Object #9 – Print (9/30), Painted Smile by Nicky Braunton
This print has hung in the kitchen since Will bought it for me as a birthday present in about 2009. I chose it in Greenwich Market. I’ve seen other prints of it around and about in print shops. I am not good at hanging things. Often you can see the nail and string above the top of the frame, though not this one. Hanging a picture in the kitchen seems decadent.
It made my mother-in-law uncomfortable. She was too polite to say so, mostly. My mother is unsettled by it.
I am unsettled by it too.
It reminds me of growing up, and the people that I saw around Stroud, or who were the parents of my friends, or my parents’ friends. The people might have an extra foot under their skirt or a tail that might or might not be fancy dress, or wear a mask that might mask another expression or some other smile altogether, or dance in a circle in the dark, people whose relationships weren’t straightforward, whose friends were more other than they were, even, whose pleasures were wild and complicated. And there are plenty of times when I’ve looked out through the eyes of the man in the painted smile, on the edge, of course. That’s probably the point.
We were a strange family in a strange house, in the eyes of other people. I know that because other people could be quite blunt in telling me so. Mum often said to me, when I asked for something, or to do something, that other people had or did, was, “Well, we’re not other people.” We’re not, of course. Who is? Although I slipped through that net to become as many other people as I can be, professionally.
If I met someone with a tail, or one too many feet, or a wrong hat, I would slip my hand into theirs and dance in the dark with them, I hope, if they slipped their hand into mine.
And the more it unsettles Mum, the more I have a quiet, dark chuckle.