Before his stroke, overalls with tennis shoes were my dad’s uniform. When the occasion required fancy attire, he traded his tennis shoes for cowboy boots.
After he died last May, I couldn’t bring myself to donate the overalls so I took them home and a couple of months ago I decided to use canvas, strips of the denim and acrylic paint to create an abstract portrait of my dad. Now might be a good time to mention that I’m not an artist. I set the giant canvas on our fireplace mantel.
“Creepy,” stated the husband while traversing the room. “I like where you’re going with this but he can’t stay in the living room. It wierds me out.” I begrudgingly moved my artwork to a spare bedroom. I might have said out loud, “Not everyone knows how to interpret abstract art.”
I needed vindication and I knew just where to get it. I loaded my oeuvre into my car and hauled it to my mom’s house for her personal purview. I warned her that it was abstract and not to freak out. Her lips said she liked it but she walked around it all day like there was a magnetic force field surrounding it and when I was saying my goodbyes she asked me wide-eyed if I was going to leave it. A week later she worked into an otherwise routine phone conversation that she’d been thinking of how I could draw a face on my abstract. She had an elaborate plan that involved plastic wrap but I cut her off.
“It’s too late, Mom. I’ve already put a sealer on it. It’s abstract; symbolic. He’s not supposed to have a face.” Was I yelling?
When Bob the Magnificent came over the following week, he questioned why Creepy Ralph had painters tape as eyes. I told him I was thinking of adding facial features to try to appease Mom and he said, “Well…Dad did have a face.” My brother. He’s magnificent partly because he notices these kinds of details.
Thus, I began Phase II—Operation: Dad Had a Face. More denim and more paste and a face emerged. Sadly, it was Will Rogers, then Kramer and finally Phil from Modern Family.
Phase III: Be Gone Phil Face began the following week. This Phase lasted several days and yielded WC Fields, my Uncle Skenno and the Geico Caveman.
After Phase IV: Ain’t Nobody Gonna Love a Caveman, I finally saw the face of my Dadio. Sort of.
He is on the fireplace mantel again where he will be judged soon by someone in my family who will note that it does look a little like Dad except Dad wasn’t orange and he had actual arms, or that his face was never denim in real life…
It is at that point I should explain to them it’s abstract. What will likely happen though is Phase V (yet to be named) will begin.