Recently, on a whim, I googled the name of an artist who made a powerful impression on me when I was a young girl--Genevieve Hamlin
, whom I learned from my web search was quite a well-known sculptor in her day, a member of the Philadelphia Ten group of artists. She was a friend of my grandmother's, and I was taken to visit at her country home when we lived in upstate New York in the mid-60s. It was my first encounter with someone living a truly art-centered life.
My memories of that day are of an old woman (she'd have been about 70 then--certainly ancient to a 12 year old) with a brisk, no-nonsense demeanor, who seemed somehow at least as energetic as my much younger parents. She showed me around her barn-like studio (which probably was
a barn, though I don't exactly recall) full of stone sculptures, let me ride her horse around the corral and play with her dogs, and critiqued with impressive seriousness several pen and ink drawings I'd brought to show her. This visit opened an exciting possibility to me, that someone could really be
an artist, in the sense of having that as the central fact of daily life--that you could live to be old surrounded by your art, and your horses and dogs in beautiful surroundings. After I met her, I could--and did--clearly imagine myself leading Miss Hamlin's life, or something a lot like it.
I talked to my 82-year old mother recently about all this...she has only a hazy memory of that visit, and had no idea that it had meant so much to me. Now as a busy working artist myself, I realize how generous Ms. Hamlin was that day with her time and attention, and my mom and I both lamented that I had not written her a note of thanks while she was still alive. But perhaps it's only been clear to me as I've entered my own mature life how strong a vision she presented to me that day. In any case, for me there are two lessons that come out of this memory--say thanks when you can, and be good and generous to young artists.