For Art's Sake

On Tuesday night I had two appointments. The first to see Angelia Thompson's 70-year-old Tudor-style house on the corner of Fontaine and Woodspoint, and the second to purchase a painting.

I quickly learned two things about Angelia. One, her tastes are exquisite; the curtains of the living room and the wallpaper of the dining room are of a pallet and pattern that reminded me of a contemporary William Morris print. The well-chosen fabric and wallpaper brighten and compliment the stained wood of the window and door trim and the dark wainscoting of the dining room.

I learned next that Angelia doesn't use her taste enough.

While the colors she has chosen to accent the spacious rooms with their arched doorways and ample access to the flagstone paved covered-porch and the lavishly landscaped back yard are charming and the furnishings are both lovely and comfortable, the walls are bare. Save two paintings by Maggie Griffiths of her dogs in the upstairs hall, the walls are completely blank.

I felt right at home. My house suffers from the same problem.

Cobwebs and Crayons (you cannot get that crap off) are about the only things on my walls. Artist Georgia Henkle once stared at my walls and said, "you have so many blank walls." She was actually thinking "How long have they lived here? Since yesterday afternoon?"

I have a few mirrors propped over the mantles and a few paintings I really don't deserve sitting on the floor, including a Chad Hurley painting, which he gave me. I once asked him at the opening of a show displaying his work which painting was his favorite. He pointed to one, then unexpectedly asked me which was my favorite. When the show closed he arrived at my house with the painting I had liked. I wanted to tell him that I couldn't accept such a magnanimous and beautiful gift, but I really wanted it so I greedily took the painting. I am sure he would be horrified to know that I still haven't hung it on a wall.

I am afraid of the practical reality of my plaster walls, which seem to have a predilection for cracking. My friend Jimmy tried to hang a photograph of my sister with special plaster-loving picture hangers he brought over. As soon as he turned his back it fell, bringing a sizable chunk of wall with it.

But I am even more afraid of the permanent commitment implied in marring the walls. I paid a year's salary to get those walls perfect. What if this isn't the perfect place for the painting? What if we move? What if somebody tells me it looks stupid there? What if somebody gives me a Modigliani?

On the one hand, the fear could stem from one specific hideous picture-hanging event from my childhood. When I was in my teens we moved into a new house. We had been there for a few days when one evening my brother, sisters, father and I were sitting around the dinner table chatting as my mother pulled things from boxes to hang on the walls. I don't know who started it but someone made a comment about the danger and stupidity of hanging knick-knacks all over the walls. The average kid would have kept his mouth shut - seeing his mother working and not asking for help, but not us - we all joined in, mocking my mother for hanging her collection of antique utensils. I cannot imagine why we kept at her about it, but finally my mother had had enough. She started to cry, "I'm just trying to make the house nice for you."

I hadn't seen my mother cry too often and I had never seen her admit anything bothered her. That night haunts me - what kind of people make their mother cry for trying to do something nice?

If you ask me, this incident provided enough guilt and angst to set off a full-blown phobia.

But, on the other hand, I do have a more general fear of commitment and/or failure. I am often both paralyzed by fear of misstep and committing myself to just one thing for fear something better may come along. It was in fact a movement toward getting over these issues that prompted me to make the second appointment of the evening - to buy a painting for my husband for our anniversary.

I had seen the painting several times in a gallery and once at a festival. I had kept the artist's card. I found it in a drawer last week. On the offchance she still had the painting I called her. She did, so we made an appointment for me to pick it up. I was patting myself on the back for leaping out there to buy the painting when I arrived at Angelia's house on Woodspoint.

When I saw her, I told her the whole story hoping for some simpatico, but she admitted the real reason she didn't have more stuff on the walls: she works 70 hours per week, which is pretty committed.


Corner Fontaine and Woodspoint


2157 Square feet

3 bedroom, 1 and 1 half bath

Contact Angelia Thompson 266-3751

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.