Happy Father’s Day! Having Artists as Parents

Peter Blume - The Rock
My dad with his opus, a copy of Peter Blume’s “The Rock.” Blume painted it from 1944-1948. My dad finished his version in 1969. The original hangs in the Art Institute.

Happy Father’s Day! Having Artists as Parents

I grew up with artists as parents. To meet them, you’d hardly expect it. They didn’t dress up like artists. My dad didn’t have a hipster beard and glasses, and my mom didn’t walk around in an earth tone dress. No goatees, soul patches, Birkenstocks, or the usual accoutrements of wannabe rebels. They didn’t tell you that’s what they were. Why would they? And their resumes said otherwise: My mom was a legal secretary and my dad was a bookkeeper.

My Dad

My dad, though, had a secret identity. He loved surrealistic art and he loved painting. He especially liked Picasso, Dali and Escher. His painting was never original, but copying noted pieces. The best my dad did was of Peter Blume’s “The Rock.” Side-by-side, no one but his children confused his for Blume’s, but I enjoyed it our home. His paintings weren’t the kind that a sheepish spouse hangs reluctantly in a rarely used room.

My dad’s enthusiasm for good art wasn’t effusive in the stereotypical art dealer sort of way. He carried no such affectation. Whenever we’d see an odd piece, though, he was happy to talk about it. He explained the unseen logic in illogical paintings. Things, despite apparent discord, made sense in their context. That helped build in me observation.

My Mom

My mom also had a secret identity. Not so secret, really. She headed up the “Picture Lady” art appreciation program for my school district. She found prints of great art and taught about them in grade school classrooms. We visited Chicago’s Art Institute often. Meanwhile, she wrote funny articles for the Chicago Tribune and other publications. Her stuff was occasional. She had no regular gig, but her was often syndicated throughout the country.

She taught me to love writing as play, as well as the wonders of Van Gogh, Seurat, and Matisse.

These were truly somewhat secret identities. Friends and neighbors often didn’t know. Even for my brother and I, this was just life, so, in that, nothing extraordinary. Other parents surely did likewise, I assumed.

Now

Looking back, my dad didn’t paint enough and my mom didn’t write enough. Both could’ve benefited from formal training. Neither had a bachelor’s degree. Anything they did artistically was self-taught. I am no less proud of them and having been their son.

Although I’ve come to know far more accomplished artists and writers, I love this about my parents. There was no Julliard, no Ivy League universities in their world, but they still expressed through media which made sense to them. I get that. That’s what I do. Whether I’m picking notes out of a guitar I don’t actually know how to play, writing a poem or a speech, or exploring some other creative leap, I know the source of my curiosity.

What I gained included an understanding that art isn’t just for the elite. In fact, it is for all, and is accessible by all. They also showed me that exploring curiosity through art is healthy — invigorating, in fact.

I’m thankful to my parents for showing me what could be. They are gone from this limiting Earth, but their joy for created things remains. I am who I am because they were who they were.

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