Canada's Mother!
20" x 30", acrylic, 1999

Maman is french for mother. I have known several extraordinary "mothers" in my life. They are my late grandmother Flore, my godmother Aunt Jacqueline, who still sends me a birthday card every year, and of course, my mother Lucette. A hard working woman all her life, my mother now spends most of her free time knitting and reading. My mother knits while watching television or while doing the laundry. I chose the latter because there is much more character in a basement setting.

This painting has a peculiar story behind it. Started in 1994, it originally had my mother accompanied by the painted photos of us in front of her set against a plain white background. My intention was to have all of us sign the painting in the white areas and present it to her on Mother's Day. Sadly, my mother came down with a minor form of colon cancer and the project was put on hold.

I remember vividly the night before the operation. My mother was at the hospital and my father was alone at home. The house was uncharacteristically silent and empty. I went to see my father and for the first time in our lives, we cried unabashedly together. The possibility of losing someone we both loved and admired was too real to bear. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed the night and keep my father company. He was truly out of sorts and impossible to console. Luckily, the operation was a success and she is healthy today.

Five years after putting the painting on hold, I decided to come back to it and redo the background. Gone are the painted photos of us and instead a basement background included. Recently, while looking at the finished painting, I realized that the cancer was inside her when she posed for me. Viewing the painting with this in mind could have put a bittersweet twist to it, but instead, it only strengthens the love I have for this woman.

Canada's Mother!
In closing, I would like to say that for the first time in my life, I have created an artwork that is more than just a pretty picture. There is a strong emotional attachment to this one because it has my mother in her signature pose, one that can only be recognized and appreciated by the people who know and love her. I remember the day I asked her to pose for me. She could not believe that I wanted to paint her. After this brief moment of disbelief, she immediately took her knitting basket, went down to the basement, sat down quietly, and started knitting. Here I was with this wonderful woman who gave birth to me, and in return, I was giving birth to this painting of her. It certainly does not get better than this.
Canada's Mother!
Painting her hair was like painting little eddies. Painting hair can be difficult if you make it so. The most important thing to remember is that less is more. If you try to paint every single hair, you will get into trouble and possibly go temporarily insane. Love that washing machine dial. I think it's at the rinse cycle!
Canada's Mother!
Here we have an eclectic collection of things. A wind-up clock, brush, thermometer, tissue box, aerosol can, jars, rubber gloves, etc. on top of an old Singer sewing machine. My mother was slightly embarrassed by this. "When people see this, they'll think that we are untidy", she said.
Canada's Mother!
Here we have my mother's tools of the trade. Soap, sponge, rags, a clamp to hold the washing machine drainage hose in place, and an extremely corrosive drain cleaner wrapped up in a protective plastic. I love the stains and subtle hints of rust on the front of the sink from years of use.
Canada's Mother!
This painting was an interesting exercise in lighting. The most exciting play of light takes place under the sink. The hose and wires of the second washing machine on the left casts shadows on its already shaded backside. Also, the leg of the sink casts a crisp shadow on the front of the yellow bucket and a softer one on its backside. The lighting on the grey drainpipe and back wall is my favorite. The important thing was not to darken this area too much. By keeping the shadows light, you give a certain buoyancy and life to an area that could have been mired in darkness.