My mother, Doris Fry, was quite an artist. I recall, as a lad, she was constantly using her fingers and brains on small projects that ultimately, became these works of art. Today, I had the privilege to celebrate her works in exhibition, ten years after her passing. It’s been a valuable way for me to connect with her again and ponder her influence on me.
I will write about this a little later. (uh, oh…)
This was a long time coming. I have always wanted to exhibit my Mom’s extensive Early American Decoration works. The first step was to put the material together and find a venue to show it and document the material. Thanks to Ramona, Clay on Main in Oley, PA was interested so I’ve been communicating with Dolores Kirschner at her combination studio/gallery/folk club. I had played there last year so I was familiar with the place. Very warm site in a beautiful Pennsylvania small town. Brick and stone….
I offered to play music for the opening and I got there with Rosalie to set up my instruments. As we walked into the front room and saw my mom’s work on the wall, it really hit me. Here’s her work on display. Doris Hendricks Fry, artist. Museum quality, for sure.
The two front rooms featured her Primitive American pieces, gold leaf and reverse glass paintings, tole work on tin, trays, pitchers, etc. We (me and my mom) shared the exhibit with redware potter Jeff Dietrich whose style really complimented my mom’s work. We shared some deeper connections later with a common friend Harriet.
I headed to the larger room in the back to set up my instruments. This room featured my mom’s stencils, showing her very intense work in copying old patterns from historical sites, along with various trial pieces of floor stencils. And her wonderful cross stitch sampler from my bedroom. This area was, appropriately, the backstory to her art – her preparation, her incredible skills with pencil, exacto knife, paints and brushes, all part of her love of documentation and challenges to her skills.
I was delighted to see my good friends show up, each and every one a wonderful surprise. (This is Oley, you know….) Whoa, there’s my son Jaimie, who gave up Cowboys/Eagles tickets (as it turns out, a good choice)! I was deeply pleased to have both Rosalie and Jaimie there. Fry legacy. I began to play some tunes as folks filtered in to hear the music, I saw so many good friends and artists and strangers in front of me. Deep gratification. Nice feeling. Folks cruising the wall, taking in my Mom’s art.
After a session of music with my friend Rick Weaver sitting in, I asked the folks gathered if they had any questions, and asked Jeff, the potter, to join in. It turned out to be a great community conversation. Lots of intelligent talk in many ways. It was a good way to for me to connect my Mom’s folk artistry with my folk music. There was great talk about preservation, PA Dutch clay fields and local buildings, Russian and Japanese influences and similarities, …pretty heavy chatter. I love it. Electricity.
I cruised the exhibit a bit, talked to folks, thanked those who made the effort. In the process, I nearly knocked over one of my Mom’s tray. A wonderful patron caught it. Sorry, Mom. Bull in the china shop.
I finished a set with an intimate set of music. I asked some of my fellow players to come up and play some music with me. Bonnie, Susan and Dan, folks from the Oley area who came out to hear me play. I was surprised when they asked me if I was going to play anymore. It was, of course, an automatic decision. Let’s play.
I packed up with the help of my kids (!!!), shook hands, bought a piece from Jeff and shuffled off for an Italian place on the highway with Rosalie and Jaimie. Too much food.
As I drove back to the Lehigh Valley with Rosalie, with a crisp fall sunset over Pennsylvania corn fields and stone barns, I could feel a sense of centeredness, if that’s a word. So many convergences today: deep, deep generational connections, a strong community of good friends, a celebration of folk music and the folk arts, intertwined like a quilt or a cross stitch or a mandolin and guitar tune.
A powerful and beautiful day on the planet ….and Pennsylvania, in particular. Thank you, Mom. I love you. I think you would approve.