“Life is a blank canvas,
and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”
― Danny Kaye
“The week I started this job, I received a letter from your father,” Anne said. She told her story as we walked through the gallery together.
“I was a student of his many years ago, and he helped me through some difficult times. Without your dad’s help, I honestly don’t know that I’d be here today. I dreaded going home at the end of each school day, and your dad helped me make the most of a horrid situation.
“So, he wrote and said he wanted to show me one of your pieces. As an assistant curator, I hear that a lot. Every day. Multiple times. We have a system in place for reviewing unsolicited works. Every quarter we peruse the emails and reply with a form letter thanking people for their submissions. It’s part of the job. I wrote back and asked if he could take a picture of the piece and email it. I wanted to be respectful and turn him down as gently as possible. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings at all. And then I saw the painting.”
We turned the corner.
I was staring at my sunflower picture.
“Over the course of this last year, I have visited with your dad quite a bit. He told me about the scavenger hunt he created for you and had no idea if you would actually follow through or how long it would take you to complete it. He sent me lists of multiple contingency plans of how and when I should contact you.
“Working in an art museum isn’t easy. There are times we have to passionately defend artists, trying to convince the board of directors why an artist’s piece is worth adding to our collection.
“When your story appeared on the national news, the convincing part became quite simple. On behalf of the museum, we would like to ask you to create a collection based on the places you’ve traveled. We had an anonymous and generous patron,” she cleared her throat, “make a substantial donation which should be enough to cover your living expenses while you create the pieces. We’d like to feature them next summer in a show called ‘The Adventure of America.’”
I created forty-two pieces of various sizes based on photos I had taken on each of the trips.
I painted an extreme, up-close version of the Green Monster, as I was seated on the warning track in the tour and took a picture toward the sky, including the Morse code lines.
I painted Fagan protecting me from the T-Rex as well as running all over Shoshone Falls.
I painted Sloth in his Superman t-shirt, the cannonballer at Blue Hole, and a flooded Disney World.
I painted a collage of the Atticus Finch monument and the Shubert Theatre.
I painted blue glaciers and midnight suns and a still life of a Dr Pepper can and an arrowhead.
I invited Grandma Pepper, Nick, Randall, and Lisa as my special guests for the first day of the exhibition, and I sent personal invitations to all of my new friends, hoping that they would find their way to Missouri.
I wore a new knee-length blue dress with my above-the-calf but not matching lucky socks from Boston to the opening.
I’m weird like that.