Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Steel Magnolias Of The G.O.B.

I've written often and lovingly of my favorite Wild Women....the Wild Women of the Gallery Off Broadway. I've been one of their biggest fans and thus, have come to work with them by writing about them. I've watched Kathleen's business grow and evolve to heights never quite imagined by any of us and all in a short amount of time. Throughout the madness; one characteristic that seemed to help keep them grounded and centered was their sense of humor...laughter is always echoing through the corridors of the gallery; quite often as a result from some bawdy exchange between Kathleen and Molly. The past couple of weeks have dealt some heavy blows to the Wild Women of the G.O.B. and humor was certainly hard to find.

Molly is one of the artists in residence at the gallery and one of the most irreverent, hilarious and loving women I've ever known. Molly's beloved father Joe passed away a couple of weeks back. Joe was quite the man about town, especially at the local Excelsior Springs newspaper where he was publisher and his death dealt quite a blow to the whole community. Public figure to many; to Molly, it was her father.

Andrea, who's worked with the gallery on sales and marketing, would lose her father soon thereafter and far more unexpectedly. We're all grateful that Andrea has her rock; her husband Nate, who handles the G.O.B.'s website, to guide her through this time of loss.

The tragedy that would take the wind out of everyone's sails though, would involve Shawna, who has served as Kathleen's right-hand woman and support system since the early days of Kathleen' s journey. Shawna, pregnant and five weeks from delivery was visiting Amish Country in Ohio with friends when she became plagued by headaches. A local doctor, treating her for the headaches and would find that he couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. What must have been a harrowing return trip to KC would result in the horrifying confirmation that the baby was indeed dead. Unable to undergo a cesarean due to fears of blood poisoning, Shawna had to deliver the baby naturally. Throughout it all, these women, these wild, wonderful women (including dear friend Tabitha) gathered and surrounded Shawna with that patented, powerful love they possess and helped get her through what must have been an unimaginable ordeal. Kathleen was in the delivery room, holding on to Shawna's hand throughout. The baby girl's name was Lylah Grace.

I find it fitting that the child's name is Grace, as grace is what these women have shown throughout the most spirit-crushing of life experiences. They had each others backs, they cried on each others shoulders and in the case of Kathleen and Shawna; together in the most trying of circumstances; felt the presence of God in their clasped hands.

Shawna and her family are grieving and healing. Molly and Kathleen find solace in their comedic routines and it brings relief to the rest of us as well. Kathleen, ever the eccentric rock that is the glue that holds the G.O.B. together was rocked to her own very core....and while to most, she was still full speed ahead; to those of us that knew her, she was clearly shell-shocked from it all.

As we gathered for the latest Second Fridays; where the G.O.B. is always a hotbed of creative fun, I worried how it would all play out. The Corkscrews and Canvases class would be a capacity crowd. The crowds truly came out this time and poured through the gallery. Kathleen's boyfriend Kevin put out another impressive spread, including an incredibly fresh and tasty salsa and some savory and sweet dips. The unsinkable Molly took her spot near the entrance; warmly greeting everyone who came in. Molly's brother, Kevin, obviously dealing with the loss of their father himself, came in to add some beautiful flute accompaniment to Billy Beale's always awesome blues. Kathleen emerged to teach the class....Pop Art Your Pet. The folks attending this class submitted pics of their pet to Kathleen early and she sketched each of them on canvases. The students would then be guided through adding various paints and colors. The outcome was remarkable....each student had a completely individual Pop Art masterpiece portrait of their pet. In fact, I'd heard from several of them that it was their favorite class yet. Despite everything, Kathleen had done it again. It was actually one of the best Second Fridays yet.

I had breakfast and a photo shoot with Kathleen and Molly the next morning and their witty banter was as evident as ever. After a brainstorming session, we were all spent and went on our separate ways. Molly was missing her husband but more ready than ever to move to Excelsior Springs. Kathleen texted me later to tell me that she had visited Shawna and that they both were finding some peace now.

Kathleen was the first to note it and indeed the tragedy surrounding Shawna that brought these women together seemed to resemble scenes out of the movie Steel Magnolias. That movie had a climactic scene where a tragedy turned comedic when something irreverent occurred. That flick may be about Southern women, but that setting defines the G.O.B. perfectly...

These wild women might shock, provoke, confound or most definitely inspire the rest of us fortunate enough to be in their personal orbit. For each other, though, they are even more fierce...protective, sheltering and rock-solid even if they're crumbling inside. Their friendship is a thing of legend...

...The Legend Of The Wild Women Of The G.O.B.

The video below is a snippet of a Corkscrews and Canvases class in action. The background music (pay no attention to the hair dryer..ha) is bluesman Billy Beale playing live.


Kelly Berkey said...

Greg, this was your BEST post yet! You truly spoke about the heart of these women and the wonderful bond and love they have for one another, and anyone else who is lucky enough to step through the doors of GOB.

I feel honored to know them and to be part of the special magic that follows them wherever they go!

Smooches to ya, can't wait to see you all in July!!

PoetessWug said...

What a fabulous post!!! You make me remember the power of friends, and wish I knew how to paint!!! I guess I'll settle for being an artist in my own right, with poetry and a crochet hook! :-) By the way, what a great shop. Love the music in the background!!!

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