A picture worth a thousand thank yous

“It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet.”

Tomita Kojiro, a Japanese Art scholar, would have seen his quote in action on Christmas Day as my sister in-law Nancy presented her goddaughter Molly (and me) with a gift that both transcended time and geography, and united them.

Having seen a picture online that reminded her of Molly, Nancy set out to track down the artist. Eventually, she connected with Jeannie Hayden, an LA-based painter and illustrator.

“I’m not sure how I stumbled upon you last year but I took a screenshot of “Madeline Reading Red Dress” because it could be titled ‘my niece Molly reading,'” Nancy wrote in an email exchange. “Everything about it captures Molly and reminds me of her – a college student @ University of Wisconsin- Madison who loves to read and write and wear dresses and put her hair up and read and write some more. ”

They chatted a bit about the piece, which, as it turns out, Jeannie painted of her daughter Madeline, who is now a college freshman.

“When she posed for it she was going through a shy phase so I could only paint her from the back angle,” Jeannie wrote. “Long ago I also spent a summer in Madison WI and love the campus.”

They arranged for Jeannie to send Nancy both prints and an electronic file of the picture, which Nancy used to make mugs for both Molly (and me).

The image captures the complete absorption a reader feels when he or she is drawn into an excellent book. I also love its shy subject’s barefoot elegance.

The piece is triply meaningful in that it also reminds us of one of the women who gave Molly her name and her love of words, her grandma, the Outlaw Grandma Mary Jane.

Molly will be taking her picture back to college,. She plans to hang it next to a Rosie the Riveter painting her Aunt Elaine sent her. I’ll be framing mine and hanging it in my kitchen, where it will serve as a cheerful reminder of a beloved daughter, her thoughtful aunt, and the talented artist who connected us all.

Molly reading
Here is Molly at six-years old enjoying a summer afternoon reading.
This is Nancy, who had the print and mug made for both Molly (and me. It is also, hilariously, a shot of our very gracious hostess’s arm. My sister in-law Cary is also an avid reader and she is holding a print of the painting Nancy discovered. 
This is a shot of the painting. I love its barefoot elegance. 
“Madeline Reading” also reminds me of this painting, “Three Girls Reading,” by Walter Firle. I first saw it in my mother in-law’s kitchen and now it hangs in Nancy’s house.
I’m adding this picture too because I think it makes our hosts, Cary and Steve’s, living room look like a movie set, which is just about right. Some day I’ll tell the story of two people who designed their new house based entirely on beauty, generosity, and love.



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