Celebrating an Artist

September 1, 2015

My Most Memorable and Meaningful Piece

Its not often that one gets to collaborate with a mentor. This painted weaving “Riverwalk”, I created with an artist who is my inspiration, mentor and now angel.  Mema, also known as Hermine Sallinger, was a master watercolorist. 

She recently was in several juried master shows where she won awards and had a history of vivid paintings and beautiful pieces. She always was trying a new technique and presenting these pieces to her selective group of painters at a monthly critique. 

About a year ago, Mema came to the studio to create a paperweight. She was mesmerized by the glass, the colors, how it moved, and the end product was magic to her. 

Weeks after she made that paperweight, she would tell me, she not only was dreaming in colors but in shapes!

At 98 years old, Mema and I decided to collaborate on a piece which thrilled us both. I sandblasted a weaving that I had done and gave it to her as a canvas. We studied several different pictures for inspiration on colors, themes, and compositions. She and I both were drawn to a scene of a river through a forest in Autumn. 

After a few different attempts, Mema found the paint she liked to use best, discovered the perfect amount of water, and started layering on the paint. Letting it dry between layers, she was able to create this magical forest scene. 

She loved the way the light created such a brilliant glow throughout the piece. When she first saw our piece illuminated, her eyes twinkled and her smile widened. “That’s pretty,” she said. She was captivated by the beauty and magic of working with glass and color.

Between layers and throughout the piece, we would sit and talk about what books she was reading and often she would hand them over for me to read next. 

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She loved learning and would enjoy the trials and tribulations of the newest large piece I was creating or hanging. Her eyes would light up listening to what I was doing with different children groups.  She thrilled in hearing about the latest engineering steps, seeing the colors and light in the newest piece I made all while being apart of the process with me. Throughout conversations or walks outside, she would listen to my life as a young artist and sit back and share her words of wisdom with a story.

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Often I would hear, “take care of yourself”. She was a firm believer in sitting back and being still, breathing, and taking moments to be at peace. Although she volunteered until her last days on Earth at the Temple, she would point outside to her garden and say, “that is where God is for me.” She loved being outside and around nature. She continued to influence me to take walks and create time to be outside, stopping to love the beauty of the sunsets and the brilliance of the stars. She captured these moments in her watercolors. 

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What I remember most about working with Mema, in being her friend, was her smile. She would always smile and enjoy the day. She asked me, “Have you seen someone paint on a glass weaving before?” I would say, “No Mema, I haven’t.” She would answer, “Pretty great that at 98, I’m doing something nobody else has done before.” And she would give me that big smile. She reminds me to enjoy the moment of now. 

This piece is the most special piece I have made because I made it with Mema. I know where she is now, she is in the garden, the sunsets, and the night sky. She continues to remind us: Smile and Enjoy the day! May her spirit be in all of us.

photos by Turk Studio