Friday, December 5, 2008

My Right Brain

After seven 2-hour sessions of oil painting workshops with Grace Graupe-Pillard, I managed to complete my first-ever oil painting of a still life. The thoughts and the memory of my late sister resurface again as I owe much of my interests and appreciation of arts and literature to her. Although she is no longer around for me to share my wonderful experience, I do fell we are even closer now as I attempted something that she did long before. This first oil painting of mine is for her as much as it is for myself.

My sister was 9 years older than I and the eldest child of our family. She passed away 22 years ago of T-cell lymphoma when she was at age 45. The last two times I was with her was 1985 in Taiwan; first when she was diagnosed of cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in the hospital. I can’t remember details of our daily conversations at her bedside or when we strolled down the hospital corridors and courtyards, but the images of her numerous vomits after she was injected with the chemo drugs remain with me till this day. Later in early fall of 1985, I visited her again when she was in remission and resting at home in a more hopeful mood, wearing a white hat to keep her bald scalp warm. She died in the following February.

She has always been the vanguard of her peers and our small family with the thirst to explore the world. Since our childhood, my brother (who is 18 months older than I am) and I were lucky enough that we were introduced by her popular to the world literatures by writers like Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. She also brought us to the world of classical music from violin sonatas, symphonies to opera arias by performers like Jascha Heifetz, Berlin Philharmonic, Mario Lanza and Maria Callas. In fact, I don’t recall we had any toys in the house when we grew up other than those shelves of novels and some 78 and later 33 1/3 rpm records. They were our best companions that got us through the boredom of the long summers and bonded us in ways we have never imagined.

She started working right after graduating from a vocational high school but never gave up her interest and dreams in arts. She commuted to the nearby city to take private water color painting lessons after work. When I was in high school, she transferred to an office in capital city Taipei and got admitted to the Night School of the then National Taiwan College of Arts where she pursued western fine arts primarily in oil painting. Back home, soon rooms of our small house became her gallery with her lively work. Once I entered the university and moved to the same city, she would show me those beautiful, heavy, and colorful books of masterpieces and take me to museums from time to time. After receiving her college degree and marrying a classmate of hers, she suspended her art work, stayed on with her full time government accounting job and raised two children.

Sis, I never got around to tell you how much I loved you and appreciated you opened my eyes and mind to arts and literature. Now I have more time to work my right brain, but you are no longer around to talk with me and see my work. Sis, please visit me soon in my dreams as you did sometimes. I miss you very very much.

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