Living With Art and The Art of Living

I grew up in a home without any art on the walls. I remember a couple of smallish “pictures” my parents had hung on the walls to break the monotony, but they had no significance artistically or even sentimentally.

Until my second year of college I had no background or education in the arts, but that year I took a 5 unit course in the history of art using  Anthony F. Janson’s History of Art as a text. Janson’s book is the Bible of art history. The original was published in 1913 and it’s been revised regularly ever since. I have the 1995 Fifth Edition in my bookcase now. The illustrations and reproductions introduced me to a new world. At the end of the course, having surveyed everything from the caves at Lascaux through Post-Impressionism, I bought my first art – a reproduction on Masonite of Gaugin’s Arearea. I loved the bold use of color and the simplicity of the figures.


In 1968 I married a painter/printmaker, and our wedding present from her parents was a $500 check. They admonished us not to spend it on anything ordinary but to buy something special with it. Later that year in New York we bought a lithograph by the Mexican painter/printmaker Jose Luis Cuevas. Cuevas was a rising star at the time and part of a printmaking renaissance. Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles was working with Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Albers and a host of visual artists new to printmaking. June Wayne of Tamarind was setting up her print shop in Albuquerque, and Stanley Hayter’s Atelier 17 in Paris was working with young artists after pioneering pre-war editions for Picasso and Miro.

Our Cuevas was a 22” x 29” image of Rasputin. It was a masterly example of modern stone lithography but the subject matter was a little dark. Did it foretell something about the marriage?


In any event, we lived with Rasputin for a few years, but in early 1973 we met Silvan Simone, the Los Angeles gallery owner who represented Cuevas, who told us he was willing to take Rasputin in on a trade. At Simone’s gallery in West LA we fell in love with a large (54″x76″) bright painting called Lime Popsicle by an unknown Los Angeles advertising executive cum fine art painter named Frank Cheatham. We traded Rasputin, gave Silvan $1000 more, and took Lime Popsicle home to live with us.

Lime Popsicle

Since 1973 Lime Popsicle has lived in Mill Valley, Sun Valley, Berlin, Salt Lake City, and Seattle. When we divorced in 1995 Abby and I divided the art between us and Lime Popsicle came with me. I have lived happily with this painting for more than 41 years and never tired of it. The best advice anyone ever gave me about buying art was banish any thought of resale value. The important thing to think about is can I live with it? Rasputin was too dark in subject matter and too difficult to light properly to see the detail. It was probably a more important piece of art, but Lime Popsicle is a happier one to live with.

I still buy art even though the walls of our condo are full. It’s not a problem if we’re willing to move things around – and we are. Four years ago we bought a very large mixed medium painting in Vietnam and this spring M bought a painting at a gallery opening in Germany. That exhibit, in Pirmasens, featured young female artists from China. It was organized by a friend of ours who has been a lifelong supporter of art and those who make it.

The Waiting

This is our new piece. It’s called The Waiting – an ink painting, on silk by Qin Xiujuan from Qiqihar in the far northeast of China. The artist studied in the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts and was first noticed by our friend in 2006. He has been supporting her and buying her work since 2006 in order to keep her from being exploited by unscrupulous dealers who see profit in taking advantage of talented young artists.

It’s fun to revisit the history of our artwork. Maybe I’ll do more of that in the future. Each piece has a story and retelling the story is a way to look at it again with fresh eyes.

More tomorrow…

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