My mother’s favorite artist is Monet. She is an art teacher, a children’s book illustrator and an amazing cook. Sounds simple, Monet's paintings are very pretty but not to my mother, to my mother they are earth shattering. In my fourth year of living in Paris the L’Orangerie Museum reopened my mom came to stay with me for a month to see all the Monet she could see. On her second day there completely unaffected by the 30 hour flight from Maui and the jet lagg she was pulling me out of bed to get to the museum across town by 9. I thought she was nuts. She knew exactly how to get there although hadn’t been back to Paris in over 20 years. She raced out of the subway, into the museum, down the steps through Monet’s letters and other artifacts to the big round room. When we first got there my mom and I were the only ones in the place. I stayed behind to look at old photographs taken of Monet in his garden. When I got down to the Water Lilly Room my mom was alone sitting on one of the viewing benches staring into a wall sized water lily canvas. As I got closer she looked at me with tears streaming down her face. She said, “he painted this when he was almost completely blind, and angry, see how angry he was that he could not see his water lilys?” That is the only time I can remember my mom crying, I am sure I have seen it before but I cannot remember any specific moment like this one. At that moment, looking at my mom more than the painting I saw how Monet’s anguish flooded out of his paintings and struck my mom with such emotion she couldn’t help but cry. To me, at that moment, I fell in love with Monet too. Not because he has beautiful work (which he does) but because his work was able to create such an emotional reaction in my mother. I began to look at each piece as she explained what he felt when he painted. That month was spent looking at art with my mom, making a pilgramage to Giverny and learning more about what makes my mom tick than ever before.

Fast forward to this past Christmas. We all get together to be with my grandparents and the day after Christmas my mom and grandmother take their annual trip to the Honolulu Academy of Art for lunch and a quick hop through the galleries. This year I was invited to join them and as soon as we walked into the western art section my mom disappeared again… I walked with “tutu” ( Hawaiian for grandma) through the galleries looking the Degas and Delacroix she pointed out as we strolled along. At the end of our little stroll was where we found my mom again sitting on a bench looking at her beloved Monet. A much smaller rendition of the water lilies were still worth every moment to her. Tear free this time she said, “come on, lets get lunch, I’m starving!” Mom and Tutu headed for the door and I grabbed the AE1 thinking about photographing Monet’s painting and eventually double exposing the film creating my own version of the water lilies. 30 frames in I got asked to stop taking pictures of the art so I joined them at the table.

A few days later I asked my dear and beautiful friend Michelle if she wouldn’t mind posing for me for an hour or so, she agreed and later that day as the sun headed west and light came flooding in through the guest bedroom we decided to strip the bed down to the blue sheets and wrap Michelle in them like she was floating in the water below the water lilies. This was my hope anyway. The texture of the paintings over Michelle’s face made her look like part of the painting, which was a better result than I could have asked for. My mom has chosen these two as her favorites so they are what I am posting. I may continue this painting and girl double exposure project and ask my mom to “curate” what I post but for now, these are for her….


jessica brooke said...

daej how beautiful, the shots and the words. made me tear up xoxo
i am in love with the second photo, i may need that on my wall!

Mat Thomason said...

I love the story about Monet's impact on your mom. I'm beginning to study his work, and I can appreciate her reaction. By the way, I really like your work.

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