Q: Do you remember your first painting.? I mean other than school work or what you considered kid stuff.
ReeL: Yea. It was a crucifixion in oil, about 30 by 24 inches, sort of a Baroque piece with deep shadows and a ray of light coming down from the right, after a Rembrandt. Jesus was very semitic: black kinky hair, dark skin. I was twelve.
My grandmother who was not religious, in fact she always made a big point about how the Scandinavians were converted to Christianity by the sword and had ruined a literate culture, thought it might upset her religious sister and that I should give it to her.
Q: Scandinavians? Wait. She wanted you to give it to her sister so it would upset her?
ReeL: Yea, she was Danish. She had three sisters, one of whom was quite religious. Ironically, her sister, my great aunt, loved the painting, so it hung in her house in Minneapolis for the rest of her life, and then went to her daughter, after that I don’t know what became of it. The non-Aryan nature of the depiction of the Christ did not faze anyone one bit.
After I did that painting, my mother gave me her oils and stopped painting in oils forever.
Q: She stopped painting?
ReeL: Just in oils. She took up watercolors, which were better suited to her light, quick touch. It was her water colors that she eventually became known for.