Tuesday, August 27, 2013
David Grath at the Old Art School Building, Leland, August 2013
When an artist is, for weeks and months ahead of time, preparing for and working toward a two-day event, there’s a lot riding on those two days. Many aspects of the outcome are beyond the artist’s control. Will disastrous weather arrive on the big weekend or a major unanticipated festival occur in a nearby town? How many people will be free of other obligations and able to attend the first night opening? Even the work itself, the focus of the artist’s labors, can present surprises of its own. And so the artist always wonders nervously, in between those blessed spells when everything is rolling as if by heaven’s decree and beauty pouring from the brushes onto the canvas, will the show “come off”? The weeks leading up to the show, therefore, are filled with days and nights of hard work, a hundred niggling little details, and a boatload of anxiety. I’ve known a lot of artists, and I’ve never known one for whom this is not true, so I’m not talking out of school or giving away personal secrets.
Well! Everything worked out splendidly for David’s Leland show! Everything! The paintings were beautiful! Some I saw for the first time on the walls of the Old Art School Building, as they went directly from his studio to the show while I was occupied at the bookstore.
David’s arrangement of the space, with standing panels for some of the paintings and groups of chairs for viewing ease, worked to perfection.
People began to arrive right at 5 p.m., the crowd built up nicely and stayed, paying a lot of attention to the paintings – and sending me running for the all-important red dots that mean a painting has been sold. Every village in the county was represented, as well as towns beyond Traverse City and on around Grand Traverse Bay. Not until after 9 p.m. had the visitors all dispersed.
It was so, so, so lovely to have so many friends gathered in that lovely, airy space, on an idyllic summer evening, surrounding by David’s beautiful paintings. I know it is an evening we will remember for the rest of our lives. So with that, I want to say thank you to all our friends who made time in their busy summer schedules to be with us on Friday night. You will never know how much your presence meant to us. To those who returned on Saturday or came on Saturday because you couldn’t make it Friday night and to those who were with us in spirit although unable to be there in the flesh – to all of you, each and every one – is it too much to say that we love you?
After nine o’clock, we cleaned up and locked up. The weather had been perfect, too, measuring up to the standard set by every other aspect of the day and evening, and the darkening night was filled with delicious Up North aromas, cool and spicy and green. Back home to relax on the front porch (with Sarah, of course), we relived the entire evening, sharing perceptions, conversations we’d had, and memories we’d brought home -- and will hold onto through the years.
The long-awaited evening was over. Ah, but there was yet a week of summer remaining, as well as another day for David’s show, and so morning saw him headed south for Leland while I drove north to Northport. Saturday would be another long, busy day for both of us. (Inserting a P.S. in the middle rather than post-: See Saturday evening's sunset here.) Ditto Sunday....
But allow me (how can you say no?) to backtrack here and digress briefly, because Friday was a memorable day for me starting with sunrise. When Sarah and I went out for our morning constitutional (I took along a container for blackberry-picking), there was music coming from the east. From the orchard? No, from beyond the orchard and the other side of the eastern woods, lively, happy-sad Mexican music floated through the air. The accordion put me in mind of Cajun music, and later in the day, telling someone else about the mood and feeling of the music, I said it’s like the blues but in a different tempo and with different orchestration: often sad lyrics, but somehow playing and singing the songs – or just hearing them – makes you smile and feel good. That was the first unexpected joy of the day, the joy of Sarah and the blackberries anticipated but no less lovely for not being surprises.
My to-do list in Northport started me out at the farmers’ market, where a chance conversation briefly shattered my concentration, and I had to stand still and rack my brains. What did I need? When I exclaimed triumphantly, “Cheese!” the young woman trying to help me kick-start my memory pointed behind me, and there was a display from Northport’s new goat farm, Idyll Farms. Listening to the speech of the young man behind the display, I knew, although he was not one of the workers I’ve met before, that he was French. The woman in front of me didn’t want too much cheese, she said – just enough for two people – so when it was my turn, I told him, “Moi, j’en ai besoin pour beaucoup de monde!” and that got us off to a good start. He helped me select a Camembert and a chevre roll in ashes, the ashes, he assured me, perfectly edible. It was a thoroughly satisfying exchange, as was the purchase of an almond croissant from the Nine Bean Rows lady and choosing and purchasing fresh flowers and the cutest, tiniest cucumbers in the world (“They look like watermelons for Barbie,” someone said that evening at the opening) from the Bare Knuckle Farms stand. And after that I put in four busy, pleasant hours at the bookstore before closing at 2 p.m. to get myself and refreshments ready to take to Leland and set up for the show, the story of which you have already read.
But here’s what I want to say: How profoundly satisfying it is, how rich the rewards, when a day comes together as this one did, from my outdoor, international, multicultural beginning through the familiar literary atmosphere of my own dear bookshop to a cultural and social evening of art and friends and then home again to our dog and the old farmhouse. There is nothing I would go back and change. Oh, maybe I would remember the nasturtium flowers for the cheese plates -- but nothing else, surely.
Drained. Exhausted. Satisfied. Fulfilled. Grateful. Happy.