Writing from the Heart: Budding artist?

At 82, I found out I can be creative in more than one way.


I hope you all get to age 82. For those of you who have passed this ancient number, you might know what I am about to say. It’s that if you live long enough, it’s possible that your dreams will actually come true. They’re not dreams deferred; they’re just delayed a bit. And they don’t always look like the original dream.

When I was 8, I was consumed with Betsy McCall. Maybe you never encountered McCall’s magazine. It was in every doctor’s office, every suburban housewife’s mailbox, and marketed mostly to the women who thought they needed another blueberry muffin recipe.

In the back of each issue there was a paper doll named Betsy. I used the cardboard from my father’s white starched shirts straight from the cleaners, and cut out my own designer versions of Betsy, and I created and crayoned her entire wardrobe.

One day I remember saying to my 12-year-old sister, “I’m going to be an artist,” to which she promptly replied, “You can’t be an artist. I’m going to be an artist. You have to be a writer.”

Being the dutiful baby sister, I complied. She did become an artist, and I did as I was told and became a writer. But I was always drawn to art stores and art supplies, and I always made homemade cards and collages for every holiday occasion.

Years later, my husband had a lucite business, and I used the scraps to make boxes filled with found objects. It was different from homemade cards, but still art.

In 1966, by sheer happenstance, I met Mel Brooks, one of my all-time heroes, in the New York City subway. We did a comedy bit right there, with the trains clacking and the crowds surging. I didn’t want to lose the connection, and when I found out he lived at 26 West 11th St. and I lived at 26 West Ninth, I took it as a sign, and made one of my little arty cards and mailed it to him. He ended up calling me. I didn’t realize it then, but I don’t think he would have called if the card hadn’t been … something.

After my sister died, I continued making art. As long as I wasn’t labeling myself an artist, I usually felt absolved of any guilt.

Then something remarkable happened. My brilliant real-artist friend Cindy came over and was looking at some of my art pieces, strewn about my cabin. She said, “You should show your work to Chris at the Granary Gallery.” I knew she wasn’t kidding, but I also knew the Granary is one of the best galleries on the Island. So what in the world could she be talking about? Plus, as I have pointed out several times in this column, I’m a writer, not an artist.

I called Chris. He said, Come in, and let’s see what you’ve got. And lo and behold, he took a bunch of pieces! And even more lo and more behold, he sold a few.

Did my sister move aside and say, It’s your turn? DId she always secretly know I’d never quit making art? Did she even have anything to do with it? I don’t know. All I know is I’ve always told my writers, If you’re writing, you’re a writer. So since I’ve been doing art for my whole life, maybe, just maybe, I can call myself an artist too.

Now here comes my shameless marketing paragraph. Since I’ve never asked anything of you (up until now), could you just go in and see the stuff? You don’t have to buy anything. (Well, who am I to prevent you from the purchase of your lifetime?) I just want you to go in there and see my work.

If my sister did have anything to do with this little miracle, I wonder if she’s up there typing away on her debut novel. And what if writing was her original dream in the first place? And now she gets to have her turn. Plus, I bet dreams continue beyond the material world.

All I know is, I just feel grateful that I got one of mine to come true at 82.

You can also see Aronie’s work at the new exhibit at Featherstone: “Love, Laugh, Leap, Live!”  –Ed.



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