Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

An Authentic Clara Julian

Everything dissolves into scalding heat. My mind shifts gears from "Rita's six hours away" to "the sun beats down on everything". I played with software toys at dawn. I worked hard all days on things that matter. My dog, Ted, and I walked in the park. Three toddlers came up, eager to pet her. She stood patiently while they gingerly reached out to run their hands across her coat.

I read of the Lillian Hellman/Mary McCarthy feud, which mostly reminded me how wrong-thinking so many literati were about Stalin. I'm intrigued, too, that so many authors enjoyed a vogue a few decades ago while retailing stories they lifted from other places. But perhaps the essence of a fiction writer is writing elaborate fictions-my impressions dissolve like mirages in the heat on this and every other topic.

The human need to confront and to oppose intrigues me. I'm not bothered by it--after all, I advocate and often debate for a living. Yet there is that human trait that causes people to hunt for hidden motives and secret compacts in everything. I can think that way--it's a valuable skill in some contexts--but I try not to live my life that way. I can be guilty of assuming the worst of people, but I try to consume and obliterate that by hoping for the best. When my hope is rewarded, that is the best.

My mother's theory, which influences me, is that in many settings, one expects to be treated a certain way and one is therefore actually treated in that way. This theory, like most theories, did not extend literally to all situations. When a man grabbed her bag and knocked her down, her arm was as injured as someone with lower expectations. But she had a point that in many situations, a way to receive dignified treatment is to treat others as if they not only were capable of extending it, but could be counted upon to do so. I try to recognize the worth and dignity of others as often as I can by treating them as if their worth and dignity will cause them to treat me as having worth and dignity.

I read a new magazine called Plein Air on Sunday, which dwelt on the people who still practice the American version of post-post-Impressionistic nature painting. Readers of this journal will no doubt pardon me if I do not elaborate this evening any analysis of art with any comment more profound than that I love the 1930s and 1940s plein air Californians. Here in north Texas, the air seems less "plein" somehow, and it's not just that heavy industrial plant in Ennis that federal regulators failed to regulate for years. We have our own sun and our own light and it reminds nobody of gardens in Brittany. Still, I like simple painting with complex light-depiction intention.

We have a running joke in our home. Over our fireplace, we have a painting by a fellow whom my wife is sure was a "known" minor California watercolorist. We are just waiting for a berth on some antiques roadshow evening to prove out our theory. It's a really nice piece--a kind of gauzy view of a town, with Mediterranean colors all 'round. It's a piece of some casual gravitas, and it holds a place of pride.

But I always rejoin with my description of the fortune I hope to make with our authentic Clara Julian. It's called "The Red Barn", and right on the back, it says "Clara Julian, the Red Barn, 1970". I'm sure it must be some Texas primitive, who painted a red barn and other simple farm things in such a bold and straightforward way. I got it at a flea market for ten dollars. It sits in our garage.
Any time we discuss any potential "Antiques Roadshow" moments among our possessions, I bring my wife into stitches by discussing our authentic Clara Julian. I run google searches, sometimes, wondering which Clara Julian spent her early years painting our "The Red Barn". Was it the social worker in Missouri? Was it the school teacher or the corporate type elsewhere? When she finished "The Red Barn", did she mean to hang it on her wall forever? Did it win a high school art show?

I do not know, but I know that I need to pull "The Red Barn" from our garage, dust the frame, and put it on the wall in my spare room, in a place of pride. It has delivered more amusement already than much art does, and I would like to think that Clara Julian, wherever she is these 35 years later, would be proud.

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