Regula Feldman was a person I admired, if only for her blonde bangs and long hair. She frequently wore a dark-and-light purple mini-dress, and this gave her a cachet that went beyond her slightly stout figure. Together with her best friend, Nanci Stanton, she slouched across the campus in an authoritative manner that struck me (in 1966) as very intellectual.
One day I was late to art class, so I borrowed a canvas from Susan Dinkle (covered with an unfinished nude in oils). Arriving in a rush, I set up my easel and covered Susan’s painting in white acrylic gesso (not a good idea, as it soon began to peel away from the oil).
Regula was modeling that day and I saw her as a so much of a larger-than-life character, that my portrait of her cut off her arms and legs, but I focused pretty accurately on her face and striped dress, even as she burst out of the canvas. I think I really caught her personality in a sort of sculptural way, and was rather proud of my final work.
I used a lot of white on her skin, which flattened the image, as did the stripes. But there was a mystery there I captured that I am–to this day–quite satisfied with. Furthermore, two of the grad school male darlings of my female art department passed by the art room and saw my painting after class. Their enthusiastic responses, demanding to know who the author of this work was, encouraged me in a way my teachers never bothered to offer. It was at that moment that I knew I could do better and would succeed.
Sadly, I allowed further male domination of the illustration world and female disdain in the art world (oh, those trust fund babies!) to eventually corrode my confidence in my work. My career never materialized, although I’m sure I had the the talent. Art is a dialogue with the viewer. There is something about painting for your closet that is not encouraging and creates too much clutter in one’s life.
So when I had to close my storeroom a month or two ago, I allowed the storage people to burn my art, including Regula.
Regula herself disappointed me recently, as I heard she had a son who went to Afghanistan and extolled the miracles the US Army was accomplishing there. Reg supported him and became a rabid Republican–an unforgivable transgression! Oh how our idols so readily develop feet of clay!
But I have a 35 mm slide of that piece and I will always cherish it, even if the background was still peeling the last time I saw it.