July 26, 2012
“Hi this is Sue Keck Mitchell and I blame you …you are the reason I did not major in art in college and become a famous artist…that is my story and I’m sticking with it”…that is what I said to Sheryl Grise Larsen when she answered the phone a year ago. I immediately went into a “just kidding” mode.
As the story goes, in our senior year in high school Sheryl announced at lunch that she had a self portrait due at 1:00. I said I would go down to the studios with her. Set up at her work station was a poster-size canvas and right before my eyes she painted her self portrait…quick, confident and it looked like her! I believe deep down that had some subtle effect on me…possibly causing me to shy away from pursuing an arts education. I was already running the school as Student Council President and I had a business since age ten but I had some demonstrated artistic talent and an interest in pursuing it.
Jump forward 40 years…I have spent the last four decades involved in civic affairs and entrepreneurial enterprises just like back in high school…with the interest in art still lurking.
So I told Sheryl (who did major in art in college and is an artist and art teacher in Colorado) about my upcoming artistic journey. I asked if she still had the portrait and she said she thought her parents, in Ohio, might and she would check on her next visit. A few weeks later, she sent me a message on Facebook saying that she had forgotten that she gave the canvas to her cousin to paint over but that she did find a picture of it and attached it
Now I’m nervous-as-heck to open it…what if it wasn’t good.??? “click” there she is … Sheryl’s face from 40 years ago. Yes, it looked like Sheryl and no, it wasn’t quite what I remembered (hard to compare a postage-stamp size, faded picture to a wet, textured poster-size piece.) I clearly understand why I liked it…it was impressionistic, in earth tones , it was big and it was painted fast and it looked like her! Sheryl amusingly wrote that she was young and didn’t understand values and made a few other critiques.
I am finally home and found the photo after a search through photo albums and being distracted with photos from the past. It just kind of sucks you in when you open those old albums. The painting for me is a symbol of what I did not know about color. The structure of face is ok even there I know there are problems), but it is more of a value study (of lights and darks). I recognize these things now. As I thought, I took the photo as a record and gave the canvas to my nephew who is now a graphic artist. He used it for one of his paintings.
I am flattered that this painting was a pivotal point for you and your understanding of art. Art is an amazing part of both of our lives. I am glad I could be a part of this bridge between us. I have to know when your show is scheduled. I would really like to witness where the year takes you.
What a great experience … to have such a vivid, impactful memory and to be able to go back forty years and find the person involved… when we haven’t talked once since the day we graduated.
[9/16/2012 Sheryl is going to try to attend the opening of my show “52” at the Riverside Art Museum in Oct 2013!]