December 13, ’13


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All artists must learn the art of surviving loss: loss of hope, loss of face, loss of money, loss of self-belief.

Julie Cameron

I’m not depressed, I’m doing Basic Research….  GG  

December 13, ‘13                              

Once upon a time, in the era of my first marriage, I lived next door to a woman who was considered by all on the street and in the town to be a Crazy Artist.  She was considered ‘crazy’ because of her appearance, because she was un-married and lived alone, because she was a painter, was poor and frugal and because she ‘dressed weird’.  As it turned out, although I only have this information from The Gossip Circuit, she also had mental health issues that rendered her to appear to be ‘crazy.’ 

Her appearance and some of her actions reminded me of an Aunt who, when I was 7 or 8, had sunk into Schizophrenia and was eventually Institutionalized.  It was very upsetting to say the least and so was Miss Lohman, at times.  At other times, she was sweet, gentle and completely open to talking about herself, her life and her Spiritual Connections.  At those times she also reminded me of my Aunt who was very pretty, very kind and had a similar wonderful smile.

There were awful times for Miss Lohmann and the neighbors, those times when she would walk up and down the street in a rant, lifting her arms and face to the sky, shaking with passion, with a disheveled appearance, often wearing her bed slippers,  a gown of some kind, a black shawl, her long black hair disheveled and snakey….

Her paintings, to me, were wonderful and I looked at each one in awe – that a person could create such an image that inspired so much thought, feeling and a sense of deep peace in me.  I know that standing there looking at her work and listening to her talking to me about it, I felt deep inside of me that I wanted to create such beauty, as well.

I also have deep empathy for her despair and for her rants and for her disheveled appearance, her loneliness, her need for Solitude, the prejudice she faced on a daily basis, her extreme poverty….

 

“Erika Lohmann apparently died in 1984 in Connecticut.  In early life she had been one of the six Isadora Duncan Dancers, the youngest of the students accepted into the first Duncan school in 1904 in Germany. She left Duncan and the group in 1920 to pursue visual art.  Lohmann studied in New York with Winhold Reiss, with whom she was also personally involved.  After his death she converted to Roman Catholicism, devoting her art to spiritual themes.  

Lohmann seems to have been a reclusive and private person who resisted contact, most particularly with anyone interested in her early life as a disciple of Isadora Duncan.  However, after Lohmann’s death in 1984, Duncan scholar Lillian Loewenthal was able to discover the information from which I have drawn the above synopsis.  

Source:
Lillian Loewenthal. The Search For Isadora (pp.82-86)”

My relationship with Miss Lohmann ended in a sad way.  One day she knocked on my door, obviously in deep distress.   She’d locked herself out of her house and needed help getting back in.    She needed a step ladder and some kind of tool to pry and needed me to do it because she couldn’t possibly climb a ladder as she had a bad leg/had been ill.  I reluctantly got out a ladder and a screwdriver and went with her to pry open her window – all the time with her distressed, wringing her hands, crying out instructions to me, asking me to hurry….  After I got the window open and opened her door, she was much calmer.  Before I left, she insisted she pay me for helping her and forced 2 skanky potatoes on me, which I did NOT want to take  — I had plenty of potatoes already and I was happy to help….  But, she insisted and I took the potatoes to make her happy.

A few days later, she’d talked to some neighbors and the person who ran the small grocery store and cast allegations my way that I’d broken into her house and stolen her last 2 potatoes. 

Miss Lohmann was friends with another well-known artist and both were deeply connected to  a Roman Catholic spiritual group of nuns who lived nearby.  The last time I saw Miss Lohmann, she was the passenger in her friend’s car and they were heading to the Abbey.  She shook her fists at me as they drove by.

*******

The above painting, Lynne’s Farm, to me, looks like a set design for Waiting for Godot.  I work on this painting when I don’t know what else to do.  It’s gone through many transformations.    I feel as if I’ve been working on it eternally – it’s more than 25 years old!  This morning, while working on this painting, — while waiting for Godot — I thought of Miss Lohmann and went back in time to thank her for the moment of inspiration that I’ve never forgotten and to apologize for treating her as, for thinking of her as ‘Crazy.’   

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3 Responses to December 13, ’13

  1. One person’s crazy is another person’s normal. We all have our crazy moments or maybe they are really normal. Different than the status quo is often looked at as crazy. I dare to be different a lot. Mental illness is another subject. It can be sad and difficult dealing with that. Great post Gretchen.

  2. beetleypete says:

    What an interesting recollection of that lady Gretchen. How different to her early life, as one of the Isadora Duncan dancers. That must have seemed so avant-garde, in the early 1900’s, so perhaps it is small wonder that she continued to live such an unconventional lifestyle.
    I like the story of you helping her, and getting potatoes in payment, later being rumoured to have stolen them. Sometimes the small memories in our life are the most interesting.
    And I like the blues in that painting. Keep going with it.
    Regards from England, as always, Pete.

  3. Kathy says:

    Perhaps we’re all crazy in our own way. We’re only fortunate if we’ve learned to accept our craziness–and the craziness of others. Really great blog post.

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