The story of the little black dress is at the end!
I found these separate pictures of Nellie and Granny Lue, printed them off in B/W, cut them out, played around with composition, and glued them on to the canvas...
THEN I painted the background with acrylics, which I SHOULD have done before gluing down the figures. It would have been much easier! :/ I left the magnolia and the original handmade heart showing. There are actually 3-4 layers of paint at this point, but the nuances aren't showing up much...
Another layer or two of paint, Lue's beads, color to the magnolia, and the idea of a tree/leaves added...It's about at this point that I realize that Nellie and Lue are from two different seasons, times of day, and eras! Nellie's face is in shadow, Lue's is in the sun! Nellie is in the summer of the early 1950s and she's wearing white cotton, and Lue's is in the fall of the early 1970s, and she's wearing black light weight wool. Lue would have been MUCH younger if they had been in the same picture, but I decide it's all ok.
Mothers and daughters are the same, but opposite in many ways. I could have painted over them and changed it, but I really didn't want to, so I just went with it...
Another layer of paint, covers up the magnolia and leaves, the tree is painted in, and the old house is sketched in...Not liking it...Ponder on it for a few days...
Another layer, or two, of acrylic paint on the background, Lue's pearls are painted out and back in, A pale yellow glaze goes over Nellie's dress, and a little color on their cheeks and hair, and on Nellie's lips. Lue had red hair when she was young, but barely a hint of it when she was older (this picture of her was made on her 80th birthday). I get the idea to use an old torn newspaper to collage the tree, house roof/porch, and a little conversation on the left, and there is a reason for this (see below). Lue + Bill (grandpa) is written in the heart, which I could not bear to cover up for some reason. Something is still missing...
The first night I ever spent away from mama, as a baby, was with Aunt Nellie. So was the second night a few days later. I adored her when I was little, and she treated me like one of her own. Her children were like my siblings. Still are! She was always giving me stuff to play with, and she sewed clothes for my tiny tears doll, which I still have. Once, when she came home from working on a tow boat, she brought me a doll. She and Uncle Edgar were always very good to me.
And I loved her laugh. It was infectious!
I don't know if I had started to school yet, but when I was pretty young she moved to Lousiana, so we didn't get to see her often after that, maybe once a year, or so. I always looked forward to seeing her when she came home to visit.
When I was ten years old mama went to work in the local factory, and during school days I stayed with a neighbor before and after school, but during no-school days, and in the summer, I stayed with Granny (Lue). I have great memories from those times. She taught me so much and let me get away with so much! lol
The black dress came in to play when Aunt Nellie sent it to Granny Lue for either her birthday in October, or Christmas. It was a simple black dress with 3/4 raglan sleeves, a belt, a three-strand faux pearl necklace, and it was made of light weight wool.
I was fascinated with it from the time I saw it. It was beautiful and elegant! This was when I was maybe eleven or twelve in the late fifties/early sixties. I asked her one day if I could try it on. She told me I could, but to be very careful. It was expensive and it was from Nellie.
It fit me perfectly! I felt so grown up in it, as I twirled around and posed in front of the long mirror in the old chifferobe.
From then on, I was often found modeling that dress when there was nothing else to do. Modeling that grown-up dress and daydreaming, with a pony tail and sneakers for accessories. I still felt elegant!
Eventually, I outgrew modelling the dress, but I always loved it.
In 1967, the year I graduated high school, soon after my eighteenth birthday, Aunt Nellie was killed in a tragic accident that almost took the lives of her baby boy and her little granddaughter, as well. She was still a very young woman. It left a crack in my heart, as it does every time I lose someone I love dearly. Granny Lue wasn't able to make the trip to Louisiana, but she grieved heavily for her loss.
On Granny Lue's eightieth birthday, most of her children and grandchildren gathered at her home to celebrate, and she wore the black dress and pearls. I, and I'm sure Granny did too, felt Aunt Nellie's presence there, as she had her picture made in that dress.
I don't know what ever became of the black dress, but somehow I wound up with the faux pearls and still have them, along with a favorite memory of times gone by. Granny Lue passed away a few years after I married in the seventies.
Both of them are always in my heart and very much missed. I won't ever forget the little black dress and how grown up and elegant I felt when I put it on, and I will forever be linked to Nellie and Lue and that black dress in my memories.
Footnote: Granny Lue was nineteen when she married my forty year old grandpa, and they had eleven children, six girls and five boys, which they raised to adulthood, much of it during the great depression. They lived in little more than a shack, represented in the painting, up in a holler when my dad was growing up.
The house Granny lived in much of the time I was growing up had old newspapers covering the walls and ceiling in the spare bedroom (she only had two). Mama would drop me off at Granny's on her way to work, and Granny would unlock the door to let me in, then we'd both crawl back into her big old fluffy feather bed and sleep until we got ready to get up. When my cousin Laura and I spent the night we slept in the spare room bed, but before going to sleep, we'd read the newspaper ads on the ceiling above us and giggle until the wee hours, when sleep overtook us. Thus the newspaper tree and roof in the painting!
Two of the strong Southern women that influenced me greatly as I grew up. And they still do!