Darlein Stein

Mom has always been on the front edge of  “current.” Not ahead of her time, but certainly inhabiting the most open-minded and growing edge of ideas.

She may well have been the first artist to sell hand-painted cards at George Jensen, Saks 5th Avenue, Bergdorfs and other high-end New York stores. That enterprise flowed from a generous gesture. She’d volunteered a design for an American Cancer Society event – attendees took to framing the invitation as a distinct work of art. While primarily a professional painter, her hand-painted card business was novel. In the old days, she was admonished to put a first initial rather than her full name on her paintings since women artists were unlikely to be bought and collected. She was featured in newspapers, interviewed on TV and had shows in top end galleries in DC and Baltimore.

Now with her three daughters raised and grown, our bedrooms are respectively an art studio with skylight windows in the roof and a storage room for canvases waiting for permanent homes.

I grew up seeing books on the shelves with with titles like,  Open MarriageTantra, and Bhagavad-Gita, as well as collections of fine art and the greatest writers of fiction. While neither polyamorous nor Hindu, Mom has always soaked up the essence of delight with patience and curiosity. Although confirmedly Jewish, a profound Buddha sculpture sits prominently to her right in the family room. If Dad didn’t object, a colorful Hanukkah bush would find its way to the living room, but even art has its limits.

A moment Mom and I like to remember occurred as we were walking along a Boston street, with the whole family in tow, having just seen Blue Man Group, an adventurous theatre production. It was dark out but Mom suddenly called a halt to our motion. There on the ground was something intriguing, beautiful, and interesting she’d seen with her artist’s peripheral vision. Retrieved, it was the inside of a cell phone with all the circuitry looking like something an architectural artist would have drawn. In ordinary moments, moments when there seems like there’s nothing to see, mom, you manage to open our eyes to beauty.

Mom, who is featured here in a recent picture of her using a new projector to help capture the essence of photographs for the beginnings of paintings, years ago took me to see the Vagina Monologues in the original with Eve Ensler and Rent with the original cast. Sometimes the crowbar on political consciousness opens more like a time release capsule than an instant revelation. She called me on the occasion of Obama’s inauguration, reminding me that 50 years earlier she had taken me by the hand to attend Martin Luther King‘s I Have A Dream March and speech. Sometimes lessons are in the footsteps taken.

I remember her telling me, when I was quite young, of parties that she would go to with artists where, in each room, there was a unique experience for participants. The one I remember most vividly was the room she described as containing a TV and an ax. Those attending the party were invited to help demolish the television set. There is a second refrigerator in the basement of our family home. The poster taped to the front of the refrigerator shows a naked man opening a trench-coat in front of a piece of sculpture. The caption reads, “Expose yourself to art.”

One T-shirt she dons these days now reads: “Fear No Art.” Another reads: “Don’t follow me; I may not lead. Don’t lead; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my sister.” I would have to write a lot more to do justice to the notion of inspiration, but let this be a snippet, a brief tribute, gratitude for modeling that one should always let the light shine in. Love you Mom!

Jim RZ

Jim RZ has so often been the wind beneath my wings. If an idea is small, Jim blows inspiration on the idea so that it goes from embers to a flame. Here he is modeling a swimming stroke for one of the swimming pieces. Thank you, Jim for all your spiritual gifts