This painting has hung in a prominent position in my home for 21 years. I bought it from an Ohio artist I greatly admire, Phyllis Levine, and with her permission I reproduced it on the first 4-color (and I date myself with that term) cover of the magazine I was publishing at the time, Family Times of Cleveland. I have always loved this painting. I’ve also perversely loved the fact that just about everyone else who’s laid eyes on it has hated it – or been ambivalent about it – except for my two daughters Sarah and Hannah. We three feel an emotional bond with this painting and in it we see the same thing: an inscrutable woman. An enigma. Is she content, looking into space absorbed by her own thoughts? Or is she unhappy, feeling trapped by life’s circumstances, represented here by the askew and over-close kitchen appliances crowding and converging on her? Is she wistful? Sad? Is she planning, plotting, thinking of greater things? Or she just plain old damned tired, an uncomplicated woman at the end of a day filled with work whether burdensome or satisfying?
I don’t know. But I like her. I like the sturdiness of her body, the beauty and utility of her wrapped-up hair – ready to do, or possibly just having done – some serious work. I like that, clearly, she doesn’t talk too much.
I want to sit with her – to, together with her, be quietly aware of the day, the hour, the living, the companionable silence. I want to join in her moment of reflection and share the communion of our womanhood. In the old days it would involve a cigarette. Today, most likely a glass of wine.
I suppose I like this woman because she is me.
What do you see in this picture?