Mrs. Kivisild, final, low rez

When I first came up with the idea of painting various portraits of individuals from Islip, Margaret and I both immediately agreed on Mrs. Kivisild.  And when I asked Mrs. Kivisild, she responded with great enthusiasm, so much so that she was in my studio posing for the painting that very week.

As she sat down, we decided on a simple, natural pose, and we began to talk.  What struck me about her conversation was that her spare moments away from the nursery school were still occupied with talk of the children, of the quality of education that they receive, of the vision of the school in general.  And when she spoke about the school, her vocabulary was devoid of hyperbolic description that oftentimes surround children’s education.  In fact, I came to learn that Mrs. Kivisild frowned on distracting trends.  What I always most appreciated about the Islip Community Nursery school was that they didn’t make sales pitches with pretentious claims- everywhere I turn these days, somebody is telling me that my three year old can learn to speak French, or learn computer skills, or to get a head start on science, or this or that.  In nursery school, this strikes me as ridiculous, and even coercive capitalistic conditioning.  Mark Twain’s young mind was formed amidst wild turkeys and raw pine board floors, but nowadays it seems people believe that iPad navigation skills are more important than knowing how to write a limerick.  And at Islip Community, the children laugh, they build, they come home with paint on their hands, they pet the resident rabbit, they learn independence, they are proud of themselves, and they return home filled with wonder.  The nursery has a vision for character development, rather than just setting a child on an assembly belt en route to their career.  And so, Islip Community Nursery is a special place, and Mrs. Kivisild’s vision was at the heart of that.

As a young woman, after years of performing as a vocalist in various venues in the New York area, Mrs. Kivisild married a fellow musician and settled in the Islip area.  She longingly describes the years that passed, her five children all about her, the first home that she and her husband bought.  Before long, an opportunity arose to become the director at the Islip Community Nursery School, and she took the spot.  It was a perfect fit, as she loved working with children, and had a strong idea of what children’s education should be.  As director of the nursery school for several decades, she saw several generations of children walked through the doors, among them my wife, and now my sons.

Perhaps my favorite thing about painting Mrs. Kivisild was watching her and her husband interact.  People, like grapes, can only go two ways with age- we either grow sour, or we ferment into fragrant wine.  As Mrs. Kivisild sat for the portrait, her husband tenderly looked on for several hours, grabbing her hand securely as she ascended and descended from the model stand, bringing her water and coffee, asking her if she were warm enough.  Over the next few sittings, it was my hope to imbue her portrait with the vision of how her husband must see her, because he was right.

Mrs. Kiviseld, face, low rez

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