Cheri and I made our way to Cooperstown this past Saturday to see my exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum. Cheri had not yet seen it and also wanted to see the American Impressionists show before it comes down on the 16th of September as well as the paintings of folk portraitist William Matthew Prior. Both of those shows were wonderful, particularly the Prior exhibit which gave a broader view of his work and the world in which he painted.
But we there to mainly take in my show there, of course. It’s always a strange feeling going into a space filled with your work. I remember the first time I had a solo show at the Principle Gallery back in 2000. When we came into the gallery, the work that filled the space seemed to surround and overwhelm us. Both Cheri and I felt a bit nauseous at first, as though it were just too much to absorb. I still periodically get that little bit of a tremble in the gut when confronted with a roomful of my work and I did feel it just a bit on Saturday.
But Cheri’s response to the work took away any tension I was feeling. Her eyes opened very wide and her face glowed as she came to the top of the grand staircase and spotted the painting that was framed perfectly in the doorway to my exhibit. We went into the space and she turned, taking in all the walls with a glance, a broad smile on her face.
“Amazing. It’s perfect.”
That was all I needed to hear. I was happy as I could possibly at that moment. I have often kidded that she is often my harshest critic but that is simply the result of a directness and honesty that comes from 35 years of marriage. I trust her opinion and her glowing approval set aside any apprehension that might have been lingering. I began to take in the work without worry.
For me, it was most satisfying seeing the very large painting, The Internal Landscape, shown at the top center here. I had never seen it hang on a wall, especially with the beautiful lighting and atmosphere that this space offered. It was all that I hoped it would be on the wall and my eyes kept coming back to it. The rhythm of the piece really rang out in that space and seemed to connect with all of the other pieces that surrounded it. The works there seemed to be alive on the walls and there is a really nice warmth and continuum running through this group of work that seems to envelop you when you enter the gallery. That’s a nice feeling and I think it’s a great representation of my work to this point.
It was also interesting to go back into the gallery after taking in the work of the Impressionist masters that took up the adjoining larger gallery space. I initially was a bit afraid that my work would not fit well, would be overwhelmed by this work. I mean, there is gorgeous work there from Mary Cassatt, Hassam , Glackens and Willard Metcalf— all painters that I have long admired. It is a bit intimidating. But coming back into my gallery, Cheri commented how well my work held up next to their’s and I realized that I didn’t feel as out of place with my work there as I thought I might. In fact, I no longer felt intimidated in the least.
I hope that doesn’t sound egotistical. It’s certainly not meant to be and I would never put myself up to the level of the time-tested masters. But leaving the museum that day, I felt as though I had fully shown that my work had its own truly individual voice, one that had the same validity and integrity as the work of any painter. That was a good feeling on a very good day.