5.18.2017

A Lost Painting Part Deux . . . She Has Arrived - A Reunion After 19 years

On Tuesday afternoon as I sat on my porch swing with my doggies basking in the sun after much planting in the garden, a fed ex truck drove down my driveway.  My dogs barked as I walked barefoot towards my carport to meet the driver.  A large cardboard box covered the small fed ex guy.  I laughed as he stretched his neck to see me around the box.  "Where would you like this? " He said. 
I smiled and extended my arms and thanked him as he gave me the package.  
Now I knew the portrait was due to arrive on Wed according to the tracking so I honestly didn't expect it.  I figured perhaps my husband had ordered something but the label had my name.  
I didn't have to guess, I knew, she had arrived.  



When I finally finished uncovering the painting I was thrilled to see it had come in a lovely gold frame.  
I rested her on my table on my porch and took a step back.  I didn't understand why I suddenly was swept with such a strange mixture of sadness and joy that I burst into tears.  
I thought to myself as I was crying "why am I crying?"  I had never met this woman in the portrait but somehow I felt as if I knew her in some small way.  I cried because I thought of all the years this portrait had exsisted.  Of how she had come to arrive at my house and all she had traveled and experienced.  Was she loved?  Had she been admired with appreciation or was she just packed away somewhere?  

You might say this was silly but I said "Hello, Harryetta.  I'm so glad you're here.  I'm going to take you to your home now."

I thought of how I could tell Meg she had arrived a day early.  Tossed around a few scenerios of how to surprise her in my head and then I ran inside, brought the dogs in and the painting.  I put on shoes and grabbed my straw hat and  Harryetta with a little bubble wrap and put her in my car.  
Six minutes later I was pulling up Meg's driveway.  I knew she would be working but was hoping that she would be in her office and not on a road trip somewhere.  The day was very hot and I was afraid to have the painting too long in the car exposed to the elements.  

I took my phone and sent her a verbal text since I was driving.  "Are you working?"
Before she could answer I was literally parking my car outside her office.  I opened the window and walked outside to the door of her office.  The screen door was closed but the inside door was opened. I rang the doorbell.  It startled me because it was very loud.  Meg came half way towards the door carrying her phone talking to me saying "I was just going to text you."
She looked up and I said, "She has arrived."  That's all I had to say.  She stopped in her tracks and looked at me through the screen door.  
She said "She's here?" Pointing out towards the car.  "I mean in your car?  She's here?"
I nodded and said "Oh Meg, she's even more beautiful than in the picture."  I could hear my voice tremble as I spoke.  It was very emotional for both of us.  
Meg said, I need a minute and went inside.  I told her I would wait outside and I walked towards the car but she was close behind.  
I thought it was funny that Meg brushed her clothes off with her hand and adjusted her top as if she were to be introduced to someone or meet a friend when caught off guard.  She followed me to the car and I told her "She's truly stunning."  We walked around to the car and I asked, "Are you ready Meg?"  
She nodded and didn't say a word and braced herself as she stood watching me open the car door.  
I pulled the portrait out slowly, took the bubble wrap off and rested the back of the painting on my foot so that she faced Meg.  Meg held in her breath as she saw her dear friend painted on canvas.  She said "Hello" and then she broke down.
I broke down too as I watched her come closer to study the portrait.  
I can't begin to explain what a magical, amazing, spiritual experience this has been.  Spiritual I think is the perfectly suited word for this moment or extraordinary happenstance.  
After looking at her together I lifted the painting to take it to Meg's house.  To my surprise there were papers on the back of the painting.     

James Wilmott, the painter of the portrait had started The infamous Boothbay Playhouse in Maine with his partner and friend Franklyn Lethall.  Harryetta appeared in the play "Private Lives" with the one and only Christopher Reeves.  See below.  
These actual photos were stapled to the back.
Left is Harryetta herself.  
Below, in the same play are Christopher Reeves again, Harryetta seated, Franklyn Lenthall next to her and Jean Ten Brinck another actress on the right.
Along with the photos was a small aged newspaper clipping of a small bio of Harryetta, A newspaper article on Jim and the Boothbay theater and a copy of the obituary of the gentleman who owned the portrait.  He had passed in 2016.   According to ebay it was listed under an antique collectables company.  How it got to them I guess we shall never know.  

Yesterday Meg text me and said there would be a small celebration at her home to hang the photo and that there would be some champagne.  I pureed some strawberries and went to my local bakery and had this done for the occasion.  I thought it would be fitting.   
They did a wonderful job.  
These photos were from this evening.  
Below, Meg and Harryetta.  Together again.  



Meg, Harryetta and Me.
When I look at portraits I've often wondered about all the time we spend looking, studying and staring at them, is there any chance that we've gotten it all wrong and they are the ones looking at us.  They are watching us, our mistakes, our fumbles and they see our shortcomings and somehow they are at peace just watching.
Life is peculiar.  It is filled with moments that are both high and low and at times we are walking around too preoccupied with our lives and our responsibilities that we tend to forget that we are not alone.  We are surrounded by those that have walked this earth before us.  They are still here and sometimes, if we are quiet and still, we might hear them or actually be put in the middle of a path of something happening.
It is all bigger than us, bigger than what we can comprehend and as much as we try or proudly assume that we understand it all . . . something like this happens and you are humbled and feel smaller than a grain of sand and you realize how great and vast the world, life, and God is.
But as small as we may be in the grand scheme of things, we can make a small difference by being open and not afraid to hear what is being said in the quiet.


5.15.2017

A Lost Painting Finds Its Way. . . An experience I shall never forget.

About a week ago I was at work (at my store) on a quiet day and I was searching on ebay.  I have had much success on ebay over the years.  I have found lovely alabaster lamps, lightly used pieces of furniture and always great paintings.  I have found great deals and lovely pieces for really unbelievable prices and have always been happy with my purchases.

I have posted in the past about my love for vintage portrait studies and have done various posts about my staircase gallery as I like to call it.  Well last week I was looking for another painting to add to my collection.  I wanted something in the same era 40's or 50's.  I'm always looking for the same type of paintings.  They are usually haunting and beautiful with a hint of sadness in their stare.    Someone asked me as they were contemplating my collection if there was a theme that tied them together.  I replied that I thought the theme was loneliness or at least that's what most of them feel like to me.
Now I do have a portrait of Mary and Jesus with St. Anthony that does not depict that theme at all.

Anyway, as I scrolled down the hundreds of paintings that fit my search criteria I stumbled across this beauty.  I was immediately smitten.  I loved the size, the colors, the brush strokes and how the light hit the subjects face.  But what truly attracted me to it was the fact that her stare reminded me of my mom's eyes when she was younger.

The painting was for auction and the starting bid was 550.00.  As much as I wanted the painting that was above my budget and I couldn't really justify spending all that money on a painting so I continued to look.  I let it go for a day, still searching every now and then on different sites but the painting continued haunt me.  I couldn't put it out of my mind.

As I searched I came across the woman once again.  Now we all know how ebay works.  Usually if you put in a bid that is below the starting bid it will be rejected and you will get some kind of automated response informing you that it is under the amount suggested.  So don't ask me why I made an offer for 250.00.
I know.   It was crazy!  I don't know what made me place that offer and to be totally truthful, 250 was more than I could really spend to put down.
But I did it anyway.
Not even ten minutes after I placed the offer I heard my phone ding.  I had a reply.  To my surprise it was not the answer I expected.  It said, "Congratulations, your offer has been accepted."

What?  Seriously?  I won it?  I couldn't believe it.  I had to confirm and pay and I was a bit nervous about doing so because 250.00 was still quite alot to pay, but at the same time it was way lower than the initial amount of 550 so 250 was a steal for such a beautiful piece of art.
So I bought it.   I had won this beautiful painting and I couldn't stop admiring it on my phone and laptop.  I even took a screen shot of it and had it on my phone.  I broke the news to my husband stating adamently that I was getting a great piece of art for practically nothing.  With much convincing, he finally agreed.

Now here's the reason for this post and an experience I shall remember for the rest of my life.

Yesterday morning, my husband and I went to our favorite breakfast place.  As we had our eggs, I commented about the painting and how I couldn't wait to put it up on my gallery.  He listened as he usually does, nodding every now and then and then I told him how I wish I knew who this woman was.  I wish I knew her story was exactly what I told him.

Later that afternoon, as I was at the store admiring my painting on my phone,  I was moved to put it on instagram.  I had been waiting to share my great find when I finally recieved the painting but felt too excited and thought I should do a post.  (You can see my actual post if you click on my instagram icon)

A few minutes later, and I mean minutes I received a phone call from my friend Meg.   Her voice sounded nervous as she spoke.  She had been at the beauty salon having her hair done and was scrolling through instagram when she happened to see my post.  The post I had just put on instagram only moments before.

I met Meg several years ago through my son's mother in law.  She has had a facinating life and has been involved in theater and the film industry for years.  Her father was a famous film editor and needless to say she has had so many wonderful experiences and I am always eager to be in her company and hear her stories of the many famous encounters she has had throughout her lifetime.

Back to the portrait.

Meg explained that she had been stunned by my post and wanted to know how I had acquired the painting.  I filled her in on the details thinking she was simply acknowledging an incredible ebay find.

Meg proceeded to tell me the reason for her call.  She said Lisa I knew the woman in the painting.

What?

She began:

The woman's name was Harryetta Peterka.  Harryetta was a well known and wonderful drama teacher  and director of instruction at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC.  In her early years she was an actress herself and toured professionally as a member of the Academy Repertory Company.  She performed Off Broadway and in regional theater.  She appeared with Christopher Reeve in "The Complaisant Lover. (old English spelling)"  Meg had worked with her in NYC and Harryetta had become a mentor and a dear friend.

Meg worked with Harryetta in New York City.   Ms Peterka supervised students enrolled in a two year professional theater training program as she served as artistic director of the Academy Company.  Tragically Harryetta was struck by a bicycle messenger while crossing Madison Avenue in front of the academy at the age of 64 in 1998.
Meg explained that she accompanied her battered body in the ambulance after the accident.  She was declared brain dead practically on arrival and passed four days later at Bellevue Hospital.

She told me about another friend of Harryetta and hers named James Wilmot.  I recognized the name.  He was the painter of the portrait of Harryetta.  Apparently he had painted this portrait many years prior and had sold it to a couple.  After Harryetta's burial Meg had expressed her wishes about the painting and her desire to own it.  Jim, as Meg called him, regretfully relayed to her that it was no longer in his possession.
He told her that Harryetta and her husband had never expressed an interest for it.  Her husband had remarked about how he had not been happy with how Jim had captured his wife.  That her expression seemed mean to him.

Jim consoled Meg with the words "it will find it's way to you in time."  She recalled.  Meg never forgot his words and was given a photo of the painting by Jim in the aftermath of Harryetta's death.
(actual photo of it below)


That photo remained in Meg's posession for years.  She had it on her desk, in her office and placed a simple frame around it in memory of her mentor and friend Harryetta.  In the years to come, Meg continued her correspondence with Jim and maintained her yearly christmas card exchange until an envelope from Mr. Wilmot's lawyer was sent to Meg with an obituary notice, a letter explaining when Jim had died and Meg's unopened Christmas card to Jim.

Meg explained that she never let go of the idea of finding the painting someday, nor did she forget the words Jim had told her.  "It will find it's way to you in time."

This was the painting.  This was the time.  Jim's words had become reality and Meg had not only just found the painting but her friend had just purchased it.

When she finished I didn't know what to say.  My mind flashed back to the morning when over breakfast I had said to my husband that I wish I knew more about the woman in the portrait.
Here I was learning not only who she was but how she had died, who had painted her and who had been searching for the painting all these years.

It was clear to me that there was something greater than a coincidence or happy happenstance occuring.  This was fate in play.  A portal had some how opened and a force had reached out to me in order to allow a prophecy to take place.  Jim's prophecy had come true and I had been an instrument used to bring it in full circle back to Meg, the person the painting had been intended for.
Harryetta had somehow reached out to Meg through me.

Dumbfounded and in complete and utter awe of the occurance I told Meg that I could never keep this painting.  This painting was meant for her.  She cried as I told her and I cried too.  It was surreal and incredible and I was humbled and fortunate to have played a small role in such an extraordinary experience.
I guess Harryetta was still directing somehow even from beyond.

As excited as I was to have found such a treasure I was filled with joy to know that Meg will finally have the painting she has been longing to have for so many years.    I shall never question life's unexplainable occurrences and will always and forever believe that fate continues to be a phenomenon we might never truly comprehend.

5.02.2017

In The Garden


In the garden I will be
waiting for my friends
the ones I've waited a year long
to show their kindly face
flowers come
let me find your scent
your very presence makes me smile
I am filled with joy
in my garden
with all my friends nearby
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