The Guild of Contemporary Art
cordially invites you to meet the artists
Saturday, June 10 – 5 to 8 P.M.
360 Broad Street, Shrewsbury, New Jersey
“I love the dirty underwear, Daze, all those wrinkled shorts and grimy socks in their own little niches. Gray isn’t my favorite color, but I get the point.”
A tall, animated young man in his early twenties, wearing denim cut-offs, flipflops and a black tee emblazoned with a neon-green, eight-legged grasshopper, smiled brightly into Daisy’s self-absorption with her first exhibit since she’d completed an MFA three years before.
“And I love your outfit,” he said. “Nevelson, right? The makeup is fabulous. The black makes your eyes so intense. But why hide all that gorgeous red hair under a scarf?”
The young man’s observation was on target. Her newest obsession was indeed Louise Nevelson as Daisy’s paintings attested. Daisy was fascinated by Nevelson’s sculptures of everyday objects painted uniformly and fitted into similarly colored boxes stacked in random patterns. In homage to those sculptures, Daisy’s paintings pictured ordinary things within a flat, monochromatic grid of squares and rectangles. And as she had done before, when she had been enamored of Alice Neel and then Georgia O’Keefe, Daisy also appropriated the dress and manner of her mentor-of-the-moment.
Tonight her petite 5′ 2″ frame was draped in a Nevelson look-alike: a black silk tunic edged with multi-colored ribbon over flowing, silver-grey culottes. Her hair was wrapped in a pale green scarf with a small diamond design in a contrasting green. The result was something between Janis Joplin and a Romanov princess.
Daisy smiled at the grasshopper man, touched his arm lightly, then without acknowledging his observation or question, turned to lift a champagne flute from a passing tray and walked away. I shouldn’t, she told herself as she headed toward the back of the gallery. But one glass can’t hurt her.”
Daisy surveyed the early visitors as she sipped her drink. She recognized a few people even if their names didn’t jump immediately to mind. Her mother hadn’t arrived yet, nor her father and his new wife. But they’d all promised to come, and the evening was still young. Happily, Daisy March was young, too, twenty-seven at her next birthday. So much was possible. Or it would be as soon as she solved her current dilemma.
Daisy was only casually acquainted with the other two artists who shared the exhibit. Cheryl painted delicate, floral pastels and Lena made torn paper collages in screaming shades of orange, purple, or lime green. Daisy admired their work as she finished her champagne and looked for a place to set the empty glass.
“Oh, Daisy, I am so proud of you,” a trim, petite middle-aged woman gushed as she swept Daisy into a bear hug. She had fashionably kinky, copper-dyed hair and wore an equally fashionable pants suit in buttery tan leather. “Your paintings are gorgeous. Magnificent. The other girls can’t compare.”
“You’re prejudiced, Mother,” Daisy said, returning the hug.
“Nonsense. How could anyone not love your paintings?”
All of a sudden, Daisy felt queasy. “You look around, Mom,” she said, “I’ll catch up in a minute.”
The gallery was getting much too warm for Daisy, and she unexpectedly felt claustrophobic with so many people milling about. She headed for the side door to get some air, but was stopped short when she saw Kyle leaning against the receptionist’s desk listening attentively to a blonde with narrow hips in a mini skirt and a tight tank top. A smile played slyly and deliberately across his face. Daisy remembered too well how quickly Kyle’s charm could lead to his bed. She watched him now as he nodded compliantly, arching one eyebrow in a familiar expression of attentiveness. Much as she regretted it, he was irresistible with his globally-defined good looks—a Nordic profile and Mediterranean coloring—and his Oriental inscrutability (one great-grandmother had been Chinese).
Daisy caught his eye. He waved, nodded to the blonde, and crossed the room.
“Hey, babe,” he said and brushed her cheek with a perfunctory kiss. “Your paintings look great.”
“Did your dad tell you I saw him last week? He said he was sorry you and I broke up. And isn’t it great that Marcie’s expecting. Just think, an only child for all these years and all of a sudden you’ll have a sibling or a half-sibling, I guess. Must be hard on your mother, but I’ll bet you’re thrilled. Didn’t you always say you missed out not having a sister?”
“Sure,” Daisy said, amazed when she thought about it later that she hadn’t paused, never missed a beat despite her shock that she’d known nothing about her father’s wife’s pregnancy.
Kyle chattered on about this and that, but his words floated around her without settling. They’d decided about six months back or, more accurately, Kyle had convinced her that they should experience other people to find out if their connection was commitment-worthy. Daisy had been a little hurt and eventually angry, but at the moment all she felt was boredom. Sex with Kyle had been great. She wasn’t as eager for his friendship. “Excuse me,” she said. “I left my mom alone. Have to run. Thanks for coming.”
So now she knew the great news her father had promised to tell her last week over a dinner he’d canceled at the last minute. No surprises there. Howard March continued to be a busy obstetrician as his family fell to second place. Well, at least he’d planned to tell her himself, didn’t mean for her to hear that Marcie was pregnant as gossip from just anyone, like an ex-boyfriend Daisy would rather forget.
It had been over a year since her father had married his lover, who was fifteen years younger than Daisy’s mother. Now, despite the irony of her own situation, Daisy was genuinely happy for her father. She liked Marcie although she had initially hoped to find fault. Her mother once told her, “Your father continues to have excellent taste in women as in everything else, the bastard.” Then she cheered up and added, “But it’s only a little fling. The marriage won’t last. Howard will come back, and I guess he’ll need me to be understanding. I think I can manage that.”
Daisy doubted her mother knew about Marcie’s pregnancy and telling her might be the hardest thing Daisy had ever done. Well, maybe the second hardest. She had yet to confess her own predicament. Poor Mother March was heading into a few very trying days!
Daisy joined her mother looking bewildered in front of one of Lena’s collages. “This I don’t get,” she complained, “nor do I think I want to. So let me tell you which one of your marvelous paintings I like best.”
Daisy nodded a silent okay, and her mother pointed across the gallery. “The blue one with the kitchen stuff. I remember we once had dishes and a lobster pot like that.”
After a tour of the exhibit and introductions to Daisy’s friends and fellow artists, Mrs. March was as effervescent as a shaken can of Coke. “This is a wonderful, marvelous, splendiferous show, and you are an exceptional artist, my darling. However, I should be going. You need to mingle more with young people. Some of these adorable males must be unattached.”
“I’ll walk you out, Mom,” Daisy said hooking her arm around her mother’s waist but neglecting to add that she still needed the fresh air she’d headed for earlier when Kyle waylaid her.
“You know,” her mother said as soon as they’d shut the door, trading the noise and crush of the party for the soft air and the musky aroma of budding plants and freshly turned soil that scents an early June evening. “That outfit isn’t exactly flattering. I’d hoped your fashion sense would improve with age and experience. So I guess you’re less than perfect like the rest of us. But, Daisy precious, what can you be thinking? Can’t you see how it makes you look chubby? I mean you have such a lovely figure, but right now you look like you’ve put on a few pounds. You should choose clothes that make your stomach seem flat, well, at least flatter. You need over-blouses or A-line skirts. If you start letting yourself go at your age, god, what will you look like at my age? You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself. It only gets harder later on.”
“If I look as good as you when I’m your age, I’ll be very happy,” Daisy said and kissed her mother goodnight at the door to her silver BMW convertible. “I’ll call you tomorrow. There’s something we need to talk about.”
“Something important?” her mother asked.
“It can wait,” Daisy said.
As Mrs. March slipped behind the wheel, she turned and grinned. “I know what you’re thinking, sweetie. This car is all image, right? Well, why not, and to hell with the expense! If your father doesn’t like paying me alimony, he’ll have to dump Marcie and remarry me. Ha ha.”
Daisy watched the car disappear around the corner. She both pitied and admired her mother in a singular rush of emotion that left her almost breathless and feeling as queasy as she had earlier.
Daisy was worried how her mother would react to the news that not only Marcie, but Daisy, herself, was cocooning a living work of art. Of course, she would tell her father tonight, but she wasn’t certain of his response either, although she hoped they both would be happy for her and help her raise the first member of the next March generation. What she didn’t want was for either of her parents to insist she tell Kyle—the obvious candidate for paternity—or offer to pay for an abortion. The baby would be Daisy’s greatest creation, and she had no intention of forfeiting it or sharing it with an outsider.
And Kyle was now every bit an outsider. Once gone from her bed and eventually her desire, his less than perfect attributes loomed large. Kyle liked being the boss, the alpha dog, Mr. Macho Man in charge. Daisy preferred to avoid confrontation whenever possible so she went along. Actually, if she were honest with herself, she had once rather enjoyed playing the farmer’s daughter to Kyle’s snakeoil salesman.
At the edge of the parking lot, adjacent to the back of the gallery, was a small garden with a few stone seats interspersed among both figurative and abstract sculptures. It was empty. Fighting a wave of nausea, Daisy slumped heavily onto the nearest bench and promised herself it would be for only a few moments to catch her breath.
However, instead of becoming more relaxed, Daisy’s agitation increased. To calm herself, as she had done many times before, she picked up an imaginary brush and considered: What would it look like, what I’m feeling right now?
Daisy closed her eyes and lifted her hand to stroke an imaginary canvas with her imaginary brush. First her mother emerged as a startling yellow canary with blue wing-tips and a green beak. She was sitting on the window sill looking at a laughing baby dressed in pink lace lying on her back on the floor swinging a multi-colored rope from which dangled multiple pale yellow moons. Kyle was a broken Pinocchio puppet flopped over a red bench in the upper corner, and her father and Marcie were purple irises poking out from a white ceramic vase.
Daisy sighed and dropped her hand into her lap. Then she stood and leaned back against the rough brick of the building, gently massaging her shoulders against the wall while stroking her stomach in slow, rhythmic circles. She looked up at the few stars just beginning to show.
“How about beaming down a little advice?” Daisy addressed them out loud. “I need to figure out what I can possibly offer my daughter (which the ultra sound had promised) when I still have so much trouble with who I am.”
Daisy paced the little garden, winding her way between the sculptures, drawing her fingers against the surface of each. Babies are beautiful, she thought, and pictured herself and her infant in an Impressionist painting by Mary Cassatt. Daisy had long admired the tender affection of Cassatt’s mother-child scenes: before the bath, in the bath, after the bath.
She slid the scarf off her hair and let her long, amber curls tumble to her shoulders. She smiled. Of course. That was it! She would paint mother and daughter wearing matching lacey white dresses. Daisy would have a pale blue shawl like the one in Cassatt’s The Oval Mirror.
There were no fathers in Cassatt’s tender paintings. Did that imply that men were superfluous after the fact, or more accurately stated, after the act? At the thought, Daisy giggled like a schoolgirl.
Suddenly she felt much better, not the least bit queasy. In fact, she felt formidable and happy. Tomorrow she would talk to her mother and somehow convince her that Marcie’s pregnancy was a felicitous event. Then Daisy would tell Mrs. March about her own pregnancy.
Smiling to herself, Daisy walked back across the parking lot and reentered the gallery, hoping her father and Marcie had arrived. She couldn’t wait to tell them how thrilled she was about the baby.