Scotia, New York
This site is to honor my grandfather and my Lithuanian roots. My grandfather held me as an infant when we visited Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
I never saw him again. My family was estranged - I guess that is the word - from my father's people for a long time.
In my avid search for roots I could find my mother's German heritage back to the 1600s - Wagner, Feigt, Haase, Prahl, Keil
and a dozen more - but nothing for Jamackl
Finally a distant relative in New Jersey - an old woman in a nursing home - wrote me telling me
that she knew my Aunt Margaret. My original name was Zemaitis. I cried when I received her letter.
My father gave me a set of oil paints when I turned ten although we barely had money for food. Decades later -
long after his tragic suicide - I entered the home of his first cousin in Hazleton. I was struck
by the inventive and skillful paintings that covered the walls. The daughter was an art major and teacher. As I examined
them, another cousin entered. Her first words after a quick introduction were: "Did you know that your grandfather was a
painter?" The hairs on my arms stood up. I knew he was a coal miner and later a builder. I knew he got all of his living
family out of Lithuania by sheer guts, hard work and smart thinking at a time in the early 1900s when they were severely
oppressed aside from dirt poor. But I did not know he was a painter.
My series of small paintings was begun when I had knee surgery and had to give up my beloved large paintings. I chose
the small boards that separated sheet music in a cabinet from the old Friedens Evangelical Church where my maternal grandparents
were married. We had purchased the cabinet when the church dissolved. (On my Mom's side the inborn talent is definitely music.)
"It's My Life" was exhibited at Perrella Gallery at Fulton Montgomery Community College in 2005. Joel Chapin is
curator. In 2009 it was exhibited at Canajoharie's ARKELL Museum. Eric Trahan is Director. The original paintings are NFS.
I painted them for my funeral or memorial service. (Hopefully well into the future.)
Sometimes I notice that the paint and design expresses the moment in time. Visiting Dad at the former Utica State
Mental Hospital features buildings that are disqueitingly askew. I left them that way. Likewise Visiting Dad in a locked
psychiatric ward is more expressionistic than technically correct. I also notice that I love structure and know that this comes
partly from watching my father build.
"It's My Life" expresses pieces of my own life but also in many ways the aspirations and life of our country - 1930s through 2001,
ending just prior to 9/11. I had airline tickets to Nashville for that date. It was the expected birth date of our granddaughter.
Instead she was born in August. I chose to stop the series there.
If a legitimate museum or gallery is interested in exhibiting my series, please contact me through FAA. My married name (betty-pieper.artistwebsites.com) is on all of the paintings. This site is a tribute to my father and grandfather, and all those who share the Zemaitis surname and heritage.
Thanks to the insight of a cousin (CAR), it is most particularly a tribute to all of the immigrant pioneers who navigated many obstacles
to come here to work sacrificially hard to build our country so that their children could have a better life.