October 2012 Newsletter

For a New Father

As the shimmer of dawn transforms the night Into a blush of color futured with delight, The eyes of your new child awaken in you A brightness that surprises your life.

Since the first stir of its secret becoming, The echo of your child has lived inside you, Strengthening through all its night of forming Into a sure pulse of fostering music.

How quietly and gently that embryo-echo Can womb in the bone of a man And foster across the distance to the mother A shadow-shelter around this fragile voyage.

Now as you behold your infant, you know That this child has come from you and to you; You feel the full force of a father' desire To protect and shelter.

Perhaps for the first time There awakens in you A sense of your own mortality.

May your heart rest in the grace of the gift And you sense how you have been called Inside the dream of this new destiny.

May you be gentle and loving, Clear and sure.

May you trust in the unseen providence That has chosen you all to be a family.

May you stand sure on your ground And know that every grace you need Will unfold before you Like all the mornings of your life.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Hello Friends -

I hope this email finds you well and settling into autumn.  After two successful shows this summer, I took a mini sabbatical from painting, and my newsletters as it turns out.  It's good to be back in the studio and good to be connecting with all of you again. 

This month's entry is for my brother Kevin, followed by my newest commission and a few photos of my recent openings. 




for my brother, kevin patrick

Dunn children on Halloween

My brother is my unofficial business manager when it comes to promoting and pricing my paintings.  The whole business side of being an artist is not exactly my forte.  I hate to feed that stereotype, as I know plenty of artists who are incredibly savvy businesspeople, but in my case it holds true.  I much prefer dealing with various tones of green oil paint than deciding how many green Washingtons a certain painting is worth. Early in college, I received one of my first big commissions and Kevin recommended I charge $1000 - minimum.  I was shocked.  A thousand bucks?!  That was about the equivalent of a million dollars in my mind at the time.  But I took his advice, and he was right.  It was worth that amount.  And although I have become much better at pricing my work and believing in its worth since then, I still consult him in moments of self-doubt.  As I was preparing for my shows this summer he insisted I email him all the priced paintings in my newest series.  He would then re-price them accordingly and get back to me.

He has always been one of my biggest encouragers, with my art and various other things throughout the years.

Like the one time as youngsters when he encouraged me to try a backflip with him in our narrow upstairs hallway – neither of us having any prior experience with gymnastics of any kind.  And because I worshipped the ground he walked on and aimed to be the little brother he never had, I thought it was an excellent idea.  (It should be noted that after all these years, I can’t do a backflip to save my life, but Kevin inevitably busts one out at every family wedding, much to the dismay of my mom.  I can hear her now, “he is going to break his neck one of these days – doesn’t he know he’s not 14 anymore!? “ As sure as the bride and groom will say “I do”, Kevin is sure to momentarily hurl himself through space at the reception, the rest of us paused in awe and hoping for the best. It is almost as impressive as my Cousin Lindsay’s ability to rock The Worm in any length dress and any height of heels.)

I was also encouraged, quite frequently, to ride on his handlebars at high speeds with no helmet - the steeper the hill, the better!  Not surprisingly this resulted in countless scraped knees and elbows.  I was constantly provoking wrestling matches and spent hours struggling to keep up with him on our basketball court (AKA our dangerously uneven driveway). All of these scenarios played out the same way: when Kevin wasn’t trying his hardest, I - the embodiment of scrawniness and feistiness - would emphatically demand, “Kev!  Don't go easy on me!  I mean it!!”  This would inevitably result in him heeding my plea and me becoming irate when he won.  On cue, I would storm off, often crying to our mom.  Yep, pretty much as high as you can get on the Richter Scale of Sibling Annoyance.  One time he did something to really infuriate me (I can’t even remember what it was at this point - probably something as audacious as beating me in a game of H.O.R.S.E.) and I regrettably kneed him in the groin. I don't know if I've ever seen my dad so angry at me, out of extreme empathy for my brother I’m sure.  Needless to say, I never tried that move again.

Kevin Dunn sledding

Then there was the brilliant game, Who Can Jump From the Highest Step on the Staircase.  I launched myself one stair from the top, compressing my heels so badly that I had to spend the next couple of years wearing painfully un-cool orthotics.  This was followed by the infamous Christmas Day sledding episode when Kevin thought all the other kids were being wimpy in their choice of icy routes.  He looked at me with his intense green eyes and said, “Let’s show ‘em how the real sledders do it, Sheese!!”  In my blind admiration and endless quest to impress him, I wholeheartedly agreed.  Meanwhile our sister Maura - wise beyond her years - looked at us as if to say, you fools, and smartly avoided the situation.  Twenty minutes later, I was in the emergency room, getting x-rays on my leg. (Can't say my dad was too happy about this one either). I remember feeling very bad that the emergency room doctor had to work on Christmas day because of fools like my brother and me.  He assured me he was Jewish and that I shouldn’t worry.

In high school, my entire family was asked to write letters to me for my Catholic Confirmation.  I still have the letter my brother wrote me – its creases worn from having re-read it countless times throughout the years.  One part in particular has stuck with me:

Sheila, if there is ever a time you take something from me, this is it.  You have a flame that burns deep within you.  It is very rare and very special.  Please, don't ever lose it.  For you have many more people that you will come into contact with who will need to be warmed from your flame.   

The depth and love expressed in this letter amazed me.  And though I knew him to be thoughtful, I still couldn’t believe this came from my brother who was pursuing a Major in Business and a Minor in Beer-Drinking at the time.  Well this definitely makes up for the time when he convinced me I was adopted, I thought. To this day, anytime I’m feeling low or fearful I remind myself, I have a flame, damn-it!

Having survived my childhood and the tumultuous terrain of adolescence, I navigated my way into adulthood.  My brother remained my constant encourager, this time helping me through the internal wrestling matches that so often accompany age and taking risks and being vulnerable in this remarkably beautiful, if fragile, life.  During the Dark Period (refer to April newsletter) he let me live with him for a bit, even though I was not exactly a bright ray of sunshine.  He kept telling me, “Just keep on, keepin' on Sheezy.”  And out of all the advice I received during that time, that simple line seemed the most helpful in some strange way.  Similar to Frost's, “the only way out is through” or Churchill's, “if you're going through hell, keep going.”

Kevin on Halloween







My brother is soon to be a father, as much to the delight of my soon-to-be-grandparents parents, as to him and his lovely wife Sunny. He frequently calls them to report the baby’s exact size and how much his/her lungs have developed.  It is so amazing to witness “how quietly and gently that embryo-echo can womb in the bone of a man”.

A few years back, I was nannying for a few kiddos and my brother came to visit us at the park.  They adored him.  We are talking non-stop giggles and shrieks of delight as he tirelessly pushed their swings skyward.  I remember thinking, well I’m pretty sure they like me, but they love him.  I felt a twinge of what an exhausted stay-at-home parent must feel when the energized spouse/friend/grandparent swoops in and becomes the "fun one".  However, I think my brother will be that amazing and playful and engaging with his children, even when he is a bit exhausted.  I cannot wait to see him as a father.  And I can’t wait to be an auntie.  If I don’t earn the honors of “Fun Aunt Sheila” I would proudly accept “Crazy Aunt Sheezy”.

Dunn siblings

Kev – ‘may you trust in the unseen providence’ that has chosen you, Sunny and “Nubbins” to be a family.  The same unseen providence of which long ago chose you, Maura and me to be brother and sisters.



Adin by Sheila Dunn

Sheila Dunn Velvet Opening

Velvet Opening - Sheila Dunn