Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Voice from the Past

Today, around 4 o'clock, I got a call while I was sitting at my desk, bemoaning my lack of enthusiasm, wondering if I'd ever come back from some horrible days of alienation and discord, missing stuff and people, writing my memoirs and poetry. Feeling deflated. I checked the number and saw it was a number I didn't know. I really hesitated to answer it. But, because it's what I do, I spoke into the receiver with the usual, "Hi, this is Tom." From the other end came a voice of a young man who said he had just sent me an email. I clicked the computer to "Inbox". As I read and he talked the story unfolded. This young man and his wife had seen a piece of art in my booth at Stockley Gardens in 1999. They "didn't have two nickels to rub together," he said. But I had spent a lot of time talking about the piece, about art, about my life of art. It was a cobalt blue background and a white magnolia. It had the gold touches and was about 32" x 32". Did I remember it? Well, vaguely. I know I hadn't done one since and sort of recalled the time/space I was doing it in. He said the piece had been at the Harbor Gallery after the show and then it disappeared. He said the gallery manager reported it "out on approval." Several weeks later, he and his wife found out that the painting had been returned. So this young couple ended up buying it after all, not knowing how they would pay for it. I then remembered, as it happened, that I was in the gallery collecting things to pack up for our move to Colorado and met a bright and pretty young lady and a little boy in a stroller. She bought the magnolia and took it home. I asked the guy on the phone if that was perhaps his wife and son. "Yes! Yes!" he said, "I can't believe you remembered!" By then I had received his second email and with it the digital of my work. He described the provenance of the piece, its travels along with them from Iran to Afghanistan to the Arab Emirates where it was now being packed for shipment back to Washington DC. He became a diplomat assigned to the Middle East and had hosted many parties and functions where lots of people asked, "What is it?" Most had never seen a southern magnolia. They all, he reported, thought it the best of their now extensive world-wide art collection (yay me!). His family is now returning to live in the DC area and he needed to know the insurance value for trans-Atlantic travel. He said for his family the piece was priceless, embedded with much appreciation. I was happy to report his investment had quadrupled! He went on the say how he had been raised in South Carolina and times when things were rough and the world around him seemed to be unraveling, he would meditate on the painting and found comfort in the image. I was brought to tears. We plan to meet at the Alexandria show in September and have a reunion face to face. Before I signed off (it was midnight over there) I told him today, at that minute, he had called and lifted me up from a sad sad place. His enthusiasm was shared and I had received it. Thanking him as best I could, I sat in awe of someone up there. Just what I needed when I needed it. I did the math. The little boy in the stroller is now a sixteen year old and I'm an old man. It is most humbling to know that in my playing with paints, another is blest. And that years later, that one could reach out and bless me. Then, as if with a bolt of lighting, I was struck with the idea, "What if that's the way most people feel about the art?" I hit my knees in gratitude for each and everyone of you.