Why I Painted Three Women

Three Women  2005  oil on canvas  36” x 24”

Yesterday when I was talking about the new movie Julie and Julia, somehow I got sidetracked and mentioned about how I have come across more than my fair share of bitchy women in my day.  Well it’s an interesting story.....

I don’t know what it is about me, but I have had extensive experience with bitchy women.  Really!  Well actually I guess I do know one reason why - it was all I ever knew growing up!

The painting Three Women is based on a quick sketch I did while recalling a nightmare that I had the night before.  It was a horrible dream - something about a funeral.  It was icy cold and dark and I was alone.  I entered some room as I was trying to get out and I saw them over in the corner: My mother was leaned back in a chair or wheelchair looking very blaming - like it (?) was all my fault.  My grandmother (who was ancient when she died - 10 years before dream) was behind her and seemed sort of dead, but not glad to see me anyway at this ice cold greenish-blue room at the funeral.  My sister was there too.  I really don’t remember much about her anymore in the dream, except that she was definitely “with” them.  

Actually, when I look at this zoom image now, I think I was too kind.  She doesn’t just look ice-cold and angry, she looks like she has given up.  As I look at these paintings again, I feel sad because it is so clear to me that I was still hoping against hope that they would love me.  But, clearly this woman doesn’t look able to love does she? 

If you are hoping to read that there has magically been some sort of Patti Davis/Nancy Reagan rapprochement with me and my mother and/or my sister - then sorry to disappoint you. What you can read about is thoughts and insights from someone who was brought up with horribly critical and blaming women who later as an adult learned to stand her ground and feel proud.


Sketch Three Women marker on paper 8 x 5 inches

Mother 1997 painted plaster on wire  18 x 10 x 4 inches 

I guess now that I am on the subject, my stories of some of the bitches I have encountered over the years can wait a while... I have a bit more about my mother. 

I made the sculpture Mother in 1997 based on a gouache (opaque water color) painting that I had done previously. I just find the stance and the holes to be powerful.  I had never done a sculpture before.  This was before the Internet, so I basically just looked up sculpture at the bookstore and winged it from there.  I like the way I was able to paint it. I would like it in bronze though. 


                                                      Mother 1997 gouache on paper 24 x 18 inches

Mother  May 9, 1994

You used to seem so huge.

Your size

Your vibes

Were so much bigger than mine.

You were like a great neon sign

Flashing your message:

     Don’t ask me

     Don’t need me

     Don’t whine.

Now I see you

How you really were.

     Your vacant eyes

     Your empty breast

     Your hollow womb

You were like a living tomb.

At least now

I can see how

You couldn’t love me.

Wow - I can’t believe I wrote that 15 years ago!  “Don’t ask me / Don’t need me / Don’t whine.”  I still have a hard time with that.  

The hidden blessing for me was I had a real role model when I had my own children - no kidding.  If in doubt basically I just did whatever I figured my mother would not have done.  It worked out really well.  Oh yes, having a wonderful therapist also helped.  As for being a mother myself - more on that some other time.  Basically, as soon as I saw my first son, I just knew - I just knew - that it is possible to be a good mother and I was going to do it.  My second son was icing on the cake.  I saved myself because of them - so I could be a good mother.

I don’t know, but maybe because of my history, I have always felt vulnerable to bitchy women.  I have had some real doozies. 

originally published: August 24, 2009                           

© Trixie Pitts 2009