A couple weeks ago, during Saturday gallery hours, a couple young guys came in to take a look at my show. They looked too young to be art collectors but after a few minutes the blond one took out a wad of twenties and started counting them out. Then he came over and asked if I took cash, pointed at the painting of the beer cooler at Bernice’s and started peeling off bills.
Generally, it’s customary to wait until the end of an art show to deliver sold pieces, but I could tell this guy wasn’t in a waiting kind of mood. Then he told me how he came by that stack of bills. His brother, who was in the military, had killed himself and left the surviving family members his money. His brother was choosing to honor his memory by buying my painting. I took the painting off the wall and he and his buddy walked out. I didn’t even catch their names.
I’ve been painting and drawing seriously for over thirty years but the mental and emotional inner workings of collectors remain a mystery to me. I rarely know why they’ll buy one piece over another. My own connection to my work pretty much ends after I’m done making it. In an ideal world, someone would show up at my door and take each one away the day after it was completed. But it is all but the opposite of an ideal world; so in the one I live in I have to also be the salesman, which I hate and am no good at. At least I’ve learned not to talk people out of buying pictures by pointing out flaws. Now I just keep my mouth shut and hope for the best.
A couple hours after the guy left with his new painting my friend John came by. I told him about the weird sale and he told me he was just coming back from the funeral of his friend’s son, who had been in the military and had taken his own life. It’s such a small world. Either that or it was one hell of a coincidence.
When I was hanging this show, I learned from one of the gallery’s founders that she had a piece of mine hanging in her apartment. We’d never met prior to that day. Apparently, her boyfriend’s parents had bought a couple pieces from me years ago and gave her one as a housewarming gift. Small world…
On the last day of the show Steve from Bernice’s gave me a lift to the gallery so he could see the show. Then John, one of my regulars at that bar pedaled up on his bike. Then Dee and Jimmy from the Rainbo came in and I felt like putting the show up was maybe worth it after all. With a lot of these shows I have I never get that feeling. A couple other paintings sold without my having to do or say much, so that did nothing to hurt my good feeling about the whole thing.
Tomorrow, when I take the paintings down, the good feeling will likely disappear, but for today I’ll try to hold on to it for as long as I can.