Phoenix Rising

by Anne Bennett on August 2, 2011

There inevitably comes a time when the advantages, indeed the very rationale, of owning a pet comes into question. Take my standard poodle puppy, Julia, for instance. (Please…take Julia!)

The other evening she made off with my needlepoint lady while I was momentarily distracted. I found my canvas outside in the back yard, looking like this:

Figure 1905 after Julia "played with her."

Champ was out front mowing the lawn, but he could hear me screaming over the roar of the lawn mower; he came running to find me chasing Julia around the yard, swatting her with my mangled canvas and screaming, “I hate you!!!”  I was bawling like a child and I was inconsolable. An entire week of my life had gone into that canvas; I had grown to love the mysterious lady, painted by Kees Van Dongen in 1905, and I felt as though she had died. Really, I was that sad.

Champ immediately encouraged me to recreate her, adding that she would probably be better the second time around. I wasn’t convinced, but I knew he was right. I had to begin again.

The next morning I had another canvas cut and I painted her again, this time in a record five hours. I stitched her face a second time, which took all the following day, and when I stopped to look at her, I realized that I had made a grave mistake: I had gone too fast. She was not right. I tore out her face with a seam ripper and, in my haste, tore a hole in her cheek. Another canvas ruined.

Was Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, war and stitching (apparently goddesses had to multi-task in ancient times), telling me to abandon this project?

My mother’s nickname was Minerva, given her by my brother Jon because she was so smart. Minerva would have admonished me to give it another shot.  Thus, I phoned the needlepoint shop and had a third canvas cut. This time I took my time and painted her slowly and deliberately. As I began a third rendition of her face, I carefully referred to a copy of the original painting for subtle details in her countenance.

Phoenix Rising

And voila! Her mysterious face reappeared. Figure 1905 has been reincarnated! I’ve named her “Phoenix Rising,” after the mythical bird who, after living 1,000 years, sets himself aflame and is born again from his own ashes.

I carry this canvas with me at all times so as not to give Julia another chance to abscond with her. Julia is off to other toys now anyway. The other day I found her happily romping outside with two tiny feet sticking out of her mouth. She had found a new friend, a baby ground squirrel.

As I said, we have pets because?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda August 3, 2011 at 5:35 am

Aaaack! Maybe Julia needs The Dog Whisperer… I know we need a Cat Whisperer around here…. Anyway, your lady is looking wonderful!

Kaye August 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I do hope you frame all existing versions and display together–what a conversation piece and reminder of Minerva, poodles, trials, lessons learned and the reward of never admitting defeat. I’m toasting you with a glass of Schramsberg bubbly!

Debbie September 5, 2011 at 10:09 pm

All great creators (or re-creators) of art have had their discouragements. I can relate to the setbacks, and undoing work. The finished piece will have a special place in your heart, as you know it took determination to complete the lovely lady. Blessings!

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