• Eye Contact
• The Collection
• I'm Jesse
    • My Birthday?
• Into the Light
• The Interview
• The Abbey
• Who You Know?
• What's This Life For?
• Bullying
• 31 Days of Christmas
• Unexpected
• Just a Dog's Day
• Giant!
• Chester
• Fear or Comfort?
• You're Different
• Darren
    • Darren and the Circus
• The Surreality of It All
• Voice of God
• Sound of Silence
• Aaron
• 5350
• Resurrection
• Sicilian Sculptor

• Sans People
• Digital Detox
• Digital Art
• Relevance of a Tweet
• A Day With Tweetdeck

coming up...
• Just a Barista
• Yo! Buddy!
• Vault
• An Artist's Signature
• Azure
• Tears in the Fabric
• Voice of God II

The Collection (03/15/21)

Having always been a collector, as I got older, I started narrowing down what I really wanted to collect — and that was art. No more diecast cars, N-scale model trains, nor stamps. Though those collections still hold meaning when I open a box or album, they are just not where my heart lies.

My heart is in the creation, and collection, of art.

Looking around my house, studio and gallery, it was evident I had always had a weak spot for a great piece of art. Multiple paintings and sculptures still adorn the walls.

One day I happened to be searching the web looking for new art shows and artists and came across the website of an artist in an extremely small village in the middle of Mexico. My initial reaction was ‘wow, seriously beautiful work.’

The more I looked through her site, and read about her education and inspiration, the further in love I fell with her art, and the more I felt I needed at least one of her canvases.

Carmen only painted in oil, and in large format, meaning a normal canvas was 4 ft x 6 ft, and then they got larger — several were much larger.

I could only describe her work as ‘abstract cubist,’ which in itself seemed contradictory. The forms on her canvases were randomly scattered across each piece, yet always in cubist forms and shapes, taking on rectangles and squares. And the colors were vibrant, mixed with dark, foreboding earthen hues.

Her signature on every piece, one section of a specially selected shape painted in stunningly gleaming metallic — gold, silver, copper, bronze. Though the eye was drawn to these metallic elements, they were just enough to allow the gaze to wander further, changing the focus from section to section to section, then back again to the metallic form.

An additional element consistent with her work was the texture. This talented artist knew how to ‘mold’ oil paint into astounding textures, many of which, being a painter myself, begged the question “how did she create that?”

I continued looking through her site, mesmerized by the paintings, and finally settled on one that I thought represented her work the best, and that really struck an aesthetic chord in my psyche.

I placed the order. And waited.

Her paintings were not necessarily cheap, running several thousand each for the smallest canvases, and up to tens of thousands for the largest formats. I knew that shipping might possibly be an issue coming from a small village in the middle of Mexico, and laughed with my friends that it might just be delivered in person.

A little over a month later, a courier arrived saying they had a large package for me. I walked down to the truck and saw a really large, relatively heavy item — from Mexico. Looking at the wrapping and the multitude of stamps across the box, it appeared to have managed its way through customs without any issues.

My friends and I got the piece into the gallery, carefully opened the box, and were stunned by the actual physical beauty of the canvas that had arrived, packaged more for getting run over by the truck than simply shipping a canvas. But more packaging for such a purchase was always better than less.

Once unpacked, it was hung in a dominant part of the gallery, spot lights aimed its direction, and the beauty of her work became even more evident. And that gleaming section of metallic paint radiated in the light from the spots and tossed sparkles of light around the gallery.

The purchase was well worth the money, and wait.

I decided I needed another piece and now that I knew the process, would not stress quite as much waiting for a quick arrival.

The artist’s website was updated about once a month with the latest piece, and always maintained a couple of dozen of paintings that were available. For the second purchase I decided to risk a little more for this adventure, and ordered a piece that was larger in size.

I waited almost 45 days for the arrival of the second canvas, and was even more stunned at the beauty of the piece — and again, thought maybe the packaging was a bit obsessive — but it definitely guaranteed the canvas traveled safely.

When I had ordered the second piece, I had been somewhat undecided between two pieces, and should have ordered them both at that same time. As the second piece arrived, was unwrapped, and installed in the gallery, I decided I had to grab the other piece I had wanted. Really, I should have just ordered them both in one order.

I went to the website, and a beautiful new piece was now available, and once again I was in a turmoil — purchase the piece I originally had looked at, or just purchase the newer one, which was actually another level better than the rest of her work.

Each time a new canvas was displayed on her website, it was always just a little better than all the rest of her work — her art was definitely progressing through the years.

I decided to opt for the newest piece, placed the order, and put on the calendar a rough date for its arrival. This time, for the first time, I received a personal email from Carmen, in Spanish, thanking me for the purchase of her art, and apologizing for the time it took to ship.

It was quite the story on how her canvases worked their way to international shipping — I was thankful that there was not a donkey involved at some point. But it did appear that several means of transportation were needed to get the large package from her small village to Southern California.

I waited for the third canvas I ordered, noticed there was a new, even more wonderful piece now available on her website, but decided I’d delay that fourth purchase for a few months — other artists in the world had art I wanted and I needed to stretch my purchases as far as possible.

Several months later, now in possession of three of her canvases, and all looking magnificent in the gallery, I decided I’d look and see what new items of beauty were available — there were none.

The same 24 canvases that had been on the site for several years were still listed, with one new one that had been posted shortly after my last purchase, then updates had stopped. At this point, it had been about 8 months with no new art from what was now my favorite artist.

Since I had her email, I thought I would just check in, see how she was doing, and asking, without asking, if there were any new paintings to look at.

I received no reply to my email.

Though I was still interested in her canvases, I had put her towards the bottom of my purchase list and had set a reminder to simply check her site a few times a year to see what was new. I was a little concerned there was no activity, and hoped she was fine. Maybe life had just taken her a different direction — that does happen with us artists.

Shortly after I had temporarily given up the pursuit of her art, I received an email from her email address, but the email was from her mother, again all in Spanish. Translating the text, her mother notified me that Carmen had died.

I read the email with sadness, and replied back with my sympathy and condolences in the best Spanish I could muster. I was, though, extremely happy I had purchased the three canvases I had bought. And every time I walked into my gallery, I would take a few extra minutes to marvel at the absolute beauty of the pieces — and wonder what had happened to Carmen, and the remainder of her paintings.

Another month passed when a second email arrived from the artist's mother. She had explained that her daughter had cancer, and though was struggling with her health over her last year, was extremely happy that her art was finally selling. In the end, the cancer had spread too quickly, and thought I wasn’t sure my translation of her mother’s Spanish was correct, had passed while painting, with a paint brush in her hand.

Then, I read the shocking next paragraph.

Before the artist had passed away, she had asked her mom to eventually contact me and see if I was interested in any of her remaining canvases — there were still 20 of them available.

I immediately answered yes. It was one of those decisions we make in life without thinking through exactly what actions will be necessary to carry through with the decision.

Her mother replied back that I could have all of them for $50,000, and that included shipping.

My immediate thought was, how on earth were they going to ship all of those? My second thought was, should I have really committed to spending $50,000 for them. I happened to be in the gallery at that time, turned on the galley lights, spots only, and gazed at the three canvases I already owned, and thought, “how magnificent would it be to have the entire collection?”

I arranged the financing, and arranged for my attorney to take care of all the necessary paperwork, arrangements, legalities, then sat back and waited for the shipment.

Early one morning, I received a call from Buddy, the older guy who made custom surfboards in the space next to my gallery. He was always quite the character — I think that had something to do with the fumes that were never quite ventilated as adequately as they should have been.

“Hey Dave, there is a giant truck parked in front and the Mexican driver is asking for you. I'm hoping you are expecting something?” Crud, it had only been 3 weeks. I told him I’d be down in about an hour, and asked if he could open the large shipping door at the back of the gallery and have the boxes unloaded into the space.

It only took a few minutes before Buddy called back, saying they definitely were going to need some assistance unloading. “What the Hell did you buy, a couple of those crates are huge?” Uh oh!

My friend put his foot on the gas and we drove just a little faster down the freeway. I had asked three of my friends to come down to the gallery with me, thinking I would need them to help unpack — didn’t anticipate they would be needed just to get the crates out of the truck — but I was extremely happy they were available and happy to join yet another adventure. They were used to an adventure, we have a lot of them!

I was even happier to hear that the delivery driver was in no hurry. He had said he wanted to meet me. The curiosity was tugging at me. Did I know the driver?

We arrived at the gallery after a 40 minute drive — it normally took an hour — and yes, there was a giant truck parked outside the service entry. There was nobody in sight.

We parked, got out, walked around, and there was our neighbor Buddy, working with his new friend sanding a surfboard, dust flying everywhere, and both of them covered in it. They were laughing up a storm. I never knew my Buddy spoke Spanish — that knowledge would have come in handy multiple times in the past.

“I found a new business partner” our neighbor said, laughing and hugging his new friend. Then in a moment of pure excitement, I put all of this together. This delivery driver was actually my Carmen's brother, and he was also a maker of custom surfboards in Mexico.

But how…? Buddy proceeded to tell me the story he had already gotten out Alberto.

Alberto was Carmen’s brother, and he owned a surf shop on the coast several hundred miles away from the village where Carmen lived and worked in her studio.

When she sold a piece of art, Alberto would drive from the coast to the village his family lived in, and would help package the canvas, then drive it to his coastal town which had a shipping facility that could handle items of that size. That explained the time it took for a shipment to arrive — it really was a labor of love and a journey, all wrapped in a large wooden crate.

When Carmen had died, her brother had gone to their village to spend time with his mom and family, and knowing that somebody would eventually buy the canvases, had crated everything up pending their shipment.

Alberto told Buddy “Sabía que Dave eventualmente los compraría todos. (I knew Dave would eventually buy them all.)” He knew the canvases would end up in my gallery.

We all shook hands and walked into the gallery, showing Alberto the three canvases I already had. He beamed with pride seeing how glorius they looked, and said he was so happy I had chosen to purchase the remainder, and that they would look stunning in my gallery.

I was happy that I would be able to accommodate all of them. It would take the construction of a couple more moveable walls, and putting other pieces in storage, but we could get all of the canvases from Carmen in the space all at the same time. And that would be quite a sight! And quite a show!?

As we unpacked the crates from the truck, I kept noticing a couple of the crates were, as Buddy had said, “huge!” Once we got to those larger crates, it took all of us to unload them, and before I unpacked anything, I had to open up one of the larger crates to see what was inside.

We picked the largest of the bunch, crowbar in hand, opened the crate, removed the packing material, and there, in all its glory, was this radiant painting with splashes of all the basic metallic colors, reflecting any light that hit the canvas. It was beyond beautiful — it was ethereal — and 10 ft by 12 ft. I was thankful my exterior walls were 12 ft. in height.

Darn, I knew raw canvas was made in that size, but how did it ever get to a small village in Mexico? Alberto! And he proceeded, excitedly, to tell the story of how his sister had ordered a giant roll of canvas and how Alberto went to the shipping facility to pick up and deliver to his sister. It had been quite an adventure for him, one he said he would never forget.

We all just stood there listening to Buddy’s translation of the story — he was just as excited as Alberto was in telling it!

After we finished unloading the truck, we found out that Alberto was going to start the journey back to Mexico the following day, so we asked to take him out to dinner at one of the nicest restaurants we could find, and get him a room in a seriously nice hotel, so that he could get a full night’s sleep in luxury! He was happy to accept the invitation. He had planned on sleeping in his truck — that was not going to happen.

My friends and I had decided to get a couple rooms at the hotel also, since it ended up being a late night, and we still had not unpacked the majority of the crates. We got up early the next morning, met Alberto for breakfast and headed over to the gallery.

To our surprise, there was Buddy, with a couple of duffle bags sitting outside his shop. “Can you keep an eye on the shop for a couple weeks? Alberto and I are headed off for an road trip.”

Buddy had loaded a couple of his surfboards into the truck, and he and Alberto were going to drive back down to Mexico together. We could only imagine the trouble the two of them were going to get into.

Eventually we wished the two of them well and sent them off on their journey. My friends and I then proceeded to unwrap all the crates, removing each of the canvases, and staring in amazement at the beauty of the paintings.

One of the items was unusually smaller than all the rest, and as I opened it I had to stop for a moment to contain my emotions — it was a framed photo of Carmen, the artist. On the bottom of the photo, just above her signature, was a short note in Spanish.

“El arte mismo elige a su dueño. Mi arte te ha elegido.”
(The art itself chooses its owner. My art has chosen you.)

 

#Carmen #Alberto #Buddy #Mexico #painting