Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman?

These days, my sister is going through our parents apartment in Jerusalem. (No, not New Jerusalem, OH... the original Jerusalem. Like, the real one).

A long process of sorting through everything, keeping what needs to be cherished and saying goodbye to the rest.

It's highly emotional, and a big part of letting go.

Being here, I only participate over the phone and emails.

She tells me of things she found, making my memory work overtime trying to remember what they are and what they look like; the smell inside that gorgeous commode(*) where all the snow-white linen sheets were stored; that huge purple crystal bowl that was used only once. The dancing doll (whom I used to call Wilhelmina, for some peculiar reason) with the key in her back; that black and orange dress of my mom; the square bottle of ma'zahr (essence of orange blossom) that my father used when he made his incredible desserts . . . oh yes, nostalgia rules.

From time to time, my sister scans something she found and surprises me with it: old photos that suddenly bring everyone back, alive and well; a letter from my high school informing my parents that I have miserably failed the Chemistry test (that one gave her so much joy I was concerned for her health!).

And today, this awaited in my Inbox: a drawing by moi, from 37 years ago.

I was in third grade, and apparently very proud of this work, as I clearly state the date (Gregorian and Hebrew, and in mom's handwriting, the Roman way of writing it), the grade I was in and the fact that it was done at the lighting of the eighth candle of Hanukkah, at our neighbors place.

Oh yeah, and I have signed it.

Not sure whether it's a self-portrait, and who I am in this masterpiece: the beheaded curly one at the bottom-left? the one with the cute dimples at the top right? or perhaps the cheery hobbit next to my signature?? whatever the answer may be, it's quite apparent that I was into figurative art even as a budding artist. Mostly faces. With a big emphasis on eyelashes.

A note to (my 8.5-year-old) self: good combination of text and images, decent balance achieved by filling up the space. Nice edge variety, and intriguing cropping of the poor torso-less figure up above. Also, interesting overlap of the dimpled diva whose legs become the features of the face underneath. Need to pay more attention to design (I'm guessing it's grid composition here?), try some lost edges here and there, and consider a wider spectrum of expressions.

Bids, anyone?

(*) The JohnnyB insists that 'commode' in American English means toilet(!???). Well, here it's meant as a chest of drawers. I go with the British on this one!


Ms K said...


I think you are the charming
one in the top right. I would
recognize you at any age.


Sandy Maudlin said...

What a great treasure you have - in your heritage, your sister, your art. So appreciated.

Nava said...

Ms K, so when you say you'd recognize me at any age, is it because of the total lack of chin and those weird Mickey-mouse ears on my head?

Sandy, perfect time for counting my blessings, I guess.

Belinda said...

How neat that your sister found your drawing, even when you were in 3rd grade you liked to do faces.

Anonymous said...

Sorting out the past is indeed an emotional thing - my sister and I laughed and wept alternately when we went through Mom's things.

BTW - you really need Skype for all that long distance consultation!!


Nava said...

Belinda, neat it was. And a great surprise.

Valerie, I couldn't agree more. (not about Skype, though :-).

JohnnyB said...

"Cheery Hobbit", as you put it.


Definitely not Ms. Big Head. You got the dimples, but the hair ain't you, unless you were hoping.

And not snickering Pippy-Long-Stockings.

Or Esmeralda, with hair so long even her neighbors trip on it.

Or Miss Torso face - look into my eyes, my eyes, my legs. Wait a minute - what are they doing there?

Bigger question is how come no one's talking about the DEAD KID IN THE POOL OF BLOOD???

Who is she, why did you kill her (or want her dead)? And why was she laughing???

Nava said...

The JohnnyB, and they say Minnesotans do not speak much... dead kid in a pool of blood? you really do read way too much Sci-Fi.

bonnieluria said...

Poignant, touching, funny, charming, and wonderful that it's made it back to you through the passage of time.

I love your current day self critique and analysis.

The conundrum with saving stuff over time is what to keep, what to throw out. But in the end, it's a treasure of lifes' history to restore memories that would otherwise vanish.

Anonymous said...

אין ספק שזה מעורר הרבה התרגשות וזכרונות, אני ממש יכולה לראות את הילדה בת ה 8 שהיית אז, מציירת, וברקע נרות חנוכה דולקים...

גם התאריך הארכאי משהו מוסיף הרבה חן


Barbara Weeks said...

Love your blog!

RHCarpenter said...

What an amazing trip back in time! I, like the JohnnyB, wonder about that dead kid - looks like the long spikes of hair of the girl at top have pierced her eye and killed her. Oh, well, we all have to suffer for fashion, I suppose. Happy Thanksgiving, Nava.

רינת said...

כמה נעים היה לי לקרוא שאני נערה ממש אוצר... ולוּ ידעתי שתבָלגי ת'ציור - הייתי שולחת עוד אחד מורכב יותר - גן שעשועים

Nava said...

Bonnie, Oh yes, this was quite a treasure to reveal - and there's a lot more where this one came from.

Barbara, Welcome to my blog.

Rhonda, I think you're really into bodies these days, following your recent painting. Maybe you and The JohnnyB should open a private forensic agency?

Nava said...

שירלי, לו הייתי יודעת שתקראי את זה, הייתי משתמשת במילה האהובה עלייך:

רינת, אחותי מוצאת האוצרות - אכן ואכן! ותודה

Rhonda said...

This is so sweet. You just have to frame it.
I like how you critiqued 8.5 year old piece of work.
and I'm old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

Nava said...

Rhonda, good question. I've always loved to draw and paint - but consciously, I think I started dreaming of being one when I was in high school.

Anonymous said...


Just to echo Valerie's comment about Skype (although I realize that you are a former Skype user), here are the "Skype to phone" calling rates from the US to Israel (including tax):

Israel $ 0.024
Israel - Jerusalem $ 0.024
Israel - Mobile $ 0.156
Israel - Mobile - Palestine Region $ 0.296
Israel - Palestine Region $ 0.286

Of course I'm sure you remember that using Skype to talk "computer to computer" is absolutely free. By the way, as I told JohnnyB, MommyB now has Skype as well.



Daniel Bruckner said...

This was a really fun post. I also must caution you against using phrases like 'the smell inside that gorgeous commode.' On this continent, it evokes rather unpleasant imagery (not to mention the olfactory sensations). said...

Better take this to the Antiques Roadshow to get a fair market value before selling.

Nava said...

JimmyB, ??? and they say Attia women are tangential.

Daniel, I grew up with "commode" being a very fancy chest of drawers. Maybe I'm in the wrong continent.

Bill, Good advice. So glad you care.