The working title for all my paintings using Missouri River mud is, “my father’s mud, my mother’s river.” It’s not entirely true, of course, what is? But the mud was collected by Paula at the headwaters of the Missouri where we went the summer of my mother’s spring death. We took her ashes to the baby of the river so she could float down the river she had adopted and loved as her own.
It has taken me a long time to feel free to use the mud – collected and gifted to me with a happy smile from Paula in 1993. So I’m not swift here by any means. I think it’s taken so long because I was afraid to use it up. I was afraid to dip into the muddy, loving and scarce waters of my mother’s river.
She was a rarity. Swooping in and out of my young life like an exotic, endangered long-feathered bird. Sometimes a great thought, perhaps a smile, but just as usual was the withering look, the, “I thought you’d have …. by now.” Mostly she wanted not to have to deal with any growings in or out of really anything, she wanted a done deal and one to her specifications.
So we weren’t always on the same page. She was in Vogue and I was in some do-it-yourself magazine that wouldn’t come out until the 70’s. But from time to time we were in the same place at the same time and there was a connection that formed, opinions grew and changed. We learned about what it takes to be around someone so different, we learned some respect, some willingness and we learned that love is complicated but malleable. And that it can take on a lot of colors.