It wasn’t till this morning that I thought of Matisse’s last years and how he made pictures from bed. Sometimes he would use a long stick and point to the place on the wall where he wanted his assistant to pin the cutout shape. Yesterday, I brought a fabric collage I’m working on to my father in his hospital bed.
When I get a new idea for a picture it’s like a fire burning inside—I’ve got to get started, to grab the inspiration, the essence of what I’m imagining while it’s bright and alive, lest it should dim. My father’s less bright than usual but he’s alive! I hope he’ll begin eating and drinking again if his wish is to remain alive.
I dropped everything on his lap; he raised his hospital bed to the sitting position. There was the picture’s beginning as I’d laid it out and pinned it earlier. There was the pile of new felt—the yellow, apricot, dark brown, not-so-dark-brown, the turquoise blue, a couple new shades of green. There was the spool of blue thread.
“This is great!” said my father looking at what I’d had so far. “Inspired by Matisse, aren’t you!?” (The exclamation points were in his voice.)
Now, “great” is not a word my father ever applied to me until a couple of years ago. Unless it was, “What a great mess you’ve made!” Or “What’s so great about that?” (Ouch!) But once he hit 90 he began to see me anew, and that’s been absolutely great!
“The picture needs trees, Pop. Don’t you think?”
“Of course,” nice and feisty, “it needs trees! The grass isn’t enough; you gotta have more life in it.”
Together we made the trees you see pinned here, the ones I’m beginning to stitch. I did the cutting and the laying down of the felt. He was the director, telling me where to put the green leaves and to “tilt this tree just a bit. You don’t want everything straight up and down. Get rid of that branch.”
Then we made the flowers. I wondered if just one turquoise blue large tulip was okay, and he reassured me that it was fine, “I like that spark of color,” he said.
By the time we’d gotten the whole picture designed, a couple of hours had fled by. Even in his hospital bed, at 93, ill and negotiating the last portion of his life, my father immersed himself in my picture, gave his enthusiasm and joy, and we shared an afternoon together sparked by life.