I was painting Margaret and Quinn, and I was focusing on the beautiful way that a mother kisses a child. I don’t mean to throw a dark note in here, but in my college psychology courses I recall reading about children who were deprived of touch, when very young. The absence of physical contact creates a void in the emotional makeup of a person, and they actually found that touch was necessary for healthy emotional and mental development. Somebody told me today that teachers are no longer allowed, or highly discouraged, from making any physical contact with a student, whatsoever. As I worked away in class, one of my teachers at Smithtown Christian School used to gently touch the side of my teenage face with the back of her fingers. It was so tender, so motherly. I had terrible acne, and it moved me beyond words to have Goldie Sarcona, a sweet old Brooklyn Sicilian woman, let me know that I mattered. Touch.
As I painted, Quinn grabbed Margaret’s arm, so much so that his little fingers depressed the flesh of her shoulder.
Suddenly, in my mind I was ushered into the Villa Borghese, in Rome, where three and a half years ago I stood. I was beneath the magnificent, majestic Bernini Statue, in which Proserpina is being whisked off by Pluto. His hands sink into her flesh, leaving a depression that is so believable, so true, that you could almost believe the marble is warm to the touch.
I hastily sketched this moment in, and then, my little boy woke up. I’ll return to this area next time. It’s only shorthand painting, only briefing touching on the hand and the flesh- but oh, what a moment. This is painting from life.