I'm sitting at a small table within the open gallery of the newly rebranded Munson art museum in Utica, NY, when a friendly voice calls out my name. I recognized the woman immediately though I hadn't seen her in many years. She calls out my full name, which takes me by surprise, though her kind smile eases all hesitation. Come to find out she made a special trip to see me on this day during my "meet the artist" event, one of many events during the museum's art festival. My visitor brought with her a well-read version of my first book, which she promptly asked me to sign. As I opened the book, I noticed her own name on the inside cover and she quickly mentioned she lends the book to others, and this was to ensure the book’s return. We proceed to have a great conversation about many things and she eventually shows me some of her grandkid’s art they had created, encouraging me to encourage them with a few kind words (which was easy as I love how imaginative a child's art can be). It was the most pleasant of visits that got my mind wandering.
How did I find myself here? How did I land myself in a prestigious art museum to talk about my art and writings? How did I create something that someone cherished like a family heirloom? I can still remember when this person bought my book not too long after its release four years ago...and how did she still have it? Complete with their name to claim it was hers! And she took time out of her day to visit me! This type of interaction never gets old and it's more valuable than any dollar I make from my creations...though this interaction meant a little bit more. I know it's because it all took place in a museum I used to frequent as a child, dreaming of being an artist.
I can still remember looking up at the vastness of the Thomas Cole series, "The Voyage of Life" (pictured below). Gazing upon them with big eyes wondering how they told a story without words. The imagery captivated me at that age and it still does. It's very possible this was the very first painting that transcended me into its landscape...and at this very moment, it was in the next room from where I was currently sitting talking to people about MY art!
To continue this sublime feeling, prominently displayed directly in front of me was the Jackson Pollock painting I used to wonder over as well (below). I remember trying to understand how it was created. How it was somehow a beautiful mess. How Mr. Pollock didn't seem to care for its meaning or if there was a story to tell. Just that it was just damn beautiful. As I looked over to it, I realized that this place, this small museum in this small town in central New York state, started my fascination with other galleries. How whenever I'm in a different city I seek out the special place for their cherished art. Knowing it was a safe haven. Sacred ground.
It's funny to me that although I have this admiration for this institution, and it was a huge part of my upbringing, there was little or no chance of my art being on these walls. I'm fully aware that my art and books are not the types that would garnish such a place. They are of a very different nature, and that's just how art may work for me. But, somehow, someway, I found my way in, hysterically through the gift shop...and at times over the years, I found myself featured in the community sidewalk show. Something I used to obsess over after submitting art year after year. The same sidewalk show that was going on right now, outside the doors I was sitting near.
As I got better at drawing in my youth I would imagine having a piece in that show. Eventually, I would, and although I can't remember what age I was when that happened (or the piece that got in) I do remember the feeling of getting a little acceptance postcard in the mail. Something they still do today, which I honestly love. It was exciting beyond words to get that card and it became a passion for many years. I'm not sure how often I submitted, but those submissions did taper off over the years. Not really sure why other than possibly due to the grown-up I'd become...or maybe more accurately, the child I wasn't anymore. Obviously, things changed since then and I started submitting again. It was just as exciting to get that affirmative postcard once again this year.
But seriously, how did I get here? How was I now showing off my work in this place that has always meant so much? Of course, I'm not looking for an answer, but setting this up as a mystery that doesn't need solving. It does lead me back to the thoughts of this friend who visited me today. How her actions, her words, and her encouragement, will stay with me well after that moment. How it started this thread of meandering thoughts of how important this museum was to me...to all of us. It's then that I thought of something a wise person once told me. "Your creations, at first, are for you. Then, at some point, they won't be yours anymore". It's very possible I didn't completely understand those words until this day. How the art on these walls in this place is for all of us. How a community of art on the "sidewalk" are now ours because of the experience.
I absolutely love art. I love the process of making art. The act of creating. It lights me up beyond anything, though there is a very close second to that feeling. It's the sharing, the interaction, the collaboration. There is a ripple created in creation that is hard to witness, but I'm pretty sure I was experiencing it on this day. No matter what you create, or how you create it, there is beauty in the share. It's how it finds its destiny. That's why I'm always humbled by situations like my experience today, and why I share as much as I do.