Living an unconventional life has little merit in and of itself; for example, choosing to measure your wealth by the number of cats in your house. But my wife is unconventional in all the right ways. She has the ability to look at the world and see options that are outside of the box. If such an option seems right to her she is willing and strong enough to run with it, even though it may go against cultural (or sub-cultural) expectations.
After moving from Iowa to Georgia as a teen, she tested out of high school 2 years early after dropping out, because she found conditions at her new school to be regressive, both in terms of academics and race relations. Then she enrolled at the Kansas City Art Institute. She started out majoring in the ceramics department, but her instructors urged her to transfer to painting, since she kept making platters and painting on them. Eventually Mollie and I studied under the same painting instructor, Wilbur Niewald, who was a big influence on both of us. Of course, over the years our work has taken divergent directions, though we generally like the same artists, and in many ways share a similar artistic vision.
We’ve had five children together, which caused both of us to mostly shelve painting for a number of years. I pursued graphic design and illustration work in an attempt to bring in a regular income. Eventually I landed a decent job as an artist at Hallmark Cards. Mollie, in her usual outside-of-the-box way, home schooled our kids for several years, which we believe was a great investment in our children. However our inner city neighborhood seemed like a war zone at times, and we began praying and looking for an opportunity to relocate. Also, Independently of each other, we both eventually felt it was time to start painting again. During our last couple of years in Kansas City, several other interests crystallized for both of us as well, including a great interest in the Hebrew roots of our faith, dance as an art form, and a desire to incorporate the arts into worship. When Hallmark went through a restructuring, I was downsized, and we leapt at the chance to move to Colorado to attempt a living as full time artists.
We’ve been here some 12 years now, and it has been a wild roller coaster ride. In many ways, everything we had hoped to do when we moved here has come to pass, except that we didn’t intend to live in grinding poverty for so long. Many dear friends have helped us through the many low spots, for which we are very grateful. Mollie became quite adept at stretching money, squeezing water from a stone, and keeping several plates in the air without dropping any. Most recently, at nearly age 50, she went back to school and received certification as a holistic health coach from the Institute of Integrated Nutrition (IIN) based in Manhattan, New York. This coincides with another longstanding interest of hers, though she plans to continue her painting as well.
A few years ago, outside-of-the-box Mollie developed a process and technique using re-purposed house paint, and this is now her primary medium. She doesn’t like the stiffness of acrylic paint, and she likes the fact that she can get leftover house paint for free at the recycle center. So it’s actually a very green medium, (even when it’s red, yellow, or blue.) She works on a surface heavily textured with prior layers of paint. When our kids were smaller, at times she would have one of them painting next to her with the understanding that she would paint over their painting later. This was cuter than snot, and I wish I had gotten a picture of it.
People sometimes ask if we ever work on paintings together. Not really. Since we each approach painting quite differently now, that would probably be an exercise in frustration. We definitely critique each other’s work though, which makes us both better painters, and we are often in the studio together. She drives me crazy because she leaves her brushes standing in the paint water overnight, and she sings over the music; and I drive her crazy because I take over the whole studio so that there’s no place to even sit. She has this idea that she wants to paint enormous canvases, and I apparently have a practical bent that wants to know how we will transport them since they won’t fit in our van.
A couple of weekends a month Mollie does something called “worship painting” at Rez Church, a local church known for its expressive worship. This means that she shows up with a blank canvas, (in her case a heavily textured one.) Then she executes a painting during the worship time. This is simply one more avenue by which worshipers may connect with God. Sometimes Mollie doesn’t know what she will paint before she arrives. Sometimes she prays for inspiration beforehand, and arrives with an image in mind, or perhaps a color feel. Often she is pleased to find that her painting speaks to someone in the congregation quite specifically.
Mollie is a lover of God above all else, and I love that about her. She has read the Bible completely through each year for the past 17 years or so. It has been sheer joy to have a life partner who is so in sync with me on so many levels, yet, like all good friends, she doesn’t tell me only what I want to hear. She is full of wisdom, insight, and character. She’s a disciplined, hard worker without being an unrelenting psycho. It has not been easy for us to remain committed to work as fine artists in a prolonged economic downturn, but she has “learned the secrets of the Fire Swamp.” (Not that we prefer to live there.) We’ve often said things would’ve been easier had one of us been a doctor or a lawyer; except that neither of us wanted to be the doctor or lawyer. So my guess is we’ll keep doing this for as long as we can.
Mollie has a better grasp of the English language than I do. Sometimes when she unexpectedly does something I like, I’ll say, “Wow. You’re, like, a dream wife!” She will always smile and correct me, “No, I am a dream wife.” So she is.