The first thing I see when I wake every morning is a primitive painting, based on calendar art by one of my favorite artists, Linda Nelson Stocks.
The colorful reproduction reminds me of our summer place by the sea at Fogland Beach.
Knowing my affinity for Stocks’ August 2001 calendar art “Generations of Love,” my mother gave me a copy she painted, removing some elements and adding some of her own, including a sign with the word “Fogland” pointing the way to the seaside cove.
My mother never painted a stroke until the day she retired, and since that time she has painted nonstop.
This work lacks the master strokes of Stocks’ detail with a small pointed brush, but my mother’s love is in every stroke, along with the guidance of a gifted teacher.
Over the years, Mom and I had the good fortune of attending weekly art classes with Sister Gertrude Gaudette, a Dominican nun.
Sister Gert retired at 90 years old and will leave shortly for the Dominican Sisters of Hope Motherhouse in New York. She has spent 68 years in religious life.
As a young girl living on the family farm with her four siblings, Sister Gert discovered that she could “do things.”
She milked cows before going to school, built pens for the pigs and constructed a 20-foot-long log cabin from pines on the property.
As a novice, she earned a bachelor’s degree in art history and social studies and went on to acquire a master’s in fine arts from Catholic University in Washington.
Sister Gert spent the next 17 years teaching a wide range of subjects to students in kindergarten through eighth grade – but not her beloved art.
In 1973, she was offered a position as head of the art department at a Catholic high school.
At the same time, her artistic talents were discovered by local dioceses, and she carved coats of arms for bishops, including Bishop Sean O’Malley (now Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston) and Bishop Louis Gelineau of Providence, as well as created many of the signs on diocesan buildings. Her summers were always spent on staging, painting huge Christmas displays at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette.
In 1983, Sister Gert opened the Creativity Center which offered lessons to children and adults.
Some of her students will gather together Tuesday to thank her for coloring their lives and wish her well before she returns to her convent.
“I don’t know how I made all those beautiful paintings – all this beautiful stuff,” she told me. “I made mistakes but thanked God every time I succeeded with something. I think I made pretty good use of my time.”