#486: Bernice Wurst: Impressions of an Impressionist

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #486, on the subject of Bernice Wurst:  Impressions of an Impressionist.

This is about a twentieth century impressionist painter who lived in, of all places, Scotch Plains, New Jersey.  I am surprised that she does not have a page on Wikipedia, particularly since I do (or at least at one point did; I don’t generally check on such things), and I somehow suspect that more people own or have owned her paintings than my books.  I, however, am not the person to create that page.  I knew her, but only in the way children know the friends of their parents.  Still, I will share a few recollections here, in case someone decides to create that page.

Mrs. Wurst–for so I was taught to call her–lived around the corner from our Brookside Drive house, on the corner of Seward Drive right where it terminates (or perhaps begins) at Golf Street.  My mother would sometimes walk down there with the four of us in tow to visit her and her husband Frank.  More often she would come to our house to have coffee with my mother, and they were one of the couples who came to my parents’ bridge parties when I was in elementary school.  When we left Scotch Plains in 1967 my parents stayed in touch, but I saw much less of them; I believe they came to my wedding in 1976, but that reception of over a hundred people was something of a blur, and honestly greeting old acquaintances was not in the forefront of my mind.  I suspect her hair must have been blond when I was younger; I remember it as white.  She was a few years older than my mother, but then, my mother always looked young for her age and now in her nineties still does.

I suspect my mother must have several of her paintings; she has on display artwork by a number of friends and relatives, and I never learned who created what.  However, we have two.  The first was a wedding present, and I wrote a bit about it and posted a photo of it to the web in an article entitled Game Ideas Unlimited:  My North Wall, about stimulating creative ideas from ordinary surroundings, back in 2000.  That site has since vanished, but the article was republished with the image as RPG-ology #39:  My North Wall by the Christian Gamers Guild, and preserved in print in the book RPG-ology Volume I:  The First Five Years, with the photo of the painting featured on the back cover.  It is a still life, flowers in a vase or pot, although the article mentions something we saw in it which might not have been intended by the artist.

The other, pictured here, was a graduation present when I earned my doctorate.  I’m told that she was going to give me a different still life, but my mother suggested, undoubtedly correctly, that I would prefer this landscape.  I know nothing else about either picture.  I had always assumed they were oils, but I am not a painter and comments on E-bay suggest that she preferred to work in acrylics.

I remember one Halloween in what must have been the mid sixties when I had returned from trick-or-treating and was manning the door.  Someone I took to be a teenaged boy, oriental (I would not have been able to distinguish Japanese at the time, but I suspect that was the garb), was at the door.  He did not want candy, and he kept saying to go get my mother, although he spoke as if there were something impeding his speech.  I reluctantly summoned her, and she somewhat impatiently came to the door and asked him what he wanted–at which point he revealed that he was Mrs. Wurst in disguise.  I don’t feel bad about not having recognized her–my mother laughed in astonishment and I believe invited her in, although that’s as much as my young memory retains all these decades later.  She seemed a light, fun-loving, perhaps playful sort of person in my perhaps limited experience.

I wish I could tell you more; I must have encountered her more than a hundred times over the years, but most of those would have been her drinking coffee with my mother at the kitchen table as I was passing through.  It’s funny how we can know significant people and not recognize their significance.  I knew she painted pictures; I did not know she was one of the state’s recognized artists.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Wurst, and thank you for the paintings.

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