True Stories: Some of Art's Lighter Moments

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ˇ True Stories: Welcome
ˇ That Awful Orange
ˇ How I Started Painting the Golden Gate Bridge
ˇ Muh-therr!! or The Garden Path
ˇ But Artists Are Supposed to Paint When They're Miserable
ˇ I Thought I Was Discovering a Starving Artist in a Garret

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I Thought I Was Discovering a Starving Artist in a Garret

In the mid-1970s I was invited to have a solo exhibit of my paintings at Heritage House on the Mendocino Coast. It was a special opportunity and whenever I go by the hairpin turn in Highway One that passes Heritage House, I remember my exhibit and an unexpected followup call from it.

I sold three paintings from the show, ones I really liked. I was fortunate enough to meet the buyers, who were friends with each other. It pleased me to talk with them about their selections, preferences, and why they picked the pieces they did.

Back in San Francisco, I got a call from one of the people who had bought artworks in the Heritage House exhibit. She wanted to bring her father to my studio. Her father worked in the financial department of a Bay Area museum. He saw a lot of art both on exhibit and in storage at the museum where he worked. He knew what he liked. We arranged a time for a studio visit.

During those years my studio was at home in a good sized room of a light, spacious first floor Victorian flat overlooking DuBoce Park. Light came in from the south and east, just what I like. I paint by daylight as much as possible. This studio was light almost all day. A long hall and five other rooms provided space to hang finished pieces. Victorian picture molding was intact. Moving art around presented few problems.

The appointed hour arrived. Father and daughter rang the bell. Daughter was the astute, cheerful person I had met previously. Father was dour. Oh, well, I thought. He probably wants to retain neutrality while he looks at paintings. But Father's mood did not improve. Daughter backed off to the perimeter of the studio so that Father had the field of vision completely to himself.

After a time, his body language suggested he was about to say something. However, it was not the paintings he was looking at. It was me. When he spoke, he literally whined with disappointment. "I thought I was discovering a starving artist in a garret."

He straightened up and got hold of himself. "But you are not starving!" He drew himself up to a new height as he appraised my figure, always ten or fifteen pounds more than I'd like it to be and often struggling to get into a size 12 or 14.

His daughter rolled her eyes.

"And this," he continued with a flourish, "Is not a garret!"

It was his daughter and myself I wanted to comfort. I had no mercy for the forlorn museum official.

The visit ended quickly. After a few hours of rage, eased probably by a drink and a brisk walk up the steepest blocks of DuBoce Avenue, I wondered how many hours this museum official had spent in the dim storage basement rooms of the museum where he worked - I knew those rooms: I used to teach at the same museum - how many hours he had spent in the depths dreaming of the heights of garret windows, all Paris at his feet, and a starving artist just waiting for his arrival.

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