"Gioconda" (portrait of Laura Argiri; Durham, NC. 2013) Well, isn't THIS an enigmatic smile?  The portrait is of my longtime (as in...what?...15 or more years now?) friend, the writer Laura Argiri.  This small (as ever, with me) portrait took four tries yesterday, last night, and this morning; it's difficult, to say the least, to draw/paint delicately featured, pale-skinned, redheaded women who don't fuss with make-up (which does make women easier to paint, since they've done half the work for you before you get started on their portraits).
    I lived with Laura, in the house she inherited from her much-beloved grandmother (I never met the lady), for seven years.  Her parents (see "The Brilliant Leaves" in the "Portraits" section of the website), Felton and Pauline (who was raised in Laura's house) lived two doors down the street, there in Ye Olde Durham. We all knew each other well and fondly until Felton died at age 91, and Pauline died, a year later, at (I think) 81....about two years ago, now. I used to see or talk with them everyday, and they are greatly missed among us. Felton (who was a double Ph.D. in Biology and Botany, as I recall) was a VORACIOUS pal of Herve's (the only person among us who wasn't a novelist, artist, or retired librarian). Until  Dr. Herve came along in 2003, poor old Felton (known as "Doc") was fairly stranded on a familial island of Humanities majors.
   Even when I left Laura's, I didn't go any further than two houses UP the street, where Herve and I lived for another eight years before moving (a big twelve miles away) to Hillsborough.
    I should emphasize that I went to live at Laura's house at her kind invitation, and at a truly horrible juncture in my life  when: (1) I was floundering in the middle of a dissertation on Thomas Hardy, which I hated by that stage, (2)  I had been summarily and abruptly FIRED from my rent-paying job as a danged waiter, and (3) My aged, early-Alzheimer's landlady from the previous seven years precipitously evicted me after several months of showing up in her nightgown and banging at my apartment door in the middle of the night to scream that I was "FRIGHTENING!" her (apparently, while I slept).  My Gorgeous Life & Brilliant Career were a complete mess at the time.....until Laura (whom I'd met just a short while previously) calmly announced to hysterical, 33 year old me, that she had an extra bedroom.  So, my life changed for the better.....and has since kept going in that direction.
    This portrait's for Laura, with gratitude.  I have no idea what she'll do with it, since she doesn't have a scrap of run-of-the-mill, garden-variety vanity.