Painting: Postcard – Orpheus on the B Train

Why I named this painting:

Postcard – Orpheus on the B Train

How to name a painting? I have no clue. I only know why I gave this painting its name.

When we were really young, our Dad left us and moved to Manhattan. I don’t remember him leaving, but I do remember taking my first airplane trip, destination NYC. Dad picked me up and we took a taxi from LaGuardia to his Upper West Side Apartment (801 West End Ave, to be exact), where I walked in to discover that I had three new siblings that nobody had ever mentioned before.

Of course, that was disturbing on many levels, but on levels I didn’t have to deal with as a kid because there was just so much to do in NYC!

Go right to Central Park or left to Riverside Park. Get chocolate Italian ices. Grab slices of pizza. Watch hotdog vendors load up our hotdogs with mustard and sauerkraut. (Sauerkraut? For a southern girl?!) Dodge panhandlers, dog poop and little old ladies with shopping carts that cursed at me for no apparent reason.

And, of course, take the subway.

I loved taking the subway. I still love it. But back then, as a kid, it was magical. People in suits holding briefcases and the handrails that descended from the ceiling, partially blocking the advertisements of almost embarrassingly (for a young girl standing beside her father), uber sexy women selling liquor and cigarettes. Some read folded newspapers, others stared at the windows, not really noticing the darkness, then the quick bright lights, the darkness, the quick bright lights as the express train passed the local stops. When the train did jolt to a stop, people would rush out, people would rush in, and the train would jump to a start, the smell of grease and metal permeating the air, blending in with the bloopy, loopy graffiti on the walls of the station and the walls of the cars above the heads of those who sat on the train – or slept on the train with their heads so far back and their mouths so wide open that frogs could have jumped in..

I’d come up from more tame cities – Atlanta, GA or Columbia, S.C. (depending) – where everything was measured by blocks, so the subways maps that were plastered on the gritty subway walls, with their lines and dots, seemed an easy solution for getting lost.

Of course, that proved to be wrong.

On one trip with my Dad, the train pulled up to the station and he disembarked. But I didn’t. Just as the doors had opened, a girl around my age (maybe 7) looked at me strangely, then deliberately turned her ice cream cone upside down and smashed it on top of my arm. I was too shocked to move and the doors shut with Dad trying frantically to get back in.

There wasn’t anything to fear, I thought, because of the map with the single lines and the dots. Right? Wrong. Somehow I ended up on or around Canal Street, with vendors who had foreign accents and sold anything and everything: fake watches, knock off designer shoes, old buttons, fishnet stockings with matching gloves, swatches of giraffe and zebra skin, etc.

I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, that was for sure. And I was terrified. I remember thinking, “Don’t look back, just keep walking forward,” mainly because the man who sold the animal skin swatches seemed to be following me! At some point I must have been crying, because a woman took me back to Dad’s apartment building.

In typical Dad fashion, he made a lot of jokes and offered me a beer. That was my Dad. And that was my NYC in the 60’s and 70’s.

Soooo… all this to explain why I gave this painting the title: Postcard: Orpheus on the B Train.

Here are the reasons why:

  • I hate naming paintings
  • I’m forced to name paintings
  • I asked my brother, Adam (probably the smartest+most+creative person on this planet), if he’d help me name this particular painting, so he did. (I added “Postcard” to it, since it is part of my Postcard Series.)
  • But before I did, I had to make the title make sense, so I thought about my memories as a young child taking the NYC subway.
  • This memory fit. Just like me, Orpheus wasn’t supposed to look back. Unfortunately, he did. I don’t know if I did or not, but I did end up getting home, and I grew up and I painted this painting. Et voila!

This is a Contemporary Abstract Expressionism with Mark Making made on canvas with acrylic paints, oil pastels and charcoal on canvas – it is a painting that tells a story.

[Art collectors, art curators, interior designers looking for cyan colorway, blue colorway, pink colorway, and people looking for hotel art or art for films might enjoy this post.]

To purchase the painting or a limited edition art print

By Sarah Gilbert Fox

Published novelist and artist.