The Friendship Club is part of my “Stories of My Foremothers” Project. https://robinbrooksart.com/figure-collage/ “The Friendship Club” shows a group of Jewish elders including my Great Aunt Fannie along with a visitor, me, at the dining table in Fannie’s Miami Beach apartment. It’s worth noting that the photo it is based on was taken by my sister Susan. Susan and I had flown to Florida partly for a vacation but also to visit with our great aunt. Fannie and her friends were all nonagenarians. Yet they were still politically aware, engaged in and concerned about the world around them. “Did we support women’s Right to Choose?,” and “Did you cross the airline workers picket line?,” were two of the questions Susan recalls being asked that day. How interesting that these two issues–the right to bodily autonomy for women and worker’s rights to form unions–are still contentious issues today.
Our visit with Aunt Fannie and her friends took place in April of 1990. While we were there, Fannie told us about her Friendship Club, their sustaining community, and how they met monthly in each others’ homes to share a meal, conversation, poetry, and more. I wish I knew more details about her Friendship Club to share with you. But the photo, and my finished painting, speaks volumes about the meaning and value of our heart-felt human connections.
Day 1 Painting the Friendship Club
Here’s how the painting looked after the first day. To begin the painting I brushed in gestural strokes. using acrylic paints thinned with matte medium. Once I established the arrangement, or composition I began to build up the layers and refine the forms. You may note that I have tilted the plane of the table so the table top is visible. Along with placing the people around the table, I established the color palette. Because it’s Miami Beach and near the ocean, my colors include strong blues and warm sunny tones.
Continuing the next day, I used soft vine charcoal or white chalk to refine forms and faces. Often I will paint a form several times until it hugs the space just right. Using matte medium, I gradually added thin layers of semi-transparent color. Along with luminous color, I strived for lively brushwork and enough detail to bring this group portrait to life. Interestingly, Fannie’s apartment was in a subsidized high rise for elderly residents of Miami Beach. As I progressed, I wanted to capture the feelings of love and friendship that filled Fannie’s dining room on that sunny afternoon.
The Painting Evolves
The Original Photo taken by Susan Brooks
One More Photo from that Day
Finally, the Finished Painting!
Painting Fannie’s Friendship Club brought me closer to my Great Aunt Fannie and helped me see dimensions of myself that come from her spirit. Bringing people together has always brought me joy, especially around a festive meal. Perhaps the experience of being with Aunt Fannie with her friends on that sunny April afternoon is an image I have carried with me all these years. So you can imagine how much joy it gives me share this experience through the painting and the story that accompanies it..
This painting is part of my Foremothers Project
The Foremothers Project is an ongoing exploration of how we become who we are are as women, creatives, activists, and risk-takers. To see more of my Foremothers artwork, please visit my Foremothers gallery. https://robinbrooksart.com/stories-of-foremothers/ To read more stories, explore my Foremothers Blog posts.
Participate! Share Your Foremothers Story.
This is an invitation to participate in the Foremothers Project by sharing your own story of an inspiring foremother. Please consider leaving a comment on this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for visiting!
I love that you can bring faces to life with just a few strokes! And what a beautiful heart warming story. We need more Friendship Clubs like your foremother’s put together!
I agree, Kym! This friendship group was a lifeline for Fannie and her friends, keeping them connected to one another and the world “out there.” I would love to see more Friendship Clubs in our world.