• Emily Passman

My Earliest Art Memories

For as long as I can remember my mother used to sit us down, mostly my younger sister, Franny and me, at the kitchen table with good paper, scissors, paint, and crayons for “making art” We used to say, “Let’s do art”. It was delicious, freeing, grounding and a time for being so present and undistracted, yet without all those words! It was quality time with my sister and seemed so nonjudgmental and fresh. So much fun. Those are my earliest memories of being an artist.



I think the important part was that in my home, an artist was not only acceptable, it was a good, wholesome, and prideful activity. My mother was very intentional about our activities, and we were not allowed to just “hang around”. It was either practice violin, do homework, bake something. This put some mishegas in my head for sure, about, “I must be busy” being equal to “being good”. My parents were big into science activities, music, nature trails, and museums. We listed to Gilbert and Sullivan records, and always heard the opera on Sunday afternoons. Opera for my father on Sunday afternoons was as regular as football is in other households. I did soak it in.

Early on I was more involved in playing with friends, playing “house” playing “school”. This mostly meant “setting up”, arranging, and feeling excited about lining up dolls and teaching them. I went to art camps at the DeCordova Museum, and my mother always pushed after-school programs that included the arts. I appreciate that now. She was an art lover, had great appreciation for a creative life, and, though not necessarily a “creative-type”, she came from a very artistic family. Her mother made hats, was a dancer, and her father in addition to being an OB GYN, was a sculptor. Her one older sister won awards early in her life in New York, was offered a full scholarship to art school but chose a more bohemian and alternative lifestyle moving to Paris and marrying a Swiss sculptor. She continued to paint, draw and make jewelry for years. Their son, my first cousin is a successful sculptor and block print artist in Lausanne. I grew up believing they were the “real” artists in the family and I was the American cousin, the artist wanna-be, the impostor. The kid who played around, liked art but was immature, surly, and didn’t try hard enough or focus.


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