Monday, April 13, 2009

Role Model of a Different Kind

Meet Natalie in a Blue Skirt. I first encountered Natalie in the late 1980's when I worked in downtown Tacoma, WA near the Tacoma Art Museum. I regularly took advantage of the Museum's weekly free admission day, spending quiet lunch hours enjoying special exhibits and pieces from their permanent collection. It was on one of these visits that I turned a corner and came face to face with this rather large oil painting by William Glackens.

I'd been going through a rough patch for a long time, working at a job that started well but became increasingly stressful and demoralizing. Money was in short supply as was my confidence. Frustration on so many fronts filled my days.

And then I met Natalie. She appeared to represent everything that I didn't have but longed for: wealth, success, sophistication, happiness and an easy confidence. She looked like nothing could fluster her, there was no haughtiness or exclusivity in her demeanor. She wore her accomplishments modestly. She was comfortable in her own skin. Oh, I longed for such self esteem at a young age to move confidently and independently through life.

You may not see those things as you gaze at this portrait. I admit that my reaction says a much about where I was at emotionally at the time as it does about the artist's intention. Still, this rendering gave me hope. I found myself thinking, if Natalie, who must have lived in the 1920's, could achieve these things, so could I. I wanted to take her home with me, a constant reminder of what I could become if I only believed in myself and had courage.

I stopped at the gift shop before leaving and discovered that Natalie's portrait was available on a postcard. I was so excited, and even chatted with the cashier about how taken I was with this painting. She agreed that Natalie in a Blue Skirt was a mesmerizing piece of art and that the Museum was lucky to have it in its permanent collection. The postcard went up on my desk at home where I could see it every day, gathering strength from it on the darkest days, a constant reminder of what I could achieve. I found the courage to look for a more suitable job, and started taking a more active role in the course of my life, not leave so much up to fate. Although everything has not been smooth sailing, and my restored confidence was shaken more than once since getting it back, Natalie has always been there to remind me to get back on my feet and keep trying.

Have I achieved the wealth I wanted and felt she exuded? Hardly, but I'm certainly not struggling like I once was. I have wealth abounding in non-monetary ways though. I've achieved success in ways not measurable by income. And as I look at Natalie now, she seems to be saying, hey - that's what I've been trying to tell you all along. It's not the money that makes me confident and self-assured. No, that all comes from the inside, and no amount of money can buy it.



It's funny how some images/paintings etc just seem to grab you. It's a lovely story and I'm glad you got through your sticky patch. A quote from my youth seems to fit your post. I used to say it to my daughters on those occasions when I couldn't afford to keep them in the lifestyle they wanted to become accustomed to..."we're very rich, but we just don't have any money" I don't recall them being overly impressed though!!

Pat said...

What a great read! Thanks for writing this.

Chris said...

This just goes to show what art is about. There are so many things you can take from a great painting. I always want to" take home" my favorite art from museums. Good thing they have post cards!

The Idaho Beauty said...

Annabelle - yes, I can see how your kids wouldn't care for your comment. My brother tried this one on his son, "We can have anything we want, we just can't have everything we want." I found that very helpful for myself - no kids to convince, just me! It's all about focusing on the really important things and then working hard to achieve them.

Pat - you're welcome!

Chris - Many times over the years I've wondered if that painting is still in their permanent collection. In flusher years, I even considered contacting them to let them know if they ever decided to sell it, I'd be interested. Of course, I didn't realize what a famous American painter Glackens is until recently - even in my flush years I'd not be able to afford it! So glad to have the postcard...

Anonymous said...

I love the picture of Natalie. It is one I haven't seen. Thanks for posting your inspiring story.

I have a quote that I have posted that keeps me going"
"To accomplish great things we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe." Anatole France

God Bless