Recently I told a friend the story of the print that hangs on my bedroom wall. It’s a Mary Cassatt, called “Summertime,” and I purchased the print in the spring of 1987. How do I remember that date so well? Because I’d just turned 16 and attended a local painting exhibit with a boyfriend–my first real ‘date.’ And the first time I remember seeing art hanging in a gallery. I saw my first Titian and my first Rembrandt, and the accompanying music was beautiful. Sort of as if I was seeing the world in a new way, to see how painters viewed it. So my mother bought the print for me and framed it and it’s hung in my home ever since.
Cassatt’s painting resonated with me at some level because of the water–nearly every art-print that I’ve ever bought has a lake/ocean/canal theme. But it also meant something important to me because of who she was–an American woman who traveled to Paris to study her craft. She inspired me to reach higher than my own smallish ambitions and to dream of living abroad someday. Although I’d already begun studying the French language by the time I encountered Cassatt, her work cemented my desire to learn that language and fostered an enduring passion for French culture, too.
When I first committed to returning to school ten years ago, it was no surprise that the first classes I took were to hone up my French. And then I had the serendipity of finding an amazing French teacher, who understood the power of big dreams (and I just now googled Jody to find a link to her book and learned that she died in March. Oh. Ouch. I’d long dreamed of getting ‘caught up’ with her again…).
She wrote, of her book:
“There was a theme that was being played out on a daily basis in the lives of practically every woman I knew (not to mention my own): how can a woman satisfy the demands of the creative will and still preserve an intimate life? All the women I interviewed were driven in one direction or another by the fierce imperative of the creative will – whether to art, literature, psychology, or music. And all of them refused to sacrifice the private dimension of their lives: all were unwilling to give up the intimate and sexual rewards of a woman’s life…These interviews document the joys and difficulties of being a productive human being in the shape of a woman.”