When? It was probably 1980 or 1981, it could have been later, but by then we were living in Pittsburgh. Where? It was probably Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember the emotion. I don’t even remember who I was with when I first saw it — maybe Mom and Aunt Ginny. All I really remember is walking past the window and seeing the painting and having a powerful feeling of sadness, but also a feeling of desire. I wanted to own the painting.
I must have talked to Dean who probably reluctantly agreed to visit the Merill Chase Gallery in the mall to see if he wanted to own it too. I do remember going into the gallery and telling a Merill Chase employee that we were interested in purchasing the painting in the window. The employee showed us a small room with a sofa or comfortable chairs and invited us to sit while she had the painting brought to us and placed on an easel. She left us alone for a few minutes while we talked about it. I explained why I liked it. I don’t recall Dean’s responses. I really wanted it. It was not too expensive, as I recall something we could afford, but not easily. It turned out that the painting was actually a serigraph and came with a certificate of authenticity.
We bought the serigraph and it hung in the living room of our Pittsburgh apartment. It must have hung in our Alexandria homes — in places where visitors could see it. For many years it hung above our bed in Bethesda. One night Clare and Andrew asked me the story of the painting. Since I didn’t know the actual story, I made one up. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it had something to do with the merry-go-round being magical so the horses could still run on it but one horse wanted to run free and jumped off the carousel, only to freeze a few hundred feet away from the merry-go-round. No happy ending. I think it made the kids very sad.
Once I realized that the Internet knew everything, I looked up the artist, Robert Addison. I found a few things about him. His other work was often as depressing. The merry-go-round in my serigraph is featured in some of his other work. Its origin is based on seeing a bombed out merry-go-round when he was stationed in England during World War 2. The painting was completed in 1979. I think he did two versions of it because there is mention of “Moonlit Merry-go-Round, II” on the Internet. More recent searches have found that Dennis De Young from Styx used Moonlit Merry-go-Round on an album called One Hundred Days from Now.
Once I established my attic office the painting was taken there. I think it makes Dean sad, and he doesn’t really like it — I don’t think he ever did. But I do, I still do. Only I ever see it now — or Dean when he comes to the attic. Very rarely do guests visit the attic so, the only actual piece of art (by an artist who is not a friend or family member) is hidden away for only a few sets of eyes. And that makes me sad.
Dean and I were first introduced to Mary Hamilton’s work when we went to Pittsburgh’s annual “A Fair in the Park” when we lived in Pittsburgh. Her artwork was on the poster advertising it and we picked up a free copy while there (it turns out she does the posters most years). That could have also been the year we bought a print — but since we were poor back then, I don’t know how we were able to afford it. It is possible that once we were settled in Alexandria and had a little spare cash we went back to Pittsburgh and bought our Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. That also must have been the year we bought the cat print for Neal and Marie. Anyway — we first heard of Mary Hamilton in Pittsburgh in 1984 and fell in love with her linocuts. Ms Hamilton’s work is whimsical, magical and colorful and it appealed to both Dean and me — which is very rare. We bought the Wolves, Dining Out (Observed) directly from her and she told us to make note that the wolves were eating peas and were very messy eaters.
A Fair in the Park poster 1984
Wolves Dining Out (Observed)
The year I was pregnant with Clare, and we were paying a visit to Neal and Marie in early summer, I wondered what we could bring them for a host/hostess gift. We both wished that we knew where to buy a Mary Hamilton print since they loved the cat print so much. I did a bold thing (for me — I hate talking to strangers on the telephone) and called the telephone number on a card that came with my Wolves Dining Out (Observed) print. The next thing I knew, I was talking to Mary Hamilton herself. She told me that the only place nearby that I could purchase her work was at P Street Gallery in Georgetown (now closed, alas). So I did another rare thing — I drove to Georgetown, parked the car and bought a framed print. This one was of two children in a tree. Marie loved it — maybe Neal did too, I don’t know. It is possible that Dean went to P Street Gallery with me at a later date and we bought our “The Invitation” print. Otherwise, I don’t know where it came from.
Somewhere, perhaps at P Street Gallery, I bought a box of greeting cards with Ms Hamilton’s prints on them. I only gave them to very special people (or Dean since he could give it back to me if I wanted it) because I loved her artwork so much. I recently came across the 4 remaining cards and plan to get them framed either individually or as a quartet.
The Porch Swing
I am not sure of the reason for this post except to show off our collection of Mary Hamiltons. I’m also thinking of planning a trip to Pittsburgh in early to mid-September to maybe buy more…
My cousin gave me her old wood burning set when I was a kid — at least I think it came from her. Anyway, I made a couple of things. And of course my mother kept them. Judge for yourself, should I have kept it up? Did I show promise?