Last month marked the end of my inaugural solo exhibition, a benchmark that I have been striving towards since I picked up a paintbrush in earnest back in 2004, a dozen years ago. It was the culmination of my journey thus far as an artist and a pinnacle that I felt very proud to stand atop.
After three and a half months of spending every waking moment in the studio, painting like a madman, I had created nearly 30 new paintings and satisfied my need to delve deep into The Jobs of Yesteryear. I researched and learned about a plethora of obsolete occupations, gathering their unique stories and breathing them out onto the wood panels I had prepared. It felt good.
With our new Chevy van full of my latest work and life's essentials packed neatly in our 13' Scamp, my wife Ashley and I loaded up our three year-old son, Ivan, and headed out to Wichita, Kansas. Upon arriving at CityArts, I began to unload my work, awestruck by the barren walls of the spacious gallery and imagining what my art would look like filling up that space.
The gallery had offered me a chance to make an installation piece, which, if you're not familiar with the term, is a piece of art that is created for a specific exhibition space. I had been dreaming up different ideas and decided upon a tall banner towering above visitors to the gallery and inviting them into the show. My inspiration came from old circus posters and also a pair of banners done by Jamie Wyeth, which I had the pleasure of viewing at the Denver Art Museum.
With our arrival on Monday afternoon and the opening night slated for Friday, that meant that I had just three days to create a 15' tall banner, a size that I had never tackled. Each day I arrived at the gallery early and worked all day on the floor of the main exhibit space, glancing up every once in a while as my paintings began to cover the once vacant gray walls. Curious onlookers watched and I had the pleasure of talking to a few of them about my work. Two different groups of schoolchildren also stopped by, which was a real treat for me as I sometimes miss my time with children as an elementary school teacher.
Friday finally came and the banner was finished, complete with a rusty, old two-man crosscut saw that I had scored at a local antique market for $25. My family traveled from all over the Midwest to come help me celebrate opening night and my heart was full of gratitude to have them all there for the big event. The doors opened at 6pm and people began to file into the main gallery space.
One of my greatest joys from the experience came from watching patrons' reactions as they first encountered the towering banner inviting them into the space. They typically wore an expression of awe and delight as they began to grasp what was before them and wander around to the paintings adorning the walls. My relentless months in the studio had culminated to this moment and I took the time to let it all soak in. I felt like I could finally breathe and boy did that gallery air taste good.
After a brief introduction by the Gallery Director, it was time for me to take the podium and spout some wisdom and insight with my artist talk. Admittedly, I was nervous, but found my stride midway through and was able to slow down and get my point across. I was greatly honored to have the chance to speak about my art and give my very first artist talk. You can see the complete talk at my YouTube channel.
As the evening came to a close and people began to file out onto the streets of Wichita, I took one last look at the show and breathed in the sight deeply. It was a lofty dream realized and it was everything that I had imagined.
Thank you all for supporting my art adventure thus far. Come and see me on the road and stay tuned for more big moves on the horizon.