A question I am frequently asked is “What does Nancy think about you stitching her drawings?” And the answer is: “I haven’t a clue, not an inkling.”
She doesn’t give any verbal or physical indication that she understands or even recognizes that I am stitching her marks, that we are in collaboration. My only indicator is how our relationship has changed since June 2012 when she began drawing and I began stitching her drawings. In the 39 years I’d known and loved Nancy prior to June 2012, I was an aside existing in the shadow of The Engineer (a.k.a. Andy) because you see, Nancy has always loved Andy more than I love pocketbooks. “Andy, Andy, Andy,” she would say through her face-sized smile, her love and adoration due in part to the natural bond of affection and in part from her Mother’s influence. Mrs. Chambers – or Mama C as I often called her – talked adoringly of Andy, and Nancy followed suit. Though it stung at times, I always understood that Mrs. C’s first concern was for Nancy’s well being. She knew that Andy would always be in Nancy’s life, and regardless of how many years we had on the books, I was still a question mark that she couldn’t afford to invest in wholeheartedly.
Nevertheless, Mama C knew I loved Nancy with every nano-inch of my heart. She made that obvious. When the institution where Nancy lived contacted Mrs. C asking permission to sterilize Nancy (at least they asked, right?), she invited me to lunch to talk about it. When it was time to move Nancy to another facility, she asked me to go down and have a look then let her know my thoughts. When she was in the hospital and couldn’t attend Nancy’s Parents’ Day, I assured her we would go, and when she was on her deathbed, I told Andy that the best gift we could give his mother was to go visit Nancy, take her some strawberries and cookies “for the friends” like Mrs. C. always did, then go back to the hospital with reassurances, stories, and photos of Nancy’s well being. Yes, it didn’t take all that long for Mrs. C. to believe my assurances that Nancy would always be taken care of (something Mr. C. didn’t invest in until he was on his dying bed), and while maybe there was no doubt about that, I would never be blood kin. I get that.
So Nancy was obvious in her love for Andy and tolerated me. That’s how it went for the longest time. Then came June 2012 when the drawings and stitchings began, and since then there are signs that Nancy, too, believes I do and always will love her. I am included in her love talk. I am now considered a “pretty good girl” (Nancy’s highest compliment). She wants to hold my hand when we go walking. She turns to talk to me when we’re in the car. Our togetherness is decorated with signs that I have gained her trust and love, and I credit it all to art.
As to what she thinks about our collaboration, as to her response to seeing her drawings in stitch, I haven’t a clue, so yesterday I asked Andy to show her In Our Own Language 3 on exhibit at the Ross Art Museum on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University while I recorded her reaction. Have a look, and let me turn the question back on you. What do you see? What’s your interpretation of her reaction? What do you think she thinks / how do you think she feels about our collaboration?