Grandma’s Portrait

This is Georgiana Sanford Gilman, the young woman on the left in the picture Sleeping Porch. My drawing is a pretty straightforward transcription of what I saw in one of a series of photographs I took a few years before she died at 93.

When I showed up at her apartment with a large format Polaroid camera and a tripod she was patient with my nonsense. She let me take a series of pictures even though she didn’t like to see the “instant” results, a novelty at that time. She said, “I look so old.”

She does look old, but I was trying to get more with the camera that day, and later when I made this drawing I tried to amplify what I saw in the photograph.

Let me add what a likeness can’t show. She was a loving grandmother and a serious and patient teacher of important ideas, like saving bees trapped inside a window, or giving spiders their due as our valuable helpers. In the larger world she was a careful observer and, as Grandpa used to say, “a tough old bird”. Her thoughtful letters to the newspaper about the urgent need to stop polluting and to recycle our garbage were on target and 50 years ahead of her time. She was clear that the lessons her generation learned in the depression had lasting value. She knew we are all called to help nurture the world our great grandchildren will inherit.

This drawing is a drypoint — an image scratched into a copper plate and printed on paper.