Anonymous, copy of a classical painting. Courtesy The Ebell of Los Angeles.

Anonymous, copy of a classical painting. Courtesy The Ebell of Los Angeles.

RETROSPECT

The Ebell Collection

Have you ever been in someone’s home and seen a painting in the living room or hallway that you have never forgotten? It is not a famous painting, not even an impressive painting, but somehow it sticks with you. You don’t understand why you can’t forget it, but you know its image is never going to leave you, even if you never see it again.


The first time this happened to me was in the house where I often went to babysit. It was an older painting, neither famous nor impressive, just simply something the family liked. Later in college I realized it was prominent in my memory where I accessed it often for no apparent reason. One dismal night, totally loaded, I wanted to see the painting for real. I tried to look up the image so I could see it again, but without the name of the painting or painter it was frustrating and finally impossible. When I started painting on my own, I considered it to be my good luck image and was terrified that the day would come when I had forgotten it, but that didn’t happen. I still remember it—vividly. I don’t know why and I don’t want to know why—I just want to know that it is there hanging on the back wall of my mind. Now I am 73 and it fills my mind at the oddest moments; to calm me down, to cheer me up when I am depressed, or just to remind me of what I don’t know.


Well, I am pleased to report to you that I have just come from the Ebell Ladies Club in Los Angeles and their walls are lined with odd but beautiful paintings just like the one in my memory, paintings that were cherished by a family, that meant a great deal to someone but maybe not to their children, so they have ended up donated to this Ladies Club. Some are expensive, some are dark, some are portraits, and some are old-fashioned. However they all meant something to the family that lived with them and they continue to live thanks to the Ebell Society.


My favorite Ebell painting is of a girl who has entered a cave. She lies on the ground of this cave surrounded by the things she brought with her: a book, a candle and a skull. I think it is the first time she is aware of death, although she is quite young and beautiful. There is only one reason to enter a cave— fear, protection, safety from the unknown—or maybe just to be alone and think about her own little skull and the inevitable darkness to come. The artist has painted her in a sexy, bare-chested way, but we all know you don’t go into a cave when you are feeling sexy—you just stay in bed.