Susanna Salk


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Thursday, April 25th, 2013

I don’t think I’ve ever met Karina Gentinetta in person. I’m not sure I could tell you her favorite color or song. And maybe I never will. However, her artwork will soon be hung in a place of honor in our entry way. And while I’m not exactly sure what it will look like yet, I feel like I’ve already had it my whole life. This is the connection women make with one another, when creativity is shared like comfort over a late night phone call to someone in need of listening.
Usually with art you possess, you either love the visual but don’t know the artist or love the art because of a personal connection with the artist. In Karina’s case, it’s really rather neither.
We met via email a year or so ago, when I was asked to write a story for 1st dibs on their New Orleans dealers: she was one of many we featured there and after exchanging many texts, I found myself searching for her portrait first, as soon as my local photographer sent me all his shots for the story. A survivor post Katrina (which took down her home as well as deeply tested her foundation as a parent, a wife and an antiques dealer for many moons post disaster) she was exactly as I had imagined: strong, demure, defiant and elegant all at once. One of those mothers who could lift a locomotive off her trapped child with one arm while still packing a lunch box with the other, while the paint was drying on her latest creation.
Karina kept in touch after the article debuted and we checked in on each others work. I became particularly interested in a Franz Kline-esque painting amongst the antique treasures in her 1stdibs booth: its black and white bold strokes kept flickering in my imagination. Karina modestly admitted that it was her very own creation and guess what?: sales were actually almost trumping those of her antiques.
While she wasn’t going to quit her day job (she’s too in love with history and design for that) a painter was as surely rising out of the ashes of her adversities as surely as her renovated home. More calls were exchanged. Many where we didn’t talk about painting or antiques at all. We shared some moments about life that scared us: like we were both stepping out the frame of our own lives, knowing that we weren’t close enough friends to judge but intimate enough to understand.
Then one day I got an email with a picture of a painting meant for me. It was in progress, she explained, but how did I like it? I’ve never wished for a painter’s gift the way I longed for say, a Broadway-worthy voice. But at that moment I wished very much that I had the ability to be simultaneously creating something worthy to hang in Karina’s home. Knowing that her children would rush by it on their way to school or that bustling guests would toss their coats down beneath it and then, if only for a moment, look up and wonder its origin. Sharing it with her would be the only way that I could answer her question to me.
Yesterday the shipping company called to alert me of the finished painting’s imminent arrival. The agent explained that it had been sent flat, the canvas already stretched and mounted. They would not be able to help me open the box nor hang it. I assured them it wasn’t necessary.
I don’t know what it fully looks like yet. But I do know that when I am feeling like the day’s load feels a little too heavy to bear at a particular moment, then I’ll gaze at it a little longer. And if visitors ask me how well I know the artist I can honestly tell them: never well enough.