I was looking around my studio, taking in some of the work hanging on the walls throughout the house. There are pieces from other artists, including some notables such as David Levine and Ogden Pleissner, but most of it is older work of my own. There are a few orphans, paintings that showed extensively but never found a home. In some I see flaws that probably kept someone from taking it home but most just didn’t find that right person with which to connect. Most of the other hanging work is work that I won’t part with, work that somehow has deeper meaning for me. Work that just stays close.
One of these paintings is the one shown here, The Sky Doesn’t Pity, a smallish watercolor that’s a little over 4″ square. It was painted in 1995 after I had started publicly showing my work for the first time at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, not too far from my home. The gallery has been what I consider my home gallery for 18 years now, hosting an annual solo show of my work for the last eleven years. This year’s show, Islander, ends next Friday.
But when this piece was done I was still new there, still trying to find a voice and a style that I could call my own. I had sold a few paintings and had received a lot of encouragement from showing the work at the gallery but was still not sure that this would lead anywhere. I entered this painting in a regional competition at the Gmeiner Art Center in Wellsboro , a lovely rural village in northern Pennsylvania with beautiful Victorian homes and gas lamps running down Main Street.
It was the first competition I had ever entered and, having no expectations, was amazed when I was notified that this piece had taken one of the top prizes. I believe it was a third but that didn’t matter to me. Just the fact that the judges had seen something in it, had recognized the life in it, meant so much to me. It gave me a tremendous sense of validation and confidence in moving ahead. Just a fantastic boost that opened new avenues of possibility in my mind.
I still get that same sense even when I look at this little piece today, a feeling that would never let me get rid of this little guy. I can’t tell you how many times I have glimpsed over at this painting and smiled a bit, knowing what it had given me all those years ago.