Thursday, October 7, 2010

Zoo Story

When I worked at Bond’s back in the seventies, Cecilia Evans Taylor, aka “Peach,” was an enjoyable and fascinating customer. She bought her art supplies from our store and we also framed her many paintings. Most of these paintings were of animals: horses, giraffes, lions, elephants - so of course I adored her artwork.

I became more acquainted with Peach when she bought a Rapidograph pen. She was fond of drawing with this pen - the fine lines were quite suitable for her delicate style; but she was always mystified when it stopped working every couple of weeks. She would bring it back to the store where I would unclog it, clean it for her and refill it with ink.

Unlike the more country club attire worn by other ladies in her age group and social stratum, Peach dressed in blue jeans and chambray work shirts and she was frequently adorned with impressive Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry. I remember her red Mustang always seemed to be overflowing with big happy dogs, and I loved these and other unexpected facets of her persona. Seeing a lady her age (I was in my twenties and she was in her seventies) wearing blue jeans made me want to be just like her when I grew up - she was the perfect role model for me: creative and eccentric and a lover of animals.

One day she came into the store and showed me a letter she had just received, a lengthy missive in cramped handwriting on onionskin, folded into small rectangles and coming all the way from Africa! It was from her good friend author Joy Adamson - I remember being so impressed - this was the woman who had written “Born Free.”

In those days I used to spend almost every weekend exhibiting at various area art shows - I exhibited an array of miscellaneous artsy and craftsy creations - macramé jewelry, abstract knotted sculpture as well as little pen and ink drawings of flowers, mushrooms, lady bugs and, of course, all sorts of animals.

Peach was an enthusiastic supporter of the Buffalo Zoo (I believe she was on their board of directors) and giraffes were her passion - she created a bronze giraffe statue for their grounds, and I recall that at one point in time she even donated a real live giraffe! It came as no surprise when she undertook a mission as one of the organizers of an art show fund raiser called “The Zootique” to take place at the zoo and she talked me into participating.

The space allotted to me for my display was, alas, in a dank, dimly lit area deep in the bowels of one of the zoo buildings - I remember all of the artists’ set-ups were scattered willy-nilly throughout. The fund-raiser was scheduled for a late November weekend and it unfortunately proved to be a dismal affair: torrential rain and chilly temperatures for the entire event which resulted in hardly any visitors and even fewer sales. I felt badly for Peach because she had been so incredibly excited about the grand possibilities of this idea.

One memory from that show that I have always treasured, however, was when Peach ushered in a dapper but slightly frazzled looking older man to see my display. She was very animated in showing him all of my wares and she ended her spiel by enthusing, “Mar made all of this by herself!” The gentleman looked me straight in the eye and simply said, “Congratulations.” Then she hustled him away to see the next artist. It was only later that I discovered I had just met Seymour Knox II.

Now, every morning on the way to my shop I drive up Parkside past the Buffalo Zoo and the Cecilia Evans Taylor Giraffe House. When the weather is appropriate and the giraffes are outside enjoying the fresh air in their enclosures, I wave at them and I think of Peach.