Chasing Down The Muse: There's always a story behind the art

July 07, 2011|By Cherril Doty

I am thankful…for each story, each idea, each word, each day.

—Isaac Bashevis Singer


Deep brown eyes cast upward, the slender woman looked up in what seemed to be awe and wonder. I watched for awhile before approaching, not wanting to break whatever spell she might be under as she enjoyed the moment. Sure, I am supposed to be here to make sales, but the moment was too lovely, the woman too beautiful in it.

Still not wanting to shatter the magic of that moment, I moved with soft care to where she stood.

"There's a story that goes with those," I said cryptically.

The woman's gaze shifted just enough to acknowledge me, while not fully taking her eyes off Emma's Technicolor Dream Bags.


With her slight "Oh?" of recognition, I continued to tell the story of how these colorful small purses came into being.

About seven years ago, my husband broke his neck in a fall off a cliff. Confined to a halo device, the visiting nurses came to clean the wounds where it was attached. Each time they left a large package of 4-inch gauze squares behind, so we accumulated quite a few extras. I found myself wondering what else they could be used for.

I use acrylic paints in my mixed-media pieces and often have squeezed out a bit too much paint. So I mixed the paint with water and a stiffening element and painted the gauze squares. I loved how the many colors fluttered in the breeze from a concocted line just outside my studio. Something about this just seemed right, though I didn't yet know why.

Over time, the Dream Bags evolved to what they are today — ethereal-seeming, but sturdy little shoulder bags to use in many ways, from carrying cell phones and some mad money to holding dreams themselves.

Throughout the telling of the story, the woman, who I now saw to be not merely slender but in fact very frail, was mesmerized.

"This story has to be told," she said emphatically. "You must."

I was moved by her vehemence, but not sure what caused it. Soon enough, I got a clue.

She went on to tell me that she was familiar with those 4-inch gauze squares, that she was on dialysis, and that the nurses at the dialysis center just had to know this story. (She also added that my idea was ingenious, which I of course loved.)

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