Yesterday I did the honor of accompanying Flannery to the mall to have her ears pierced. It's tradition in our family for the women to late-bloom with regard to piercings. A tendency to maintain intact earlobes for decades of one's life has been solemnly passed down in the DNA on both sides of the family. My mother is 75 and has yet to let a piercing professional anywhere near her clip-ons. My mother-in-law waited until she was well into her 40s. We have an unwavering, stubborn attitude when it comes to elective surgery. Don't suggest we relinquish our tonsils, or tie our tubes or, God forbid, have our ears altered to suit the fleeting, flimsy fancies of fashion.
Yesterday, as Flannery sat on a stool outside Claire's in Santa Fe Place, she methodically read, line by line, every word of every clause of the innumerable disclaimers of the several-paged piercing agreement. I explained to the piercing lady how Flan's father had had one of his ears pierced years before I even thought of doing mine. She was properly impressed.
It was 1984 and I was 31 when I finally succumbed to the pressures of fashion and the downright torture of Eighties clip-ons. Remember those enormous, pendulous earrings that were so in vogue then? (If you're too young to do so, maybe you've seen them in the movies.) Feeling decadent and fashion-victimized, I underwent the harrowing procedure at a boutique on Polk Street in San Francisco, then promptly went to--I believe it was called--Gadzooks on Clement Street and purchased the two weightiest pairs they had in stock. One set was geometric, enameled stainless steel, manufactured by the Memphis Design Group. They were kind of like end tables for the ears. I still have them. What's depicted in the smaller image above (pirated from someone's retro e-store) is reminiscent of them, although mine are a bit more elaborate and involve two ladders, one ascending the right ear at a rakish 30-degree angle, the other climbing down the left.
The other pair was all ethnically inspired, with little silver balls hanging from itty-bitty brass tubes hanging from somewhat larger brass tubes suspended from an elongated, very thick, brass loop. Everything was connected by an intricate series of teeny-tiny gold circles. You could hear me coming from two blocks away when I wore them, particularly when one of the little tubes detached itself and fell to the sidewalk. This would happen when I sneezed.
As the danglies aged, they took on a rich patina not unlike what I was going for in this painting I called "Relics." I called it that because of the way I applied layer after layer of color, allowed each to dry, then scratched out areas to reveal the painting's past.
While Flan and I were having her ears pierced at Santa Fe Place and joking about our family's past, Bennie was at the gallery selling "Relics" to a couple from Wichita who were celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary in Santa Fe. What stylish synchronicity. Beverly told Bennie she loved the green in the painting. That would be the oxidized patina of my 1984 earrings. She also said the red area reminded her of a flame. Wow! As often happens when someone talks about one of my paintings, I begin to see my own art with refreshed eyes.
I still see the green, memory-infused patina, but I also see an abiding flame in the presence of change. How perfect for a wedding anniversary. How perfect a day. Flannery initiated into the deeper mysteries of ear adornment. "Relics" placed in the proper home.