A Children's Story

Entry by: littlelin

7th August 2015
The Sculptress and Her Children

Gwen had instantly become pivotal to my stay in Burgundy when we met at her open-air studio. As we talked at length I wondered how to approach her. In the event she asked me in for a meal. We arranged to meet the next day and I hoped I could ride the deep swell I was feeling.

She dressed carefully for our date. A broad - rimed straw hat set off her strawberry blonde hair and a flowing printed skirt flattered her maturing curves. Life burgeoning long after her children had left. I felt I pleased her as a companion. We sat drinking coffee beneath an old film poster of ‘La Dolce Vita’. Would champagne follow?

She had brought me to Avalon to see a commission she had recently installed. It is displayed in the ancient Romanesque church in the market square. It is an unflinchingly modern representation of Christ’s ascension to heaven placed up high. First you notice the wounded feet, expressive like a woman’s, then you see the elongated body formed by thin silver metal drawn out as if being pulled into a black hole. The neck and head of glass which is seen only as a bright outline entering another dimension, which of course is the point. The longer I looked the more I felt its power, and hers.

As I stood admiring her work Gwen herself was absorbed by several large notice boards linked together and covered with drawings by Sunday school children, young ones at that. The colourful depictions of their little world of smiling hopeful faces, angels and families were alike in simplicity and acceptance.

Gwen whispered, “Oh, how much is hoped for, how much is lost and yet how much can remain. Our worries seem timeless and unrelated to outcomes.”
“Life is surely independent of our worries.” I echoed, not realising, until later, the depths from which her feelings were welling up.

Gwen and I took the direct approach and fell easily into each other’s life. She told me about a particular virus she had but I had not thought it would kill her. In our short togetherness we were never apart, literally. This was largely because her house was in a small hamlet and there was simply nowhere to go beyond the garden and the small courtyard where she worked obsessively with mallet and chisel. Under the stars in the evening and the sun in the garden, over coffee and wine, over walks and over her shoulder as she added something of herself to stones she spoke to me of her life. In a beautiful unhurried meandering way she became as familiar to me as the moon. Which is to say a poetic feeling rather than actual knowledge.

When she died I met both her children and was looking forward to learning more about “my” Gwen. They arrived together a few days before the funeral but it was clear that the togetherness was unusual. Very soon the two girls started circling each other looking to impose differing views about their mother. Some of their words go come back to me at night:

Marine, the younger by three years: “Our childhood was full of freedom and wonder.”

Chantal: “For you maybe, you believed everything you were told. I had to wash and dry my clothes overnight and get myself up to walk to school.”

Marine : “ I remember bright holidays and money for treats.”

Chantal: “Mum drank and drank. All those artist ‘friends’ – it wasn’t freedom we had, it was neglect.”

Marine: “Mum showed us love, even when the marriage was breaking up but I agree, there was more love than stability.”

They both said that Gwen had been playful, fun and loved and respected by many. They were themselves developing artistic reputations and must have been aware that the three of them were shaped by some deep similarities.

They had known of my arrival but had not thought of asking my name, no doubt thinking I wouldn’t last. They hadn’t known of Gwen’s illness either and I was their only key to the last months of their mother’s life. She had spoken to me about her tumultuous life and about the fear that she had neglected Chantal and Marine to develop her art. She was afraid that her work would be found ‘lightweight’, that some of the artists she had known had treated her more as a model, even as a groupie, than as equally gifted. I knew, remembering her response to the Sunday school children’s drawings in the church that she was aware that nature is a lot deeper than individuals.

I told them what I knew. I told them that whatever they remembered of their childhood they had been loved by a force of nature, a great artist. And I drove them to Avalon and lead them to the church. I watched them standing beneath the achievement of their mother. This was art speaking to them beyond the facts. I sensed tears, both of them speechless.

Later outside in the sunlit square the spoke quietly together and then, turning to me said, “A mother is not the woman her children think she is.”
Marker 1
Marker 2