Canadian Healthcare

Tax season. I had a chat with a Canadian accountant about how I would deduct all expenses when I lived in the USA so I would pay, effectively, as little tax as possible to the state and federal governments. She looked at me askance and said, “In Canada, we pay our taxes. It benefits our friends and neighbours.” And then I thought about how paying tax is one of the most patriotic things you can do. I will add that it’s an easier justification when I know I’m getting a lot for my tax dollars in the form of strong public schools and healthcare.

Yes, we moved to Canada.

And as the representative for all things Canadian now the discussion of healthcare comes up. What I find most astounding is how difficult it is to even discuss this topic with my friends in the USA. So much of what we experience as “normal” in the USA is unfathomably awful by the standards of other countries I’ve lived in. I kind of hate to even bring it up or talk about it because I feel bad for my friends. What can they do? But then I also get angry when I hear about a good system getting criticized. Some Canadians will complain about their system but when I do a bit of digging it becomes quite obvious that the same problems exist in the USA except in that country you’re paying a lot of money to feel frustrated.

In a related topic, I wrote about how I think healthcare has an impact on art. In the coming years I suspect we’ll see more movies and shows starring Canadians, Britons, Kiwis, etc., passing as Americans. It’s not hard to see why they would be able to achieve their dreams more easily than someone starting out in the USA.

So here’s how it stacks up for us, as a typical middle-class family of four in an expensive Canadian city. I do not have first-hand experience for the private insurance coverage available here (you can pay extra to have a private room at a hospital, for example),  nor for the very downtrodden (but I understand that walk-in clinics will see you for free if you’re willing to wait).

tl;dr We have exactly the same level of care as people in the USA with good insurance but we pay almost nothing for it and our taxes are only slightly higher than the average US state. Our healthcare system is not-for-profit and the tax system takes it’s fair share from corporations and the mega wealthy to help pay for the system.

As a family, we pay $1,800 total per year for almost total coverage — this is considered high for Canada as I understand our province pays the most. There are no co-pays or extra charges or deductibles.

I’ve never waited longer than 6 weeks to see a specialist. I did have to wait a year for non-essential surgery as people with cancer kept jumping ahead of me in the queue. As in the USA, there is a shortage of certain doctors available and that causes some delays. The US has a huge number of physicians who are immigrants as they do not have enough home-grown doctors. Canada deals with a similar shortage with immigration as well as keeping the cost of higher education low.

We’re also covered for extras like dental and vision or special medication or massage through my man’s work “extended benefit”; everything is covered 80% per person per calendar year; in the case of massage we get one per person per month, for example. Or glasses, we get $450 every two years toward a new pair and exams, etc.

I just spent two hours on the phone updating our extended benefit due to a job change and it was a hassle and I was reminded how I used to do that sort of phone call every single week when I lived in the USA. And I paid a hell of a lot more than $150 per month for the privilege and often got declined for coverage by my supposedly great insurance plan.

I’ve only had to get “prior approval” on one medication one time in Canada because it’s new and unusual and I wanted the non-generic. The doctor signed a form and I mailed it in and it was approved. Prior approval for services is simply not a regular thing in places like Canada.

The other day I went to a specialist who ordered X-rays and bloodwork. I went to the nearby walk-in clinic with forms he gave me at the appointment and they did all of the tests and it was done in less than an hour. The results were back five days later and the doctor called me to discuss it. Apparently, the results were available online the following day if I wanted to have a look at it. So efficient!

When I wasn’t covered I had to pay for some medications out of pocket. They were unbelievably cheap compared to what I paid in the USA. For example, a standard asthma medication that I remember cost me $300 in the USA cost $26 out of pocket here.

Canada could always improve but yeah, it’s good.

By comparison, I have a single male friend in Florida who pays five times as much as we do as a family and his coverage includes expenses we do not have to worry about. He pays $2,000 a year out of pocket maximum. No deductible. And in-network doctors and prescriptions are $20 a pop. ER visits are $175 all inclusive, and imaging tests are the same. This is very good coverage, but again, he’s a single male paying five times what I pay for a family of four to achieve similar coverage and he still pays more than I do for prescriptions, doctor visits, and ER / tests. Again, I pay $0 for those things.

Another young and healthy friend in Alabama I know pays a monthly premium of just under $100 per month but has a deductible of $4,000 and must first pay out of pocket $10,000. She also worries that when a doctor orders tests or a follow-up appointment if it’s so they can pad their own bottom line. She has to pay $140 every time she sees her doctor even though she has insurance. Meanwhile, when I had a C-section while living in New Zealand I didn’t have to ask myself, “Does the doctor want to do this procedure so they can make more money?”

There are still some amazing conveniences to the system in Canada that astound me. For example, when the kids were very young I was too overwhelmed to get myself to the doctor to have a rash examined. We were at the mall one Saturday and I noticed one of the many walk-in health clinics. I popped by and they confirmed that my care card would get me in. In fact, they were able to pull up my entire history from the centralized computer system and I had seen a doctor and filled a prescription all in under 15 minutes. Total cost: $0.00.

Contrast this to the time in NYC I was charged $360 for a flu shot my doctor administered because the insurance said I “did not get prior approval.”

An American friend mentioned that he was worried about amputations due to diabetes and talked about it at a hospital in Canada. People losing body parts to diabetes is strikingly common in the USA. The Canadian doctor explained to him that that just doesn’t happen in Canada because citizens gets proper preventive care.

Conservatives in the USA seem to all be of a similar bent. When they themselves have good healthcare coverage and like their physician they do not want the overall system to change. They are fearful that they will lose their own good coverage. This is despite the fact that the system is clearly wasteful and frustrating for many users. By moving to nations with socialized healthcare my paperwork and bureaucratic busywork dropped by 40%. The GOP talks about “access to a plan” but they don’t mention if it will be affordable. Most of the Americans I know who have good coverage get it at a low cost through systems like their background in the military, their work pension, or other union-based negotiated benefits. To be honest, I have lost several friends who will be listed as having died of infection or what-have-you, but the real cause of death for these people in their 30s and 40s was lack of preventive care or fear of getting fleeced by a doctor bill and waiting too long to get seen.

Some of the benefits we receive through my partner’s job can be achieved by other people in Canada in another way: they can claim it as a deduction on their taxes. So, those higher Canadian taxes you hear so much about? They can be effectively lowered by claiming all sorts of expenses, even some that I am unsure would be permitted in the USA. For example, if your kids do physical activities and you pay a fee for that, you can deduct it on your taxes in Canada. You can deduct the cost of camps, daycare, medical expenses not covered, etc.

Meanwhile, people in the USA are angry that the ACA imposes a fee on people who decline insurance, but of course this is rarely levied on those who can’t afford the fee. And what they should be angry about are the wealthy who escape paying their fair share of taxes and impoverishing their nation. So-called patriots who hide their money overseas and send their children to private school instead of paying taxes toward the common public good.

Having guaranteed healthcare means:

We aren’t afraid to change jobs.
We aren’t afraid to criticize a boss or a government for fear of losing our healthcare.
We aren’t afraid to try new things or take up a potentially dangerous sport.
We aren’t afraid we might lose our house if we need cancer treatment.
We aren’t afraid to go see a doctor to take care of a small or nagging problem and we catch things earlier.
We aren’t afraid for our children when they try new sports.
We aren’t afraid a natural disaster will crush our future.
We aren’t afraid to get baseline readings for future reference.
We aren’t afraid to have something tested just in case.
We aren’t afraid to try a new medication or treatment to see if it will help a small problem.

We live life free from many of the fears that are common in the USA.

Patronizing

I vividly remember the first time I was patronized in the workplace; I was fifteen. As I look young for my age being underestimated happens still. Women are supposed to want to look young, but it’s made it more difficult to be taken seriously in the boardroom. Many things can work against you in “the boardroom.”

So, when I was twelve, I wore some colorful socks to school and this was apparently a very big deal in America and the kids mocked me. Rather than retreat into mortification, I do what comes natural to sassy freaks and I started wearing two different socks intentionally, riotously, obnoxiously.

I kept this habit well into my late teens and was amazed by the number of times people made an issue out of it.

When I was almost fifteen, I worked a summer job for my friend’s dad who had a thriving physician’s practice. He was a well-respected member of the local business community and it was nice to work in an air-conditioned office. One day, he took me into an exam room to have a heart-to-heart. I hoped he would compliment me for always being on time, finishing tasks, working well with others, taking on more responsibility, and generally being of help to his business, so that I could take the moment to thank him for the job. Instead, he took this opportunity to tell me that my socks were “inappropriate” and that “no one would take [me] seriously at work” if I didn’t learn to dress like a young lady should. Now, I grant you he was older than me and I had plenty to learn, but on the other hand I was very well-traveled, intelligent, educated, and a hard worker. None of that matters, of course, when you’re in the body of a fifteen-year-old girl. Never mind that I was dressed modestly and professionally despite walking to work in steaming summer heat.

A photo of me on a class trip to D.C. the year before. I laugh at myself for my “business casual” sense of style. Loosen up, kid; let more than your socks and your face show your personality.

If he’d asked me why I wore wacky socks I would have explained that it was a deft method for weeding out assholes.

Instead, I pushed back. I asked him if my socks prevented me from doing my job. He said, no, of course not, but… and then he lectured me for a long time. He was wearing scrubs. He was also known for dressing up his work clothes by wearing a bow tie and being “the fun doctor.” He suggested that I should “become more respectful of [my] elders” as southern ladies are taught to say “ma’am” and “sir” during all interactions. Sure, I could do that for his workplace; code-switching is a useful life skill. He told me how to approach new people and get along with strangers. At this point in my life I’d lived in three countries and two US states and I spoke three languages and held several leadership positions at school but none of that mattered because socks and tone of voice.

Ah, my first mansplaining. You never forget your first.

He was a tall guy and had a habit of bear hugging his kids. As one of his kids’ friends he was perfectly comfortable putting his hand around my shoulder as we exited the exam room and hugging me and telling me I was doing a  good job and not to worry . I was trying not to laugh and cry, somewhat in shock. I’m sure he thought he was being helpful and kind and I did learn a lot working there and I am grateful for the job.

But it wasn’t ever about socks. Just as it’s not about how I look young for my age. It’s about control and putting sassy people in their place. Unfortunately, telling me not to do something just makes me determined to do it more often; intentionally, riotously, obnoxiously.

Secrets of Southampton Part 2

I’ve told you secrets of the ultra wealthy in Southampton in a previous post. I had many experiences with what we now all call The One Percent.

Well, when I was around twelve years old and my mother was newly single, many of her prominent NYC friends made it their mission to set her up on dates with well-heeled bachelors. One of her Jewish friends set her up with a wealthy fella and my mother had one nice evening meal with him. He invited both of us to his home one weekend, which seemed like a polite thing to do when your new date has a young child. Meet the kid, be a human, etc.

My memories of this day are perhaps a bit exaggerated, but I’m going to pull up photos to explain what happened next. I did not take photos that day, but I think this is pretty close to reality.

Firstly, he had a weekend home on the beach on Long Island. The front hall was a modern glass entry that housed a smaller version of a Bavarian castle, sort of like this one:

He explained that he had literally paid to have a Bavarian castle transported stone-by-stone and rebuilt as part of his modern home on the beach. So the exterior surrounding the castle was more like this.

He was a big fan of German culture. We’re now in a room that looks old as heck, but then there’s a glass wall that looks out to the beach.
Museum meets modern living.

These:

Married to this:

This dude was super house proud. He gave us a grand tour and all the while commenting on my blonde hair. It was noticeable comments, even though I was accustomed to being fussed over for my extreme cuteness, this was noticeably odd. We were soon surprised to learn his preteen son was hanging out in the kitchen with a friend that day. We saw them during the tour but they barely spoke to us. The dude again made a fuss about his son’s blonde friend, and although I don’t recall him making a specific derogatory remark against his own son, it was clear to me that his darker hue was not favorable. I wonder if he felt sorry for my mother that she wasn’t blonder herself.

I guess he was trying to be nice to me, and knowing that girls love animals, he was very excited to show me his game room. At this point I fortunately suspected we were not going in there to play checkers, but the sheer scope of the room blew me away. These photos will give you a sense of what I witnessed, although they look small compared to my memory. And I think I did mention that day that certain of his kills were of an endangered species, although I’m not sure if that was strictly true back in the ’80s. I think he was upset that I was upset, but I’m not sure. I just know that I can recall the feeling of revulsion I experienced that day quite keenly.

My mother whispered something to me about how having money can’t buy good taste but we continued to smile and nod like the polite ladies we were always taught to be. We had lunch in the enormous dining room next to the enormous fireplace. This was not particularly unusual for either of us. We’ve grown up with actual castles and this guy’s new money crassness was annoying to my mother. You can import a castle but it’s rude to tell guests how much it cost you.

Alone in the car later my mother marveled that a Jewish friend should have set her up on a date with a Nazi. That was the day I learned that bad people don’t know that they’re bad.

It’s 2017 now and the USA just elected a certain someone to be their president. I can’t imagine why this particular day from my childhood sprang to mind. Can you?

On watching The Crown

My partner was a little bit unintentionally dismissive when I told him how much my girlfriends and I have enjoyed watching The Crown. It was something like “Oh, you enjoy the pretty settings and costumes?” And I hadn’t considered why I enjoy watching it, but my gut apparently knew, and I snapped at him “Do you have any idea how fantastic it is to watch a twenty-year-old girl face down a room of her nation’s most powerful men and they have to listen to her?”

 

No, I don’t think a man can understand how fantastic it feels to witness this. Nor watching a young woman who cannot succumb to Imposter Syndrome and must make herself equal to the task. I even found myself watching the movie The Young Victoria for a similar feeling of peeking into the back room of politics, only it wasn’t as satisfying as that movie focused on the love story–something we’ve seen a million times before. *yawn*

I enjoy these shows and movies the same way I enjoyed watching The West Wing. Only here, the diminutive woman must by design be flawlessly feminine in the most traditional sense. She cannot win the game by being more masculine, as many women must normally do in politics, she must comport herself as The lady, yet she holds so much power. I could even relate to that moment when she puts on the crown and asks if she can borrow it for walking practice, forgetting that it actually belongs to her.

 

 

It’s really difficult to explain it to you blokes, but I bet all the women reading this understand. She gets to wear demure sweater sets and still be ultimately in charge of pretty much everything. Her husband whines about it but in the end she cannot capitulate to his insistence that they take more traditional roles even within their relationship. He, too, must make remake himself to suit her station. And then the way her job has to naturally impact her parenting and the split of the work / life balance. So many weird ways we can relate to this entirely unique “job” situation!

This is heady stuff and I don’t condone monarchy at all. Her son, Charles, visited our offices a few years back and I couldn’t be bothered to go into the next room to meet him because I do not consider myself one of his subjects. But yet I love this show. The costumes and sets are also lush eye candy, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what makes the story gripping.

Why don’t you move to Canada?

There are a host of frequent refrains you hear from American conservatives around elections and one of them is laughing at celebrities who don’t move to Canada after the Republican candidate manages to win the US presidency.They’re right. You hear a lot of noise from artists who say they’re going to move away, but then they don’t. So it got me to thinking: why not?
Apart from pure patriotism, what makes them stay in the USA? I think I may know.

There are artists who are mega wealthy. For those in the global elite class, it doesn’t truly matter to them who is in charge of the US government.  They are existing in the 1% layer where they can flit off to their summer home in New Zealand during a long dark Northern Hemisphere winter. They don’t need to dramatically flounce from the USA because they already exist as global citizens. These wealthy artists already have ways to shelter their assets from the tax man and they are shielded from basic issues like airport safety protocol (private jets), public school funding (private school), cost of groceries (private chef).
The ones who are middling wealthy have different obstacles if they wanted to move to another nation as they’d get dinged with the USA double taxation. The US is almost unique in the fact that they tax you on income even if you earn it in another country. If you get taxed by two nations for money you earn why would you open yourself up to that problem by moving? Plus, these artists probably have enough income with their US-based job that they can minimize some of the pain of a crappy government. For example, they don’t worry about ACA/Obamacare because they pay cash for their medical care. Most doctors that work with celebrities of means take cash only and don’t even accept patient insurance. If you can live above it all within the USA, why not stay?

 

The artists who are below those levels may be working but perhaps not in a financial position to easily move overseas. These are the ones most likely to leave the US and try a different nation, but it’s a massive headache and a large expense to take the gamble. I count myself in this particular group. The thing you have to remember though is that if you don’t have a million dollars in the bank then the only way another established nation will take you is if you have a job in that country or the means to earn money while you live there. Some nations may be pretty mellow about it, so if you show you make money on your Etsy store, welcome to Ecuador — you’re going to live like the 1% back in the USA and pay cash for services but with a favorable exchange rate it’s all going to seem like a bargain! Unfortunately, if you don’t have a local job offer you can forget trying to move somewhere like Australia, Germany or Canada. You’d need to have a local company sponsor you and then go through a lengthy and expensive residency application process.

Then there are the struggling artists. The ones who depend on their day job for rent money and health insurance. They are unlikely to make the leap to another nation for obvious reasons.And yet, twice as many people than average did move from USA to Canada after Bush was elected than in previous years. Did you know that the US and other countries don’t track why folks move overseas? Perhaps the mockery is wrong. Perhaps people are moving away from the USA in record numbers.

So, really, when Trump supporters snidely ask, “Why didn’t all those people move to Canada like they said they would?” remember that it’s not because they don’t *want* to move there. If given the opportunity, most people do go to where the grass is greener. Look at how the 1% chooses to educate and care for themselves and their families. They get homes on Lake Como, Italy, or estates in Queenstown, New Zealand, or send their children to be educated overseas. They can leave the USA anytime they want and they often do, coming back for work engagements often enough that you think of them as still based in the USA. Folks will tell you a celebrity lives in their small town when in reality they may only be in their Montana ranch a few weeks out of the year. Where do they really live?

But if you keep telling artists to fuck off then maybe they will. And if they move away I think you’re going to be left with a sad sort of place with no culture. Call me an elitist if you wish, I do like a country with some poetry in it and where the poets won’t die due to lack of healthcare.

 

Even shoes are political

My eldest has some atypical brain things that make her hilarious and challenging. She’s probably going to be like a friend of mine who failed most classes in high school but then got a perfect score on the SATs.

One of her less charming issues is sensory processing. Stuff that most kids can shrug off will make her freak out. Like, instead of removing the tag from the shirt that is bugging her she will become enraged and throw a tantrum about her discomfort. With time and training she’s getting better with this and she’ll likely outgrow it.

Meanwhile though, procuring shoes when her feet jump a size is a nightmare. She’s been wearing the same pair of faux Crocs for over two years. I disinfect them once in a while and am grateful she chose a shoe that’s easy to clean. I also told her if she wants to wear these all day her future job will have to be surgeon.

 

As weather turned colder I started to soften the ground by telling her she would have to change to shoes and socks more suitable for snow and rain. I worked on this for weeks in advance. “We’re going to have to get you good rain shoes so think about that.” It’s a way of spreading the tantrum out into smaller more manageable chunks. I also had her try on a variety of shoes when we’re at friends’ houses. She always hated them and that’s fine, at least I’m getting her into the spirit of trying on shoes.

Finally, the weather turned cold enough I could convince her it was time and we go to a big box chain store and I spot a pair of shoes that are literally perfect for her. She loves cats and Yo-Kai Watch. They light up when you jump. Could they be any cuter?

 

 

I’m all excited for her. She says she hates them but I can tell she’s intrigued. She’s warming to the idea of these shoes. She tries them on and she even says they’re okay. (They’re “okay”! That’s a ringing endorsement compared to a tantrum.) Then, a clerk restocking shoes next to us goes, “Those are boys’ shoes. You’re in the boys’ aisle. There are ballet flats in that one.” She points to the next aisle over. I reflexively responded with excessive enthusiasm, “But these light up and they’re great! They have kitties! Do they come in my size?!”

My kid no longer wants to buy the shoes.

 

I mean, you know sexism is everywhere and women are trained young to accept uncomfortable footwear but damn. Did I even ask your opinion?

I bought the shoes and threatened her continued existence if she refused to wear them at least five times. She’s been wearing them for a few weeks now and hasn’t insisted on the old pink shoes. I feel like dodged a sexism bullet.

 

 

 

Zen and the art of laundry

Choices by the fascist regime now in charge of the USA have me leaning on my coping mechanisms more than usual. I’m refilling on too many cups of hot tea and you can most often find me in my slippers saying, “Oh, dear,” to no one, like a ninety year old. I may also be heard to mutter, “Motherfucking Nazis. God damn,” while laughing like a hysteric at a funeral.

This is my face reading the news every day now.

May we all find solace in the tiny slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.

20161118_150752

I cope with the craziness of life by making inappropriate jokes about everything. I learned last week I am not the best person to have at a candlelight vigil.

May we all find solace in the tiny slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.

Zen and the art of laundry:

We go to the gym. My man and I both go to the gym a lot. My mom tried to teach me that “ladies perspire, they don’t sweat,” but I sweat like a hog and so does he. We also have two children and a cat and among the five of us generate a heap of laundry every day.

I have three bins. Two get filled with dirties and one fills up with clean laundry. This one tucked away in the bathroom gets the foulest gym clothes. I’m regularly disinfecting this area.

20160916_103950

A bin like the one below lives in between the bedrooms and takes all the other laundry, particularly the kids’ clothes. And then the one in the living room fills up with the clean clothes we haven’t put away yet. It gets put away when guests come over. Sometimes.

20160916_103940

When we return from the gym in the morning all the laundry goes into the washer. When we return from work at night all of the laundry goes in the dryer.

The moment of Zen happens in our modest laundry room. I like to run the dryer so the cycle will end when I am home. I will spend several deliberate minutes pulling items from the dryer and turning them right side out and matching up sock pairs as I drop every clean item into the empty laundry bin. I notice the heat from the dryer warming my hands; I notice every piece of the children’s clothing, how their bodies are small and growing, how the knees are worn from antics; I think about my man’s gym shirts and his work shirts and all of his silent effort; I look at my gym gear and pat myself on the back for the work I put into building my strength; I consider the resources required to run these machines of modern convenience and take pains to appreciate this immense luxury.

20160916_103902

In my laundry moments I give thanks for what I have and I think about people sleeping rough in my city, people coping with cold and wet weather as they try to exist, people living in other nations who are worried about warfare at their doorstep.

I recognize this moment of Zen is a form of meditation or even prayer. Cultures have different words for it. In modern therapy-speak we’d say I’m grounding myself in the moment and practicing mindfulness.

A mental health ritual seems stupid to me unless it’s attached to a practical chore. Laundry forces me to do it.

A moment when I brush the cat and clip his claws and listen to him purr.

A moment when I take the kids for flu vaccinations and give thanks to modern medicine for lowering their probability of premature death.

A moment when I stub my toe and feel a wave of immense pain that reminds me I am alive and corporeal and this is likely the worst pain I will experience this week and therefore I am lucky.

I don’t fold laundry; there are limits. Our eldest sorts it into piles and we all put away our own clothes. I usually just shove it all in a drawer and the kids do the same with theirs. I do not have all the time in the world for laundry. I do not have all the time in the world.

May you find solace in the slivers of calm between the cresting waves of bullshit.

Unintentional bisexual erasure and regret

I have a confession. In my younger years I greatly enjoyed making a homophobic fuckwit plotz by pointing out that their favorite celebrity was homosexual. They hardly ever believed me but I saw an opportunity to put a chink in the armor of their bigotry and I leapt on it with glee.

Lately I’ve reflected and not only was it a bit tacky of me to out celebs who maybe wanted to stay private — a fact that hit home particularly when I started working for some of the more private ones — in many cases I failed in another way. A whole bunch of bisexual people got slotted into the “gay” corner and I never thought twice about it.

Last week was bisexual awareness week and someone asked me why there even needed to be a bisexual awareness week and didn’t LTGBQ et al. already cover the bases? But I thought back to my inconsiderate youth and felt regret that I’d made so many of my friends and colleagues invisible. We’re an either/or sort of species, I reckon.

And I have friends even now who will gently mention their various predilections and maybe I don’t know exactly how to categorize them in my either/or worldview.

I’m working on it and I see you guys and I don’t want to diminish the richness of our human rainbow by skipping over any of the color gradients. My bad.

 

screenshot-2016-09-28-11-54-04

 

Nous a French pop song from 1978 by Hervé Vilard

screenshot-2016-09-09-10-45-19

I had an auditory flashback whereby I realized why Bowie’s 1971 Life on Mars always felt familiar to me yet not quite right. Because I thought it was my favorite song when I was a kid, but it wasn’t. In fact, it was this French song from 1978 by Hervé Vilard. I think if you listen you can understand my confusion. Not the same, and yet…

Nous c’est une illusion qui meurt,
D’un éclat de rire en plein coeur
Une histoire de rien du tout
Comme il en existe beaucoup …

For comparison. Plus, you need an excuse to listen again to the late, great Bowie.

Muse

Let’s talk about the muse and how they function in the life of the artist. We all have influences that kick our artistic butts into gear.

Growing up with my grandmother Helene‘s paintings I’ve long been fascinated by the literal artist model. I took a painting class in high school where the instructor told me painters tend to add their own features when they paint other people. “If you want to look good, hire a good-looking painter.”

When my maternal grandmother lived outside of Chicago she had a friend who was also her muse. In her friend Susan Bartelt’s beauty I see a woman of chic style who could easily have fit into our family back in France. She was from international New York City herself and studied fashion design and must have adored having Helene around the small suburban town as someone who shared her refined sensibilities.

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 14.01.18

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 14.01.10

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 14.01.01

Helene used her as an artist model many times. Here is the official portrait that now hangs in her daughter’s dining room:

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 14.00.53

Such beauty. Although, if I ever commission a work of myself I should like to be captured in laughter.

I was taken by another muse when I visited Chateau Grimaldi outside of Nice, France.

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.32.37

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.32.44

One of the rooms is dedicated to portraits of Suzy Solidor.

She even became known as “the most painted woman in the world” and it’s easy to see how her vibe would appeal to artists. Among muses I’ve known they share the same bigger-than-life personality that so many want to attempt to capture. They’re not necessarily the most beautiful person in the room, but they’re always the most captivating. She was also convicted of collaborating during WWII due to singing in her club for the Germans; but that’s another story.

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.58.58

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.59.15

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.59.24

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.59.42

Muses are often singers and actors and have the rare talent of always being themselves no matter the circumstances. Always comfortable in their skin.

One of my friends, Crystal Durant, even lists Muse as one of her jobs on her Facebook. She knows what she’s about! It’s no surprise that she works with The Art Students League of New York as their model. She may strip Suzy of her title as most painted woman.

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.35.01

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.34.45

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.34.33

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.34.19

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.33.59

Screenshot 2016-06-23 13.33.46

When Crystal posts a new portrait on her Facebook I search for the features of the artist themselves as they may have been influencing their depiction of her. Perhaps we gravitate toward a muse who has qualities of ourselves we want to explore?

 

We could ask Robin Feinerman who did the painting above. [Trying to get credits on the rest of these outstanding works of art.]

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 15.35.14

 

Screenshot 2016-06-23 15.35.39