Painting And Dance At The Mansion

Jennifer’s paintings

The class I teach at the Mansion is often inspired by the work I’m doing in my studio.  Today I brought my Sister Turtle and the technique of creating a form from the inside out rather than filling in an outline.

We did the paintings on card stock so they could be sent to friends and family.

Painting this way makes “staying in the lines” a non-issue.  I’ve seen people in my class sitting nervously with their paintbrush or pencil hovering over the paper, afraid to make that first mark.  Afraid it will be wrong.

After doing a demonstration of painting a turtle, Ruth asked if she could make a pig instead.  I jokingly told her she couldn’t and watched her face fall.  Everyone laughed when I said that “Of course, she could paint anything she wanted to.”

If I knew she would take me so seriously, I wouldn’t have teased her.

Ruth’s Pig

Jennifer was the only person in my class who took the idea of painting, then outlining the painting with marker.   Rachel made three abstract paintings, Claudia painted two rabbits,  June painted a turtle and bird,  Ruth a pig and owl. Art blended his paint beautifully but only seemed content when he was coloring in the Xerox of a truck that Aileen gave him.

But I think the best part of today’s class was when I got to know Jennifer a little better.

As we were setting up the paint, I told everyone that my Bellydancing sisters and I were going to come to the Mansion to dance in September.  Everyone was so much more excited about it than I would ever have imagined.

I told them I’d been dancing for six years and was the newest dancer in the group. That I had so much more to learn.

Jennifer knew just what I was talking about.  That’s when I learned that she was a Ballet dancer with the Boston Ballet and Cambridge Ballet when she was in high school.

After the class, as everyone was cleaning up and leaving for lunch, I sat next to Jennifer on the couch in the activities room and we talked about dancing.

She told me how she danced when she was a teenager but wanted more in her life than just dance.  So she taught dance until she got married.  She move to California after her husband came back from Desert Storm.  Her face lit up when she told me about working at Joshua Tree National Park.   She said she loved both the desert and learning about it.

Talking about dance opened us up to each other.

Jennifer has been coming to my classes for over a year, but she’s quiet and I never knew much about her.  I am glad to know her story,  even though  I could see that some of her memories were painful.

I feel like we now have a connection beyond the art class and outside of the Activities room.

Rachel’s Abstract Paintings

2 thoughts on “Painting And Dance At The Mansion

  1. You show such respect for their voices through art at their current stage of life. I’ve always loved art produced by the elderly. Often with a folk art feel. Simple, stripped down and beautiful. Grandma Moses did not get started until her 70’s. In an elderly facility where I worked we had a yearly art show of the residents work with opening reception. They could sell their art and would sit in the display area so proud of what they had produced.
    To be creative opens up the soul and is especially important for those living in elderly facilities. I admire and applaud your commitment to opening up the lives of these residents through art and creativity.

    1. The activities director Paryese does a lot of art with the people who live at the Mansion. They are always painting and coloring or creating something. I only do it once a month, so I try to bring something of myself to it. I always enjoy it and am grateful there is someplace so close by that welcomes me.

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