my parents split up and my Dad's close brush with death for the second time in my life via the car accident with his broken neck, I used to spend time at St. Charles Church, which was the church I was baptized in and the one my Grandparents attended every week. It was between my elementary school and our apartment on Briggs Avenue.
When I had a particularly trying day at school or just with life in general I would go into the church and pray, and read the Stations of the Cross and absorb the overall quiet and comfort of the large empty church with its beautiful stained glass windows and ornate Altar and Balcony and Organ. No one was ever in the Church and it was a time when churches were still unlocked and accessible to the public.
Like Pittsfield General Hospital where my Father was in for his broken neck, no one ever stopped or questioned me when I was wandering by myself in this place even though I was a young child. It was comforting and calming to me. Churches and cemeteries have that power to soothe me when I am troubled even to this day.
When Joe pulled this statue out from under the stairs all dirty and hidden, my first thought was that is was sacrilegious to have had such a beautiful religious work hidden and neglected as it were. My second thought was how do I make it beautiful again without ruining it. So I thought about it. I was worried and did not want to just wash it in warm soapy water and have it disintegrate before my eyes (that would have been just my luck!)
I got some baking soda and water and a old toothbrush and I worked on restoring this statue, after testing a discreet part to see if it would even work. After I was sure it would do more good than harm I painstakingly cleaned and claimed this statue for my own. I cannot remember how many hours I painstakingly cleaned every nick and cranny of this beautiful piece of art. Knowing it was probably owned by one of his relatives and given to him from the Old Country.
I cherished that Pieta and began reading about Michelangelo who is one of my favorite artists and it has always been one of my hidden desires to learn to sculpt great masterpieces out of a block of stone. I am a coward though and never have tried, although the desire is still there.
That lead to Art Class at Taconic High School under the tutelage of Morris Bennett, whose style of art, although modern, led me to explore other mediums of art. Many other mediums of art. I could not get enough of escaping with my art book with me during every waking moment in order to sketch while I was thinking, sitting by the side of the river on my favorite "floating rock" behind our house, or walking through the woods.
We used to have a great art supply store and I still remember the day that I found calligraphy pens with tubes of vibrant ink choices and different tips to use, which I can do letters and write, but I wasn't about that, my work was usually combinations of things, pictures within pictures, as things were never clear in my life, always hidden, but if you look closely enough you could see them.
Art was a great escape for me as I recall now. And once I learned to get a pass from Mr. Bennett, instead of skipping his class to be outside and drawing, life was good. I loved his class. He did not teach us. He let us explore and create. I also wanted to learn oil painting but I was such a coward to even bring it up. It is totally on my list and maybe one day when I can create again I will try to learn.
My talent for art comes and goes. It is mostly gone as I block everything - fight myself in a way not secure enough to let my guard down and express myself without feeling judgement of myself. Hence this blog, which is my main outlet for creativity and allowance of freedom of expression. I used to write as well during those troubled years, privately for my sanity.
I am a huge appreciator of Art and one thing I look forward to every month is The First Friday Art Walk so I can absorb art and it has reminded me that I am an art person. I am not an artist, but deep down inside perhaps I am. I have an eye for beauty and an open mind.
I digress however from my story. This Pieta has been with me most of the time since I cleaned it. However, the first time my parents locked me out and threw me aside because of a man I liked, Joe, my stepfather took the Pieta so that I could not have it. He had it for a couple of years and when they started talking to me again I could have cried when I saw the state of my beautiful statue, dirty and covered. When they loved me again I reacquired my Pieta and I cleaned it up again. It seemed to be dirtier than it had been when I originally found it!
I have held onto and cherished that statue now for more thirty-sh years. I keep it on a shelf always, with my step father's dog off his dump truck which he drove, a box I cherish from an old friend who died the day after he gave me the box, all the mass cards from my family and friends who have gone before me -thank god, you do not need invitations to funerals - as it is the only time I see my family. Another Pieta a man I loved got for me when he went to Italy - which although that was 24 years ago I acquired the second smaller one, I have never had to clean either. (Thank you Mario). Pictured above. I am not religious, although I am very spiritual.
I have never had to clean it again, sure I blow the dust off it now and again, and recently got an eyeful of dust, but never again has it ever gotten like that, and it has been as when he took it out of spite. I think there is a moral in there somewhere.