Imaginative, daring and skillful

There’s a retrospective exhibition of the work of my wife, Janice Porter, in the Trinity gallery in the Humanities Center on the Chico State campus. In gathering and transporting the work from our shed to the living room and to my workroom and back to the living room and finally to Trinity, I realized again what a good artist she was, imaginative, daring, and skillful. It also dawned on me that, although it sometimes seems like we were together forever, we spent most of our lives apart, and I wasn’t familiar with some of her early paintings.

She selected most of the work in the show last summer, and it ranges from the late ’70s to a couple of years before she died. I like seeing how her work changed, from mostly stylized figures, which she refined and developed in her illustrations for children’s books, to increasingly fluid, abstract forms when she started hanging around with that academic crowd.

Janice was never much interested in selling work, and I’ve been reluctant on her behalf. Pricing paintings that used to hang in the dining room felt like selling a pet turtle—not a dog but not a knick-knack either.

I wore a sign at the reception that said, “I’m okay. Thanks for asking.” Although it was an hour or so between printing the tag and actually wearing it at the reception I was still okay when I put it on, which didn’t have to be the case. I look forward to seeing friends, well-wishers, and other allies, but enough sympathy renders me speechless and headed for an exit.

I’ve been attending a bereavement group sponsored by the terrific Enloe hospice program, and the last time we met we compared comments from other people, from “It’s time you got over it and moved on with your life” to “I’m sure it’s all for the best,” “You’ll find somebody else,” and the dreaded “I have someone you should meet.” We cringe and roll our eyes, though we know they mean well.

The reception went well. I went outside only once and then not for long. I knew I might blubber at some point, but I wasn’t worried for two reasons. First, I almost always blubber alone, very seldom when someone else is around. Other people seem to give me something to think about and do so I’m not just being sad and lonely. The other reason I wasn’t worried about blubbering is that I have a right to blubber when and where I please, and they’d better not try to stop me.