"No Accountin' for Taste..."

Vivien Oswell's,   Little Petunia in an Onion Patch

Vivien Oswell's,  Little Petunia in an Onion Patch

All art should inspire and make us think about life in a different way.  This little artwork does so for me.   Currently it is hanging in front of me as I sit at my desk. I know that it is an odd image (as my brother-in-law would say, no accountin' for taste...) but the whole process of acquiring the painting, the life and value of the artist and the subject itself speaks to me and encourages me. 

I know that it is not very aesthetically pleasing.  But some things in life are not.  As much as we want things to be otherwise, we can get stuck in the muck and dirt.  It can be very humbling especially when we picture ourselves as a beautiful flower in an idyllic setting and think we are above the mud.  The reality is that we are more in the dirt than we think.  Humble and humus come from the same root words- from the earth. Humility is not a weak character trait;  it is one that cultivates growth. The painting reminds me to be humble in all my endeavors.

Sometimes we are placed in situations that just don't seem to fit.  We are flowers that for whatever reason- circumstances, choices, temperament- we find ourselves growing in a totally unlikely place. We may want to cry over our situation but we can also think of our placement as necessary.  Necessary to maintain balance for ourselves- remaining humble despite what we think we deserve.   Necessary for others to see life in a different way- one can bloom even when the environment seems hostile.  We are called to make the best out of our lives and sometimes we have to live that adage, not just say it. 

The artist always felt that her talent was God's gift to her.  She has been faithful to that gift most of her life, continuing to paint even in her nineties. I first saw this painting three years ago when I had strolled into an artist's guild studio in one of the little villages on the Cape.  At the guild, each artist takes a turn at the sales desk so on the day I visited, Vivien happened to be behind the desk.  I liked her other paintings but was struck by the oddity of this subject, flower and onions against her boating, beach and floral scenes.  When I asked her about it, she said that she wanted to try something different.  She even sang the song to me, "I'm a Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch" on which the picture was based. We had a lovely conversation about art, the sense of calling and how one needs to persevere in the art practice.  At the time I debated purchasing the painting.  It wasn't "attractive" so I didn't.  Yet over the last three years, I would think about it and think of Vivien.  I would recall her story and it would encourage me.  "Next time I am at the Cape I need to see if I can get it." 

The original sheet music.  Click here to hear it.

The original sheet music. Click here to hear it.

This year, I decided to go back to the guild and purchase it.  When we went in, we found Ms. Oswell's collection but this painting wasn't there on the wall.   I was so disappointed.   When I asked the artist in attendance about the painting and if Ms. Oswell was still painting (I didn't want to ask if she was still alive, for she is 95 after all)  she said that Vivien had suffered a cardiac incident but was recovering at home. She then suggested that I contact Ms. Oswell to ask her about that specific painting.  When I finally got up the courage to call her (it is daunting to contact an artist, especially one not well), Ms. Oswell answered the phone and said to come on over to her house/studio. She was all excited saying she had the original.  We made an appointment to meet at her house.  When we got there, she was up, alert and didn't look at all that she had any health issues.  She was sitting in her living room/art gallery.  There were wooden bins of prints and paintings all around the perimeter.  Various sized canvases were stacked against the wall.  There appeared to be hundreds of her works scattered all around.    She proudly showed us a painting of a bowl of petunias. While the painting was beautiful it was not the one I wanted.   I was crestfallen!

I then asked- what about the one with the petunia in the onion patch?  Generally I am not that bold as to make specific requests of others but at that point, I was not going to let any stone be unturned.  She thought for a moment and then immediately sprang out of her chair- no walker for her- and sorted through a collection of paintings leaning against her fireplace and produced it.  I felt such relief,  joy and satisfaction in purchasing it.  

Sometimes we need to pursue that which inspires us and makes us happy.  The item might not be hanging where we first saw it and so we have to ask questions and do a little digging.  We need to pursue those inspirations because we need reminders of why we are doing what we are doing.  We may find ourselves feeling out of sorts and in the wrong place so we need that encouragement of a word, a quote or even a picture. And sometimes we need to remain where we are and bloom regardless of how things are situated around us. 

What about you?  Have you ever been inspired by a painting, picture, quote or word?  What was it?  Why do you think that it struck a chord with you?   

Another Vivien Oswell's in our upstairs hallway.

Another Vivien Oswell's in our upstairs hallway.