The Alchemist’s Daughter
When I was five I had a piano teacher named Doris Crane who lived right next door.
She gifted me with many treasures. To this day I am delighted at the sight of a bright red sticker with a
simple G-Clef pasted on the odd page of the music notebook she had me keep.
When, as was so often the way of our family, we moved away from that corner of the country,
she gave me two bisque dolls. The one in this painting is made in the likeness of a member of the
Dionne quintuplets. The name Marie is carefully stitched on the collar of her thinning cotton dress.
The old chemists’ cabinet on which she perches was another treasure found late in the evening’s
biddings at Stoner’s Auction. It caused quite a stir when Pat discovered, after leaving our row to fetch
a hot dog, that the final number called was indeed mine. It is a wonder of architecture and medicine,
but it was locked. Once home and up in the studio, with no shortage of disparaging glances, I made
quick work of the opening. Inside of each of the compartments there is a receptacle for a light bulb.
The small top doors have racks for test tubes and instruments and there is a metal platform with
holders on the side for a beaker of sorts I suppose. There were parchment papers lining each shelf,
some glass tubes, and several tiny bottles sealed with brilliant red wax.
When I started to gather the makings of this painting it was all about that white cabinet and the
contrast of the dear little doll with the striking black child’s umbrella and shoes. Playing with the
composition I remembered the light sockets and decided to let the light source from within
become an element of the composition and it’s own source of mystery.
And then the title came. Literally out of the blue.
I went on line to find how Alchemist’s are defining themselves these days.
“ The most important idea of Alchemy is that everything is evolving. Everything will slowly become
something more advanced given time.” The Alchemist seeks to hasten this process through the use of
chemistry and some marginally scary rituals to discover the means to turn a basic ore into a pure Red
Stone. The philosophers stone. (For all you Alchemists’ out there forgive my naive interpretation.)
Now locked into the title and curious about the evolution of the artwork itself, I dug around inside the
cabinet and found a tiny vile. Empty now despite a perfectly sealed red wax cap. The light from within
just catches that magical color and I enjoyed dipping the brush into pure cadmium for the accent.
With so much fire, the sliver of window literally would provide an escape. I turned the easel and
painted the little creek which flows only a few feet from the studio
and is my personal reminder that everything evolves.
My great friend Peter is confused by the imagery in this painting.
He has only seen the tiny reproduction on the invitation thus far
and seems to be frightened by the unfamiliar.
But he is a seventeenth century joiner.
Studying and working in the ways of the pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation.
He may be closer to the mysteries of the original alchemists than he thinks.
And, as far as I know, he has never learned to play the piano.