Sunday morning, 10am. All the paintings are framed and packaged… except for one, Venus as Garbo, the climactic painting of the upcoming exhibit. For over a year I have stressed over the presentation of this painting.

It is difficult for me, when I am working on a painting, to analyze the composition pretending not to see six inches around the edges. This is the challenge that presents itself when I am painting on an unstretched canvas. This has been the dilemma with Venus as Garbo. To present it without losing the perimeter would mean to turn it into a wall-hanging or a canvas stretched like the skin of an animal to a framework outside of itself. I came to the painful decision that I had to forfeit the outside six inches of the painting and stretch it.

Good news… the decision was made. Bad news…. stretchers do not come in the sizes I need. Fine. I’ll make my own stretchers out of some frame molding that I will never use for frames. I’ll skip the next several good news/bad news events that led to this morning’s struggle to make the wrong materials do the right thing.

I was in a wonderful state of mind having spent all of yesterday with Alexis at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Tom had ripped the extensions of the fill-in molding that I had glued to the frame molding the day before. I met Tom at the shop and he set me up to use the belt sander to even the edging of the homemade stretcher strips. He then left to work with Alexis grouting the newly laid tiles at home.

The sanding went well as did the re-cutting of the strips on the chop saw. Then came the assembly. It was impossible for me to make accurate diagonal measurements of the stretcher frame. I did the best I could, squaring each side and adding cross pieces for internal support. All this was done against the rounded edges of the round-edged frame molding that I cut inverted so as to leave the outside squared. The final result, at that point, was that one side was 3/8 inch longer than the other in spite of the fact that they started off equal lengths. I decided to glue the corners for added inflexibility and poured a cup of coffee with which to regain my balance while the glue dried. Hah!

With perfect timing, Tom and Alexis arrived back at the studio having completed their task of grouting. Neither one of them had found it to be a pleasant job. With Alexis as another body and another set of arms, we re-measured the frame and discovered that the diagonal dimensions were off by over half an inch. Not good. Unscrew everything and start again……..

How wonderful it would be to leave the framing and stretching of artwork to professionals. I really don’t know how artists afford to do solo exhibits (50 – 70 works) if they don’t do the framing themselves.

With Alexis as moral support and an uncomplaining helper, Venus as Garbo was stretched over the re-adjusted framework of make-shift framing molding. We sandwiched it between protective layers of corrugated cardboard and added her to the pile of paintings ready to be loaded into the car on Thursday morning.

Preparing for this exhibit has been a marvelous journey. The left side of my brain and the right side of my brain worked as partners, each getting out of the other’s way at the right time and stepping in again only when needed. I didn’t think such a collaboration was possible.

Such a revalation leads me, of course, to taking on even greater challenges. What fun!

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