I was always told that my Great great Aunt Zoe had quite the spirit of adventure, so it must have come to a surprise to no one when she slipped away from the safe enclave of her Ladies’ College group during the obligatory European Tour. Deciding to opt out of a stultifying march through the Musee d’Histoire Marseilles, Zoe snuck off and found herself in Le Cours Julien and the flea market she found there was to change her life forever. Tired, dusty and a tad tipsy after a few glasses of Pernod and several Gauloises at a dingy but charming Bohemian café, she was about to attempt navigation back to her hotel, when a worn pair of costume wings caught her eye in a nearly empty stall on the outskirts of the flea market. Crafted of enormous dusty feathers, looped together with a crumpled band of once-elegant cream satin and hoisted unceremoniously on a wrought iron hat stand, something about the wings seemed to draw her towards them. “Take them, take them”, muttered the old gypsy woman in broken French when Zoe inquired after the price. “They were my nephew’s, he’s glad to be rid of them, I just want enough for some bread for my dinner.” What could be a better souvenir of the freedom of her off-the-beaten-track afternoon? She quickly fished a few centimes out of her purse and handed them to the old woman who immediately thrust the dusty top hat into her arms as well. “The hat comes with. There’s nothing to be done about it” and she vanished like quicksilver into her peeling little caravan.
Back in the States, Zoe tucked the wings in her wardrobe and wondered what on earth she had been thinking, but she found herself oddly drawn to the hat. Holding it in her lap one day, she felt it wiggle slightly and out leapt a startled rabbit! And that was only the beginning. A ferret in her shoe, a butterfly in her brassiere – one day a lovely white barn owl came screeching out of her overcoat. The day she discovered a school of goldfish calmly swimming around her teacup she decided that marrying her Suitable Fiance was completely out of the question. She packed up a trunk and went on the road as the first female professional magician, wearing her handsome pair of French wings as her trademark. Houdini himself was said to have been quite taken with her. Her scandals were legendary, her adventures were numerous and I heard about them all as soon as I was old enough. The hat survived, but alas, the wings did not, and despite my childhood habit of peering intently into its depths, I was never able to conjure anything out of it. I have had to work my magic on canvases instead, and so bring you this portrait of my lovely great, great aunt, working the magic for which she was so famous.
Zoe and her magical creatures are depicted with handcut vintage images on this 8” x 10” x ¾” stretched gallery canvas and embellished walnut ink-stained Thai lace paper, brass rivets, a real watchface with spinning hand, an ornate brass label holder and wide black grosgrain ribbon.
This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2009. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!