Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Howling Over A Painting

There’s a wolf staring at me, burning a hole in the back of my head with its unwavering gaze.

It’s smaller than me, but it feels like it’s taking up the whole room. That’s the thing about wild animals, and it’s probably why most people don’t let them into their homes. Of course, I didn’t exactly invite this wolf in.

My mom has been taking art classes for more than a year. She’s quite good. Her sculptures are incredibly life-like, and she’s even been commissioned to sculpt and paint a few pieces for friends and acquaintances. But it’s hard for her to create the pieces her customers want because she’s so busy painting wolves.

Snow wolves. Wolves in the forest. Brown wolves. White wolves. Mom has painted lots and lots of wolves. And now one of them is in my house. And I really don’t know what to do with it.


Growing up, my house was filled with my grandmother’s paintings. My
father was quite taken with his mother’s artwork and insisted on
filling our home with them. But these were not quaint sketches of bowls
of fruit. Grandma was an early Zionist whose family was wiped-out by
the Nazis. She watched war after war drive fear and a feeling of
hopelessness into the heart of her newfound nation – and she reflected
all of that in her art.

Mom always thought Grandma’s paintings were “depressing,” and I didn’t
learn to appreciate them until many years later, either. Our piano sat
right under a somber painting of a boy watching his friends march off
to war. The implication in the painting was that those friends weren’t
coming back – and that he was going to be next. I didn’t practice piano

So, I figured Mom would be sensitive to the idea that maybe art is
something a person needs to seek out for herself, rather than, you
know, have foisted upon her. But Mom is smitten with her grandson, Zev.
And since Zev’s name means “wolf” in Hebrew, she’s become pretty
smitten with wolves.

And now she wants him to have one. This one. The snow wolf that is staring at me.

To her credit, she gave me a little bit of warning – and even seemed to
indicate that she knew this life-like wolf wouldn’t really fit in Zev’s
sports-and-dinosaurs-themed room. But, still, she’s quite proud of this
wolf, and she wanted Zev to have it.

So now we have it. … And I don’t know what to do with it.

“We could hang it up whenever your mom is here,” Hubby offered.

“No. I think that would send Zev the wrong message.”

“Well, then we could just hang it up in is room.”

We both looked at the wolf. It’s fierce and lonely and standing in a
forest of winter-dead trees. Let’s see – would that look best next to
his ceramic duck or the giant rainbow he finger-painted on a coffee

Someday, Zev will really appreciate this wolf. Someday, it might grace
the walls of his home, where his wife will silently hate it but kinda
love it because it means so much to him. But that day is many, many
years from now. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with

Usually, I have a system for dealing with tricky items: I put them in
my office and forget they’re there. Everyone has a room in their house
dedicated to cast-off furniture and unread magazines. I happen to write
in mine. So, after Hubby and I could come up with no solution to our
wolf issue, he brought the predator into my office, set it on the
neglected console table that I’ve been meaning to move to the garage,
and walked away.

Clever man.

A few days later, Mom called to ask me about the wolf. I hemmed and
hawed for a few minutes before admitting that I didn’t think it was a
great fit for Zev’s room.

“So where is it?” she asked.

I gulped.

“It’s in my office.”

“Oh!” she said, sounding delighted. “That’s actually much better.”

I’m glad she thinks so. Of course, I know better… and I’m guessing the
wolf does to: It (or is it my conscience?) keeps staring at me.


  1. So, so cruel. You can't spend six or seven hundred words describing artwork that is never to be seen. I was an art history major and that used to drive me nuts. Even though I obviously knew which paintings were being discussed, I would look over a students work completely annoyed that they never included any images of the piece that they were babbling about.
    No excuses. There is a digicam somewhere in your home. Otherwise...Explain yourself!

  2. How right you are, Reggie. I've updated it so that you might all experience the same sensation I do. Enjoy!

  3. it's true. I AM a clever man. But not as clever as you. Nice touch on a tricky subject.

  4. I love your column in the Register and I enjoy reading your blog, I will be a faithful reader!