|My aunt and uncle's unbelievable house!|
Let me begin by saying that Aunt Jane is all about...color! As in, lots of it. Her eclectic wardrobe consists of fuchsia, chartreuse, marigold, aqua, violet, magenta (wait, is that the same as fuchsia?), and every other vibrant and tropical color you can think of. Her shoes, eyeglasses, and jewelry are equally as radiant. Sometimes I'll walk into her closet and get the surreal feeling that I have entered a giant box of Crayolas (which is not an altogether unpleasant feeling). Her house, as you can see above, is the same, although perhaps a bit more pastelly than her wardrobe, creating a retro Barbie Dream House vibe, although much cooler and less pink. To put it mildly, my aunt has vision -- a unique, extraordinary, beautiful vision.
Jane has a large halo of blond, curly hair and is taller than pretty much everyone else in the family, including me. She has a beatific and contagious smile, and is always quick and eager to laugh. She has a deep warmth that emanates out of her, and she gives the BEST hugs in the world (If you ever meet her, ask for one -- I can guarantee she'll indulge you!). But, more than anything else, Jane is talented, artistic and creative. As I mentioned above, Jane has unparalleled vision, and this vision translates perfectly into her art form of choice: photography. Jane will take gorgeous shots of cities, dogs, gardens, cars, you name it, and she will either hand-paint the super-enlarged prints, or she will computerize saturated color onto them. Some of her shots are abstract, some are realistic, but in the end, they all become extraordinary transcendants of color and fantasy and joy. For that is what Aunt Jane is all about: joy. And her love for life totally permeates her color-soaked artwork. Her photographs are what the world would look like if we lived in a state of perpetual rapture, or, perhaps, perpetual fantasy.
Jane tenaciously marches to the beat of her own drum, and I suppose that is what I admire most about her. She is not concerned with what anyone thinks about her, her choices, or her art. She has consistently stayed true to herself and her artful perspective since she graduated UCLA as a painting major. She became a full-time artist in 1988, and has since shown in museums and galleries all around the world. Never once in her vast career has Jane's viewpoint faltered or swayed in the least.
Jane is a free spirit, amazingly generous, and one of my very best friends. She has always been like a second mother to me, frequently calming my own mother down, and balancing out my mother's tightly-wound nervousness with her own laid-back and carefree demeanor. (The only thing Jane can be a tad obsessive about is the weather. She checks out a plethora of climates from cities around the world every day, and talks about the weather ad nauseum. I actually find this little quirk of hers precious, and quite useful if I suddenly have the urge to know the exact temperature in Taipei.) To round things out more, Jane and her husband, David, live exactly two minutes from my parents. My mom and aunt walk in botanical gardens every morning, speak on the phone at least 15 times daily, and fanatically shop together like it's sport (including tackling fellow shoppers/victims who dare to get in their way. A Fendi purse 70% off? Don't even think of trying to intercept.).
The three of us have traveled together to places far and wide -- from France, to Italy, to Switzerland, to Palm Springs. On our trips, we shop, we eat, we see movies, we go to museums, but, more than anything, we laugh. On one of our flights over to Italy, the movie onboard was "The Mighty Ducks" (yes, I am dating myself again), and after that none of us could stop quacking. As the trip progressed, the word, "quack," surreptitiously became a euphemism for a handsome man. We would see a gorgeous Italiano walking down the streets of Florence, and one of us would quack so the other two knew to look up and pay attention, pronto. The funny thing is, we haven't stopped quacking since. This technique may not be the most subtle thing in the world to get someone to pay heed, but it is actually verrrry effective. I've occasionally tried it in bars with girlfriends, but inevitably I receive a blank stare in return as if I am in the stages of early dementia.
To sum it up, Jane has not only taught me not to be afraid of color (why do we shy away from it so much?), but also not to be afraid of life. She has shown me that life is meant to be enjoyed and soaked up and experienced and treasured. So, thank you for teaching me that, Jane, and thank you, too, for always being a shoulder to cry on, a girlfriend to laugh with, and the best arm-scratcher in the world. Happy, happy birthday, and I love you!
And F.Y.I., my aunt's otherworldly website is: http://www.janegottlieb.com/