Meet Elizabeth Congdon:
Painter, Ballet Mom, Wife, and Chicken Whisperer (not necessarily in that order). “Lizzie” divides her time between Jamestown, Rhode Island and Nantucket, Massachusetts. She was one of the original founders of the Jamestown Arts Center and is now the Producer of a dance documentary featuring the Island Moving Company , while working on her 2014 Newport Art Museum exhibiton. Elizabeth’s collection of resplendent canvases are a year round staple at Robert Foster Fine Art in Nantucket.
When I was 13, I was the new 8th Grader at an all girl’s school in New York City called Spence. A bright red door welcomed each student into the cozy old school filled with intimate classrooms and colorful hallways. On the top floor was the dining hall decorated with beautiful Zuber et Cie wallpaper portraying North America. An expansive vista of the world rewarded our long climb upstairs every noontime.
Standing outside the kitchen with my tray, I had to ponder the age-old cafeteria riddle: where should I sit? Soon my wellbeing would be further rocked as the 1970’s imploded into my parents 1950’s marriage. The constructs of my childhood were slipping away. Where did I stand?
My parents went on to be married for 50 years before my dad died in 2008. Now married for close to 15 years to a man I love with all my heart, I still wonder, how does love survive life’s intermissions when we also experience disappointment or even hate? How can joy exist in the face of pain?
Returning to Spence for my 30th reunion, I had an unexpected epiphany listening to the new Head Mistress, Bodie Brizendine. A wise and witty speaker, Bodie stressed the importance of nurturing world citizens. She spoke not only of developing skills for conflict resolution, but the necessity of using wisdom and love for conflicts in life which are unresolvable. Although I did think of Palestine and Israel, I also thought of my marriage. The concept of finding respect and kindness within discord resonated with me.
With Bodie’s provocative thoughts burning in my mind, I made my way up to the top floor only to discover that the beautiful lunch- room had been transformed into a dance studio. Dance is now obligatory at Spence! The idea struck my heart, because, as visual art has always been my touchstone, ballet is my daughter’s personal oasis.
Seeing the incredible panorama now encompassing a dance studio unlocked the mystery of where to sit and to stand. It’s how to dance, that comes next. How to find your place in the world, stand up for what you believe and joyfully embrace life -“The full catastrophe!” as Zorba the Greek said – and dance!
I believe that the hardest work through the roughest times demands us to focus on beauty and love. I paint joyfully, not because it’s the only thing I know, but because it’s the only thing that matters, when all is said and done, or struggling along without a perfect ending in sight. So I paint beauty. This is what I have to give.