My client brought with her something very special that she wanted me to have: a silver spoon. When I opened the box and looked at the sterling silver spoon, I noticed the engraving was my name, Jennie. She had told me about her grandmother, Jennie Robinson Byrne, who was born in Illinois in 1871. My client did not have children and because of the name on the spoon, she wanted me to have it. I was completely touched. Frequently, my collectors end up becoming friends and have done amazing things for me.
It's also not very often that I run into people of the given name, Jennie. I come from the decade of Jennifers and had numerous friends by that name. I've been called everything but Jennie, and it's hard for people to understand that my full name is just that. Turns out it was very popular in the late 1800s (Jennie was the name Lady Randolph Churchill went by, Winston Churchill's mother). But, despite all of that, I love my name because it is unique and I've encountered strong, amazing women from history by that name who I admire.
My client's grandmother is one of them. She persevered through a lot of adversity: a traumatic horse accident that left her with lifelong structural issues, the loss of three of her five children, and the loss of her husband. According to my client, her husband "was home for lunch and making ready to return to work when he grabbed and beat his chest. He threw his arms around his wife and they fell to the floor. Jennie passed out and her husband was dead when they were found. She didn't grieve, appearing to be in shock / disbelief. The doctor was called and she was told to eat an onion sandwich. She ate it and finally tears came." I can't even imagine! She moved forward finding ways to make money through sewing, eventually becoming a fitter. She passed away at the age of 57 in 1928, unfortunately never seeing her son, my client's husband, again after he left for WWI.
I knew I would paint the silver spoon, but wasn't sure what I wanted from it initially. I set to painting it almost immediately, but wasn't satisfied with where the painting was going or what I wanted to communicate. The painting was set down in my studio as I got engrossed in other work. Life happened, I closed my studio, moved, had a child, and finally . . .
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down to apply to a local art show, Primar(il)y Red at Gallery U in Westfield. The background of the painting was mostly cadmium red, but I wanted to do something more with the piece. Then it hit me, six degrees of separation. I pulled out the painting, worked on the spoon, refreshing it, tightening it up, then went to work on the background, adding in six "degree" symbols. I finally felt good about it, signed it, and submitted it.
The good news is, it was accepted to the show and will be on display from December 5th - January 6th at Gallery U in Westfield. I'm not only thrilled about my inclusion in this show, but the mission of the gallery. Gallery U is part of Universal Institute Rehab, which services individuals with traumatic brain injuries. The gallery and boutique is a vocational training program for people with disabilities to get back into the work force. UI also offers a unique art therapy program and some of the artwork is handcrafted by the clients.
Please join me on Friday, December 5th, from 6 - 8pm to celebrate the opening reception. View the Facebook event for more information.
Check my blog soon for another post about what's in a name.
Several years ago, a couple walked into my gallery in Newton, fell in love with one of my paintings (seen below) on site and purchased the work for their home in Morris County. I was out of town the weekend they stopped by and did not have the opportunity to meet them in person, until about a year later when they made another visit.
Jennie Traill Schaeffer
Sometimes called the Kitchen God's Artist, I'm balancing mothering two energetic sons, a big mutt Ringo, and my art. TraillWorks: Studio on 3rd Floor, in West Orange, NJ, is where I teach individualized art lessons and create vivid works featuring sainted kitchen appliances, aprons, landscapes and Wedding Cake Portraits.
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Want to read more from the past? Click here to read archived blog posts from my previous blog on Blogger.