They say those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. But what if you’re asked to? Even offered money to?
In a near repeat of a call from a few years ago, my father asks for a copy of an old painting. This time it isn’t for him but as a gift. The original watercolor hangs in my parents’ vestibule. A close friend wants it for her new home but they don’t want to part with it. So my father hits upon this solution.
Does any artist want to copy themselves? It’s a bizarre experience. I have no time machine. There’s no going back. I skip so many steps trying to approximate old marks. The thing that animates the original is a view I have no access to. It’s nearly twenty years ago. I can tell it was winter and sunny. Fresh snow covers cars. Within hours it will melt or grey from passing exhaust pipes and salt trucks. I had to work fast to catch these pristine moments. It’s late June as I make my copy. I’m three homes removed from this view. How can I even pretend to inhabit this picture again?
But will the woman care about any of this when the painting hangs in her new home? How closely will she compare her painting with the one at my parents’ place? Is it because they have it that she wanted it? Will having a different but similar one suffice?
I finish it and put it in a frame. In a few weeks I’ll pack it into a rented car and drive east to celebrate my parents’ combined 150th birthday. They will take it and give it to their friend.
Chances are, I’ll never hear anything about it again.