Monday, October 1, 2007

Barn Talk

The Clearing, 2007, Oil on Panel, 24x24

Since my mother died last August, I have been lucky enough to get back in contact with several members of our extended family. We have all had some lovely communications about our family members and shared past and it has been very comforting to me. Turns out this blog has been a good way to connect and to stay connected.

One of my mom's cousins, often emails me to remark on something I have written here. Judy married my grandmother's brother's son, which makes us cousins twice removed with with some kind of lemon twist. Heh. My grandmother used to have a great understanding of the intricacies all of those relationships; to me we are all just cousins. Jim and Judy live on the same family farm in Ohio that my grandmother grew up on in the early 1900's, along with her three sisters and brother. When I was young, I loved to hear the stories of their childhood and their life on the farm (I should have paid more attention to the farm part!). Their lives were incredibly difficult on a daily basis but they all grew up to be very strong and educated adults and knowing that part of my family's history helped ground me when I pitied myself and my own disrupted childhood. My mother, sister and I traveled to Ohio quite often in the late seventies and visiting the farm was fascinating. I loved to imagine the events that my grandmother had described and to envision where they must have taken place in the house, barns and land. I was envious that I couldn't live in a place that I felt so connected to through my grandmother's stories. Perhaps that is why things feel right for me now, here on this farm.

But I digress. Judy recently sent me an email which was quite possibly the best compliment anyone, but especially her, could have given me. It read:

I enjoy your paintings, but being surrounded by old barns, I just marvel at your love of painting barns. I have been looking at my old dilapidated barns, trying to find what kind of inspiration you get in painting these barns.

Jim keeps fixing and slapping paint on these old barns every summer. I'm sure he probably has that same feeling about barns that you do, of course in a different way. You certainly paint beautiful pictures, and I must say, I look at barns a little differently. I even notice barns I never noticed in the neighborhood before.

To have any kind of influence whatsoever on how a person sees a barn, especially a person who has been around them nearly all her life, is just the most incredible feeling ever. Inspiring others is not what I have intended with my barns but is instead one of the loveliest and most meaningful surprises that I could have as a painter. Those surprises don't come everyday, but when they do, wow!

And after I thanked Judy for such a compliment I did what any pragmatist would do, I told her that I would LOVE a few photographs of those barns to use as reference. I am always looking for good barn references.


Lindsay said...

lovely post! My extended family also likes to read my blog to keep in touch.

Funny how filtering an object through the artist's eye can change things for others. A lovely compliment!

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks Lindsey. Hey, nice watercolors over on your blog. I keep meaning to leave a comment but am a bit slow on keeping up with that these days.

Anonymous said...


The light in this painting is wonderful. Your paintings are usually luminescent, but this one has even more of a glow than usual. Lovely.

I was sorry to read about your mom. It's nice though when things like the family reconnection you describe in this post come out of sad moments.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks Shan, it has been a tough time recently. But the sting has lessened and the busyness of our life helps in addition to getting in touch with long lost family members.

And thanks for the compliment about the painting. I am glad it looks luminous, it is in real life too, but it is also less refined than it looks on the computer screen.