Her skin sagged slightly around her mouth, worry lines etched into her forehead, and I pulled my pencil across the thick paper of my sketchbook on instinct, trying to capture the way her experience shone through every crease in her face. Of course this would be impossible without talking to her.
I could imagine what her life was like- she looked maybe late sixties early 70s, a grandma? Probably retired... I sighed, trying to push away the shyness that naturally clings to me, and walked up to her table. "May I sit with you?" "Oh sure, okay" "I'm Bari" "Mary?" "no Bari with a B" "oh like the fruit" "yeah haha I suppose so" I giggled nervously through the introductions and we got a bit acquainted as I sheepishly showed her the beginning's of my sketch. She exclaimed "oh you're an artist!" to which I replied "an aspiring one." She explained that she too was an artist, a quilt maker- quilts "that look like black and white photographs."
The image she showed me on her blackberry cell phone (after quite a long struggle with the different menus "machine's and I don't get along") was beautiful. She attacked each piece by dividing the photograph into simplified tones and the shadows melted into each other, the darks and lights contrasting dramatically. She talked abut how she always loved photography, especially black and white because "its more truthful and revealing than color photography" It's "stripped-down" and her viewers couldn't be distracted by the colors in the picture and are able to better focus on the "essence" of the subjects in the image.
I asked who the subjects of her work were. "Family," she said simply—"In a broad sense and personal sense." The first image she "quilt-ified" was her husband, Gerard's, grandparents. She hadn't known them but felt closer to them and to her husband by experiencing them through her artwork. Other subjects included other Hungarian families, their antique photographs as well. She explained again that she felt closer to her past by embracing the cultures around her in a familial sense. She summed it up well: "If family is a quilt I'm stitching mine together one piece of fabric at a time."
Upon asking more about her family and life she told me about her daughters. All five of them. Loesa, she said drew fairies but Emilie has most of them because she got bored and decided she didn't want to draw fairies anymore. She started a series of doors recently, and a series of mutilated Barbies. "She's an enthusiastic feminist," Emilie explained laughing proudly, "but we are all drawn to the creepiness of girl dolls." "I have this doll named Marianne; she's a couple feet tall, pretty creepy, and I dress her up in my daughters' clothes and set her up in their rooms and photograph her as if she's doing things... and then I have a laugh sending them to the kids."
Emilie's outside appearance was quite conservative, her long braid and solid shirt appearing very traditional, but I found her to be an extraordinary artist and fascinating woman. Loesa even happened to stop by while I was there and I got to see some of her work- Colorful and bright, polar opposite to her mother. She had lots of piercing, bright red lipstick, and jet-black spiky hair. The two were quite a pair and a wonderful juxtaposition. I decided after this wonderful experience and chance to talk to a brilliant woman, I would try to be more outgoing and talk to more people more often. I hope the rest go this well!