Life is fragile. None of us knows how long we will be on the earth. And, when the time comes to leave, we frequently leave behind unfinished projects.
Kindergarten teacher Kelley Hubbard has a literal visual of this concept — a partially completed paint-by-number landscape worked upon by her biological grandmother, Betty Nelsen, in the 1950s.
“My Grandma Betty passed away from the effects of nephritis in February 1957, leaving behind two little girls, a husband, and many loved ones,” the Walla Walla, WA, Berney School teacher says. “A couple years later, my Grandpa remarried — this is the woman my cousins and I know as Grandma (Shirley) Nelsen.”
Recently, when Hubbard’s Grandma Shirley was downsizing, she went through the many boxes of stuff people tend to accumulate through the years.
Found in a Box
“Thanks to cell phones, the texts and images came at a steady pace for a couple of weeks as they asked if anyone would like things that Grandma Shirley was ready to let go of,” Hubbard remembers.
“In the process of sorting and packing all of her belongings, an image of this incomplete paint-by-number picture by Grandma Betty came through the text thread. My Mom and Aunt suspect this was a project their mom was working on while ailing from kidney disease.
“Grandpa likely thought this was a project she could work on despite having low energy.”
Hubbard jumped onto the painting as one she wanted in her own home. A creative herself, Hubbard — who sews, crafts, and knits — maintains a collection of artwork and creations made by the various members of her family. These include woodworking, ceramics, needlework, paintings, stained glass, quilts, and garments.
“While I know that this paint-by-number is very likely an item purchased at a dime store, I can’t help but think of my grandma as she was painting it, knowing that she was so unwell and that her time with her family was limited.
“Her health and endurance, I imagine, is what left it incomplete.”
A Memento of Past and Present
Wanting to preserve a treasured memento of her past and present, Hubbard brought the artwork to Wenaha Gallery in Dayton. There, she spent a pleasurable time choosing mat colors to match, enhance, and draw out the colors of the painting. Framer Savonnah Henderson then assembled the mat choices and frame into a completed custom framing package. Interestingly, Hubbard feels, the paint-by-number’s very incompleteness adds to its totality and meaning.
“This will hang as a centerpiece on my fireplace mantle, flanked by a set of ink drawings from Grandma Betty’s father, Thorvald Heden,” she says.
“An unfinished dime store purchase has become something quite special to me some 63 years later.”
In addition to showing and selling fine art — originals and prints — Wenaha Gallery custom frames using conservation quality and acid-free materials. We design both in-house, at the gallery, and online via email and phone.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.