Saturday, March 2, 2013


The Gatekeepers
Hubby got three new paintings recently -- one for Christmas, one for his birthday on New Years, and one for Valentine's. Usually, when an artist does three separate paintings that are meant to hang together as one, it's called a triptych, but I call Hubby's paintings a trilogy, for not only does each one tell part of a bigger story, the process of getting them painted was a story in and of itself -- one which I'd like to share with you.

You see, each year our little town hosts a studio tour, where you get a peek behind the scenes of seven or eight different artists.  Many people go for the art, but me? I'm nosy. I just love getting to see how different artists live, and most especially, the spaces in which they create. One artist on the last tour, Margaret Stone, bought an ex-clinic just down the road from us, and turned it into her home/studio, with easels set up in at least three different rooms, and an apartment upstairs which she rents out. One of her paintings, a much larger version of the one above, made my hubby stop in his tracks. When Margaret noticed how absorbed he was, she came over and asked if he wanted to hear "the story" behind it, which had something to do with the images that had been coming back from the Hubble Space Telescope. She mentioned that she was thinking about doing a whole cosmic series. I actually considered buying the painting for him at the time and putting it away for Christmas, but I am a tightwad, and it would have cost more than the two shadow boxes he got last year combined, even with her special studio tour discount!

Gatekeepers II
Of course, by the end of October -- what with John spending half the month in the hospital with a brain bleed -- I was beating myself up with regret, so I emailed Margaret to see if she still had that painting. Alas, she had given it to a local gallery, who then doubled the price! I said "Ah well, my fault for not grabbing it when I had the chance", and went on to tell her how much we enjoyed seeing her work, and hearing about her process. (She starts with her backgrounds, lets the paint dribble and flow a bit, then waits to see where the painting tells her to go from there.) I also told her that my hubby had always had his head in the stars, read nothing but Sci-fi, and would jump aboard a spaceship in a heart beat, if given the opportunity, whereas you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming, and if she ever decided to do that cosmic series she mentioned, to be sure and let me know. Know what she said? "You know, if I did a smaller one, say 11" x 14", I could let it go for less than half of what I was charging for that first one." Know what I said? "Could you do three?"

The best part of the whole process was the dialogue that ensued, with emails flying back and forth as she tried to learn a little bit more about me and my hubby. She even offered to let me come by and add a brush stroke to the first painting, or embed something personal, like a hair strand from each of us, in the paint. I told her that wouldn't be necessary, but that I would love it if she would write a note to my hubby, about what was on her mind as she painted, so I could give it to him with the first two paintings. This is what she wrote: "John, I have been thinking of doing a cosmic series for a number of months and these paintings are my first explorations in that direction. We go outside and look up and usually perceive what we see as a ceiling in the room of our current reality. After all, the weather people call it our 'ceiling.' We have extended that a bit with technology, putting our internet information in 'The Cloud', off there in off-planet space. I think about our connections, our planet's connections to the great expanding universe. I want to explore that direction in my artwork. I have said we are cemented to the earth by gravity, but our imaginations are free to soar and explore the great cosmic spaces. Perhaps my work will be like a little seed and encourage the viewer to move past the 'ceiling.'  Margaret Stone"

Before she began his Valentine's painting, she sent me a note asking which of the first two he liked best, and why. He thought about it for a while, and decided he liked the first painting, where the gatekeepers seem to be watching us and taking notes. He said it comforts him to think there is someone out there watching our struggles -- whatever they may be and regardless of the outcomes -- bearing witness to our stories. That lead to this final volley of emails:

Hi M.,
Just wanted to check and see when you thought the last of our three Gatekeeper paintings would be ready for pick-up. I'd like to give it to my hubby for Valentines on Thursday, if possible.

I was just about to write to you this afternoon and I can't believe it is going on 4pm. It will be ready Wednesday. It was almost completed several days ago and it started taking a different direction, which I wanted to follow. I like it! We have gatekeepers and a scribe in the foreground, and by golly, there is a doorway in the sky to another place. Good thing we have the gatekeepers. :-)

Sounds marvelous! I especially like the idea of a scribe, since I am a blogger and the scribe for our family -- the collector of stories!

That is so cool, Becky. When you see it you can take the fact that you are the family scribe, the storyteller, and work a whole story around it. When I was in process, I had to put the scribe in, had no idea why except she belonged there. She is sitting and writing on a long long scroll and I am not sure yet exactly where it needs to go. Our gatekeepers are hanging about, like in the other paintings, holding on to the papers they have. Yes, I expect you will be able to work out a story around the whole thing. What fun!!

The Gatekeepers and The Scribe
Our final notes:

Margaret, he loved it! Especially that portal into an "alternate universe"!

Becky, I am so glad. Thanks for the feedback. Here's a note for you. You said John had worked as an engineer. Where did he work? When I lived in California, I did a short jaunt working in aerospace. I was given the title Associate Engineer and I was one of the book planners for both the straw man proposal and the final proposal to NASA for the Space Station. We won the bid! So, when the weather people make an occasional announcement to go outside at a given time and look in a given direction to see the Space Station, I do! It is fun to think I was some small part of it -- probably part of my interest in space and other dimensions, etc. Enjoy Valentine's Day, Margaret

We did Margaret. We did indeed.


Deborah said...

What a wonderful story and beautiful art. Love the scribe, the wordy woman. Love the feeling of healing as I read your post. I too am easily absorbed in Margaret Stones work when I come upon it in a gallery or art show. I must come see John's treasure trove one of these days. Love to both of you!

Hill Country Hippie said...

Congratulations on your latest art show Deborah! Must get by the gallery soon.