Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Maggie "B" Glad

We got a call the other night - can't even remember from whom. The caller asked, how were we doing (with reference to all the scary economy stuff going on).
I answered , "How else would we be doing? -- My husband is a stock broker and has a wife with an Art Gallery! Ha!"

However, I meant it in POSITIVE terms thanks to a meeting that day with, "Maggie."

On my way to the studio a month or so back I spied some good looking berries being sold by the side of the road. Upon meeting a colorful character named Leonard, this "Strawberry Man," as he is known by-- knows more than a few folks in these parts of the Western North Carolina mountains. In our chit-chat, I mentioned that I was an artist. He told me about Maggie, "a little black lady at church who drew pictures real good," according to Leonard.
"You should see her art," he explained. "I'm gonna tell her to go see you," he said as I paid him $10 for a an overflowing basket of shiny red strawberries.

First of all, you have to admit that it's pretty cool to even HAVE a, "Strawberry Man." Never met such an entity up north-- but here, along the country roads come harvesting time, we have any number of farmers selling their fruits and vegetables - not so much from fruit stands- but from the back end of trucks with umbrellas sheltering the hand picked treasures and the folks who sell them.

So it was that Maggie finally came to see me although quite unexpectedly yesterday-as it was while Mom and I were closing the studio. At first glance, this small older woman didn't much look like a person who might be interested in walking into an art gallery. And as she entered she never looked or even acknowledged the plethora of art all around her - and walked towards me.

Trying to size her up quickly, I was reminded of a younger woman who recently burst in- talking a mile-a-minute about goodness-knows-what and kind of scaring me saying (sans eye contact), "I am a former drug addict." Still chattering incessantly without taking a breath --about her "art" and about "being clean for many months," her beautiful yet blank blue eyes betrayed her. It appeared her addiction was current. She mentioned she lost her children and home to drugs and was looking for work. I did try to help the young woman somewhat, but was relieved when she finally left.

However this small stranger seemed different so I suspended all judgement and my desire to go home. Soft spoken and shy, Maggie seemed sane, not quite shabby in dress- but pretty darn close. Determined and polite she offered me a look of her tattered stack of drawings in hand. She said her name was Maggie and that, "a man" told her to see me.

Realizing this was the woman the, "Strawberry Man" mentioned, I invited her to sit down to chat. Maggie was obviously proud of these dog-eared drawings on paper so I handled them with reverence, considering each one even though most of them were poorly drawn and in bad shape. Because I appreciate Folk-Art and Naive Art, & much like a mom who encourages her child, I tried to find value in different drawings and let myself be totally open to our mutual art spirit.

There was "something here" in her artwork I told her, "something special" that I thought she should build on. Her tired gray eyes sparked as her mouth crinkled up in a sweet smile. My mother looked on in a bit of amazement at my revelations. I told Maggie I understood why she had to draw. We were just like her, us creative folks have to get it out... we have to share our God given talents... and she agreed.

I gathered a stack of her colorful drawings, mostly done with children's markers. The date of each drawing and title was printed in ball point pen ink. Looked perhaps like another person did the writing but I didn't mention that observation. I noted to Maggie that I'd like to see these works done in paint, on a hard surface so they would last. Maggie nodded so I continued.
I told her about painting on plywood and about acrylic paint. I suggested she use paint and not markers and to date the back, not the front of works, and not use ball point pens to write her words as they would fade in time.
As Mom started to get engaged into the conversation, I said, "I'll be right back Maggie, we have some paint you can have" and I dashed into the art room to fetch some paints we didn't use often. Upon my return, Mom was explaining to Maggie how to use water with the paint and how to put dollops of paint on a plastic lid of some kind-- before committing paint to paper.
We gave her some old brushes and and whole bunch of fresh paints. The goodies filled up a good size see-through plastic bag. I was worried that if she was on foot the bag may be too heavy but she said she had a car, "around the corner."

I gave Maggie a big bear hug and wished her good luck with her artistic experiments to use paint and new ideas. She hugged me back-- and hard enough to make sure I knew she was happy. "I'm so excited," she gushed as we helped her outside. I still feel that hug.

It would be great if Maggie came up with some good little renditions of her work-- and so good if we could sell it for her. We hope that works but what captured our hearts was her brave spirit. She had told us of a conversation she had with her son.
Seems she was upset and real sad about something. Her son said, "Momma, what is your name?" She answered, "Maggie." Not satisfied he asked again, "Momma WHAT is your name?" This time she said, "Maggie B. Glad".... and realizing the gift she repeated it as if a mantra; "MAGGIE B GLAD... I'm Maggie and I'm a bein' glad!"

So with all our personal problems and issues of the day - this sweet un-assuming Maggie B. Glad reminded me to concentrate on blessings instead.

Note to readers:
Maggie's name is slightly different than listed here but the gist is exactly right.
I didn't want to use her real name unless I got her permission. When and if we do-
we will let you know! We hope that something wonderful happens for her-- you never know!
Stay tuned!


McIrvine said...

Connie, this is the first blog that I have ever felt moved to comment on. Your "Strawberry Man" and "Maggie B Glad" essay reminds me so much of my late wife.
I was 60-ish when I met Barbara, and I was very much an intellectual snob without knowing it. At a very early point in our friendship, Barbara posed the question to me "Exactly when did you lose touch with the common man?" The question changed my life.
No-one need ask you that; you have never lost that contact, and the blog tells me so.

CDT said...

Ok, Connie, you know I'm at work and I'm supposed to be drafting estate planning docs for clients but I just had to take a peek at your blog- WOW!!!!! You are as gifted with the pen (keyboard?) as you are with the brush. The story of Maggie B Glad hit straight to my heart, as I'm sure it will with any artist who has ever struggled. Keep up the great work, my friend- you are the best. Claire

Man in Black said...

To me art is about feeling, emotion, meaning. It is so true that we have to get it out... be "it" good, bad, creative etc...

I'm glad that you listened to Maggie and gave her you careful instruction. So many people in our present society seem to have forgotten how to take such care with another human being.

Man in Black said...

I'll have to drop in your studio some time. I'm just down the grade from you in Polk County. I'd love to see Maggie's artwork too.

And I know the "Strawberry Man" would be a kick to talk to. My dad was known as "The Cane Man". They seem cut from the same cloth.

Constance said...

Thanks MIB- & cheers for your "Cane Man". We saw a "Walking Stick Man" yesterday along M-74 in Fairview with a row of good looking natural shaped tall sticks.
I haven't heard back from "Maggie" yet. When I do I will post the event.
Do stop in the studio - hours change and are on the website:
Have a great day-