Sunday, November 29, 2009


This piece is one of the first pieces I ever sold. I was invited to participate in a gallery show for Father's Day and decided to make this. For me, it holds lots of special meanings. I'm not sure the person who purchased it actually knew what I had in mind when I made it. He probably just purchased it because he liked the looks of it and because it was inexpensive. Whatever the reason, it seems that I would like to talk about the meaning in this post.

Quite often I am asked (about my art) "What does it mean" or "What did you mean when you made this". Once my Aunt even said to me "What were you thinking when you made it?" Now, if that is a loaded question, I don't know what is. That question could have meant just the obvious: what was I thinking (as in what was my process, how did I come about to put the elements together, etc.) or what was I thinking, as if it took a warped kind of mind to produce such an object. (She was not talking about this piece but one that hangs at my daughter's house in the dining room. I guess it looks "suggestive".)

Sometimes after I have made something I ask my husband "Do you like it?" and most often his response to me is: "It's nice but what does it mean?" I sometimes get offended by that question because it should mean whatever you want it to mean to you. Each person sees different things in different works of art and it shouldn't have to be up to the artist to explain the "deeper" meanings. However, I am going to divulge a few of the meanings of "Daddy's Tie".

Daddy's Tie is made up of many different strips of colored fabric, torn rough and sewn down to the paper using my treadle sewing machine. Nothing like "going green" when you produce art, right? The paper background was cut from a tracing of a Chinese food take-out box. I opened the box up and traced around it on to the paper. It is easy for my treadle to sew through multiple layers of cloth and paper. Sometimes I break a needle but I just replace it and keep on peddling!

I scanned quite a few different images and picked out the ones that seemed most appropriate and ones that would fit the piece. In Daddy's Tie there is an image of my father in his Air force uniform standing in front of his plane. There is also an image of the blueprints from the house that he built for us on Henry Lane. He was a painting contractor and had lots of talent in different trades. Also, being a painting contractor he knew many different men who were in different trades themselves so I'm sure a lot of work was bartered or received in friendship. People used to do that a lot: trade labor. I'm not sure it happens as much now as it used to. Anyway, back to the images. There is also an image of a rope that has been tied in the shape of a noose. This is where the "real" meaning comes in for me.

My father committed suicide by hanging himself from the rafters in the hallway when I was seven. It was important for me to make this piece of art because it helped me work through some of the feelings I had about why he might have done this and where. That is why the blueprints are in the center of the piece and they are circled with orange thread many times. This is like "ground zero" in my mind. This is where it happened. The noose: well, yes, it was Daddy's "Tie". Only instead of looking beautiful on his neck and being beautiful in color (like the strips of cloth are) this "tie" ended his life. The life he chose to end without a second thought about what he was leaving behind. How sad for him. How sad for me. He has missed so much of my life and what I have accomplished. My husband, my house, my children and grandchildren. What a waste of a life. How selfish really.

I often wonder if the man and woman who bought this piece ever look at it really close and try and imagine what I meant. Would they have bought it then, being so full of sadness and death? I am not sure. My mother couldn't understand why anyone would want something so personal to me. But isn't that the point really? Shouldn't we paint from our hearts? Shouldn't we paint from what we know and feel? If we don't then in my estimation we are just empty shells.

There are other meanings to Daddy's Tie that I haven't divulged. An artist can't give it "all" away. But, we can encourage and mull around different deeper, hidden meanings in our work. Is it only artists who have angst about things? I would say not. But, we have the ability to make into a piece of art something that we feel. This is a wonderful gift, don't you think?

Life is not always filled with happiness. Sure, we can paint happiness too. And we do. But we also paint the unhappiness that we see, feel, or think. We have the ability to make it cohesive.

Do you look at things differently than others? Is there "hidden meaning" in your work? I tend to not use the phrase "hidden" when I speak of my work though. For me, it is just meaning. Everything I do or say or think has a meaning. That is probably what gets me into trouble with everyone that I know. I think too much. And, I speak my mind. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour always. It doesn't allow me to shut down at night much, hence the long, wakeful hours. Am I the only out there who is like this? I tend to think not but who knows. I'll wait for a few comments before I make a final decision on that question.


  1. I tend to think deeply about things too, and much of what I've been painting lately has deep meaning to it and deep thought behind it. I know I'm different from most of the people I know in my "real" life, in that I'm such a deep thinker. But I know there are are other people out there like us.

    Thanks for the honesty in this post.

    I'm so sorry about you father.

  2. This was a very open and thoughtful post. There are all kinds of art, some artists would rather make art than delve into the meaning and I believe others need meaning to make art. The same with people collecting...some would rather not know an artists meaning so it's a great big toss up, isn't it? I think the best advice is to find your way of art making and go forward.
    I printed an answer to your glue question on the comments section of my post.
    Mary Ann

  3. So much in your post about meaning-- being asked what does it mean? from viewers- and then the sad story about your father and your childhood and so on.. I know an artist whose father also committed suicide with a gun and he put the gun in an assemblage and in a gallery. Every artist has their own personal story and their own personal reasons and they make the choice to make it private or public.

  4. Hi Terri, thanks for your comments on my blog....I see art as an individual expression, everyone expresses themselves in an individual way. I think our expression is developed during our life experiences. No doubt this tradgedy when you were just seven years old has had a huge impact on your expression. I love what you did with daddy's tie, and the people that bought it will see what they want to see in it, you are right that we cannot tell others what to see in our art. Thanks for this post.


  5. Teri,
    Wow. Thanks for your honest sharing. What an amazing piece of art, so full of EVERYTHING. Thank God for art and your wonderful spirit and perserverance. Gosh, I lost my breath for a moment when I read what happened to your father. I'm so sorry. Wonderful writing.


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