A few years ago in Kansas City, I visited the Mission Road Antique Mall. I love going to places that have old beautiful old objects, because I love art and material culture. My parents have done a lot of interior design work, and I grew up around it. Looking at old and intricate things is soothing to me, even though I cannot afford to buy them.
That day in Kansas City I was adrift. I had recently divorced. I’d sold a lot of odds and ends on Craigslist while emptying the house, and had a bit of cash. It was serendipity – there is always serendipity.
Drucilla Gault had died, and I guess they were clearing out her estate.
She lived in Kansas City. I like to imagine she had a quiet life. I think she went to church. And she painted.
I do not know any people who have heard about Drucilla Gault. The Internet is not helpful. Many women artists have not been documented, were never in a spotlight no matter how good their work was. But as I walked around Mission Road Antique Mall, I saw this painting on a wall – a large cityscape, in the genre of mid-century cityscapes. Signed. Dated. Untitled.
Done with the smallest brush, the oil painting shone with intricate layers of golden light with a green underlayer, illuminating the masses of buildings, the elaborate, fading street sighs, the muted shadows. The painting’s city-world, translucent and incredibly detailed, floated and beckoned.
Drucilla Gault. Cityscape. 1973.
And because women artists are undervalued, and vintage paintings by relative unknowns are undervalued, the price tag was much lower than it should have been. And because of serendipity of divorce and Craigslist, on that day, I could take it home. And so I did.
When I look at this painting, I see a work of quiet genius that took time and vision and patience to create – a work as intricate and luminous as the best old embroidery. It is a quiet piece which is complex and which invites a closer look. I do not know why Drucilla Gault was not better known. I have no idea what else she painted, whether this was her masterpiece, whether there are many other paintings, undocumented but hopefully as admired.
When I think about what I want my writing to be, it is this. The tiniest brush. Layers and layers of light.
Drucilla Gault. “Cityscape” detail.