An Art Walk Through Our Home: A Painting as an Oasis

You’re a consolation. A stream heading for me and the wheat-colored light of a Virginia easing out of winter and into spring. I turn to this painting in my worst moments. And they are often moments of transition.

A few years ago, the painter, Richard Crozier, led my husband and I out to his new studio. It was a light-filled room built in his backyard surrounded by the terraced garden his wife lovingly tended. We didn’t expect what he said next. “Pick one,” he pointed to a box on the floor filled with oil paintings on masonite board the size of record albums. I tried to not look like I was panting as my husband said we couldn’t possibly take one of his paintings. Crozier waved that aside.

Crozier paints landscapes and taught art at The University of Virginia where my husband and I had gone to graduate school. He’s now retired. Here’s an article about his life and work:

We hung the painting in the living room in the perfect spot for a large screen TV. We have a console TV from the dinosaur era, instead. I remember there wasn’t a TV anywhere in Crozier’s house—I think he’d enjoy knowing his painting hangs in this coveted spot.

There were so many paintings in the box, it would have taken all day to go through them. “What kind of landscape would you like?” he asked as a way to narrow down the choices.

Immediately, I knew. “Something with water in it.” We were living in drought-riven Texas.

Those dry Texas days can lead me to this painting like a horse to water. And I drink. It looks like we’re in for another drought like the one we were enduring when we returned to Charlottesville for a visit. We’ve had less rain than we should have so far this year my husband happened to mention today. And I watched horses going into heat stroke last week where I go horseback riding. Ranches disappeared last time, replaced by a lot of strip malls and housing developments.

It’s a cold stream and shallow like ones where I grew up in Upstate New York. And quiet, except for the sound of the water. I don’t need a water feature in the house to conjure up that sound. I hear it every time I look at the painting. And feel cooler, thirst-quenched.

And less lonely as it’s been a dry spell for socializing and taking walks, too. You see, I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I feel very fortunate that I can still work, but it leaves me little energy and time for much else. It can leave you housebound and isolated.

I can see this as a dry spell or as a time for contemplation, the kind of looking Crozier must be doing as he paints, his easel set up along the edge of the creek or painting from the passenger side of his car. What birds are singing? And I remember how slippery and uneven the rocks can be in streams like this one. You find your way with your feet for a while feeling the sensations of cold water, small fish, guppies, slippery rocks, and pebbles. Because your brushstrokes are visible, I can let my own memories of a place like this in.

Or a day in Charlottesville walking across Jefferson’s campus. Everything is bustling with people going about their business among the brick buildings in those memories; buildings and people are absent in the painting. The sky, a blue ridge in the distance, a net of tree branches catching golden light, those take me back there. I didn’t have a car, so rarely got beyond Charlottesville proper and to any place resembling this spot. Except on my bike, where I found a road known as 21 Curves winding down alongside a stream and near a golf course. That stream kept me going on hot days when winding back up the 21 curves felt impossible. Cooling drafts and the smell of fresh water floated off the stream. But I didn’t stop to look, whizzing by, instead.

Now, I can look. And understand the depth of this gift. And then step away and return to where I am and a new turn.

Crozier painting





An Art Walk Through Our Home: Introduction

Our Home

My husband and I live in a 1,100 square-foot condo. We like to call it our big-ass tiny house—small but not really tiny. Way too large to haul anywhere without smashing into underpasses, even if it could be moved. Barn-like in it’s rectangular shape and high cathedral ceiling.

It was our first house purchase after years of renting and moving with academic jobs and grad school before that. Our nearly-zero decorating budget (I mentioned grad school, right?) went for two things:

  • window treatments
  • getting artwork framed


Since there were really only two windows to “treat,” that wasn’t too costly, thankfully. One window sports faux plantation blinds in the living room and one window is draped with a papery blue-green blind in the bedroom. We picked out a gold curtain for the bedroom window to keep out heat, cold, light.

A window near the ceiling in the living room is only covered in sunscreens. It’s a living canvas—birds flying past, the moon peeking in, a renegade Texas storm cloud spitting hail. I’m here on the couch looking up at it as I write.

A third, smaller window in the entryway and across from the galley kitchen got a special Sue “treatment”—one curtain panel apparently separated from its mate that I snagged on sale for $8, I hemmed and hung from a wire-sprung curtain rod. Its lovely browns and reds match much better with the kitchen cabinets and living room blinds than I realized in the store! Why did I take so long mulling over whether or not to buy it? It’s perfect. I mentioned grad school, right?

Walls and Space and Frames

Our condo was brand new when we moved in in 2008. We left the beige-with-a-twinge-of-mocha-foam shade on the walls (I’m certain that’s what the paint color must be called). We wanted a plain backdrop for the paintings, drawings, engravings, and photos we planned to hang.

I should explain. My husband is an art historian who’s been teaching in studio art programs. One of the job’s perks is free or graciously discounted artwork by students and colleagues. I found or was given a few things, too. Some of it came framed, most of it didn’t and sat in boxes, or, ahem, was tacked to the wall. Ceramics and some small sculptures have found places safe from the cats or being tripped over by us.

Well, one large ceramic piece is sort of a launching pad for the youngest cat, but since the artist loves cats, I think he’d sort of like that. I hope.

We started taking the unframed works to a crafts store that does framing. They love us. They love our wallet even more. When our nearly-zero budget ran out, I found cheap frames and framed the smaller pieces myself.

A Tour

I want to celebrate being surrounded by art in our home. This is where I write poems. I can’t imagine doing that any other place, now. I’ll take you on a tour, telling you about the artist, unless that’s unknown, the story behind how the work ended up in our hands or what it means to me. I’ve taken a few art history courses and a drawing course many years ago in college, but I’m no art historian. These will be more personal reflections. I hope you enjoy this art walk through our condo!


Photo on 2017-01-12 at 21.48