Women in Red

On the night of a severe windstorm here in the NYC area last week, as trees were ripped out of the ground at the roots and toppled over, power lines downed, and garbage cans and their contents were blown all over the streets, I bundled up and braced myself to head outside in the typhoon-like conditions. It was a wild night. I placed in the trunk of my car a shopping bag full of clothing to bring to the women’s shelter at Church on the Hill in Flushing, Queens where I was scheduled to serve for the evening. Among my clothing haul was a lovely red open style cardigan sweater that I found on sale at Macy’s the day before. At a 35% markdown it was a terrific bargain. It was so pretty and stylish that I was tempted to keep it for myself!

The bus from the Olivieri Center – a drop-in facility for the homeless on Manhattan’s west side – arrived at the church around 7:00, and we were ready to greet the eight women who would be spending the night. I placed the red sweater and my other items where all the clothing donations were laid out, making sure everything was neatly folded and well displayed. As I assisted with serving coffee, chicken and salad, I kept one eye on the clothing browsing to see if anyone would choose the red sweater. Sure enough, I saw one of the younger women unfold the sweater and hold it up against herself to assess the size. I dropped what I was doing and scooted right over to her. “That color is great on you!” I said, and it was. She smiled and replied, “This is nice. This is really, really nice.” The red sweater was claimed! And I was filled with joy. The woman then asked me to help her choose some other things, and we spent a good amount of time putting together outfits, sharing conversation and laughs.

The next morning I had a modeling job at the National Art League. I’ve posed for this particular class before and am aware that they often opt for a portrait sitting rather than a figure pose. So to provide a dash of color in case I needed it, I grabbed one of my scarves (and as a scarf person I have many!) before I headed out the door. I chose my red one. Was it a conscious choice to honor the young homeless woman who rode back to Manhattan that morning with the nifty red cardigan? Yeah, I think so. Here’s to the women in red 🙂

And as predicted, I did sit for portrait that morning and I did wear the red scarf as a color accent. Artist Paul David Elsen created this splendid alla prima painting of my pose:

10 thoughts on “Women in Red

  1. Grier Horner says:

    Nice story about the red sweater. Beautiful portrait, too.

  2. Bill says:

    I know that I have a tendency to donate things that I don’t want (anymore) — but this is a higher level of generosity. You gave away something that you did want — and now a homeless person owns something that isn’t simply functional, but rather quite nice. And you complimented her on her choice and shared your time with her. I suspect that many homeless people rarely receive either compliments or time. Thumbs up!

    And yes, the painting is quite nice — and Mr. Elsen made good use of that accent.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      If I’ve learned anything from my experiences volunteering for homeless and disadvantaged folks, it’s that conversation and personal engagement is deeply appreciated. I’ve seen it make a profound difference in people’s spirits.

      Thank you so much for your kind words and comments!

      Claudia

  3. derek says:

    very nice

  4. Abe says:

    What a moving story Claudia! It truly is fascinating to look back and see the subconscious motives behind our choices- such as what clothes to wear. What makes your account more awesome is that you actually have the result immortalized within that beautiful painting of yourself.
    I just wanted to mention that I’m new to to your blog and to figure drawing in general and I wanted to thank you for your interesting and informative posts. I have been enjoying them greatly.

    • artmodel says:

      Abe,

      First, let me say welcome! I’m delighted that you found Museworthy! Glad to have you aboard 🙂

      I appreciate your observation about our subconscious choices. I was so pleased to have posed with that red scarf for class the next day. And I agree about Paul’s painting. What a lovely piece he created.

      Thank you for your generous comments! Much appreciated. Hope to hear from you again.

      Claudia

  5. Kathi Kirkpatrick says:

    Your story moved me to tears Claudia. I’m currently on a train going back home & was feeling annoyed at something that happened. After reading your story I was put back into a better perspective. And I am one who wears much red!

    Thanks for your beautiful writing.

    • artmodel says:

      Kathi,

      Yes, you do wear a lot of red! And you wear it so well too. Fabulous color on you. As you were moved by this post, I am moved by your comments. I’m so touched that my story improved your outlook. My goodness. Now I’m crying too! 😆

      Thanks for commenting, friend. Be well.

      Claudia

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