I am an artist and I’ve been working…
There is way too much importance placed on the end of one year and the beginning of the next. The unnatural and universally embraced pressure to wrap things up nice and tidy by the end of the year is unrealistic because life is messier than my dog after the rain and nearly as stinky. Even New Year’s Eve celebrations with well-intended opportunities to drink, dance and reminisce usually wind up with some sort of Mariah Carey mishap or at least a vaguely guilty conscience and upset stomach.
New Year’s resolutions are even worse. Who says we have to work less, lose weight, exercise more, learn a new skill and travel to Thailand? OK, those might be my own goals, but they’re still highly unrealistic and contribute to unnecessary anxiety just because it’s time to flip the page on a shiny new calendar. Why not take a breath and put life on pause for a moment and consider with gratitude a few things that kept us going for another year?
Since I live and breathe in the art world, I find that I cannot adequately express my gratitude to those who made life more colorful in 2017. I discovered extraordinarily talented artists hiding in plain sight within my own ZIP code. By getting to know them personally, I was able to elucidate a better understanding of their skills and value. Collaborating with visiting artists also pushed me outside of my comfort zone and into a new art vocabulary, although with occasional trepidations.
Getting to know an artist seems so easy. When examining the created works, it seems logical that the individual responsible would be clearly represented by we observe. Well, that might be true for bricklayers and landscapers (no offense to either, but I had to grab a stereotype to make a point), but for visual artists, it’s an elusive quest. An artist’s life is cerebral, often reflecting a duality in private speculation and public response. Some artists make a great show of projecting themselves into their works; others hide anonymously behind masterful strokes and delicate constructs, never revealing their intention or personal investment.
The guy who makes signs
When I first met Geary Wootten, it was on an errand to meet “the guy who makes signs.” After agreeing to meet at his shop, I went up the flight of stairs to his door and stopped in my tracks. Geary was not simply a sign maker. His studio was littered with musical instruments, and the walls were hung with astounding photorealistic oils of the California coast. Needless to say, I found myself even less articulate than usual; OK, I was dumbfounded. This quiet, unassuming and friendly man had more layers than a buttery baklava. He smiled, probably knowing that most people had a similar reaction to his paintings. Then we talked art. And music. And, eventually, signs. We became friends.
Geary and I collaborated on a few projects and shared our private observations on art in general. Geary’s subtly saturated images showed how clearly he attended to details with great love and determination. In his case, his artwork was a suitable reflection on Geary as a person because one felt his unique combination of pride and humility in each completed piece. His passion nearly exceeded his massive skills.
One day a few months ago, Geary was overtaken by an unexpected health crisis and died. His vigorous and rich life ended so quickly it didn’t seem that he was actually gone. When I went back to his studio, I felt his spirit there. It was easy to spot because it surrounded his bucolic landscapes with the glow of life and joy. Wherever his paintings are now, I know that a bit of Geary lives on with them because, in his case, he was well represented by the products of his hands that showed the kind heart, gentle touch and steadfast determination that made him a good man to know.
For the new year I have just one wish. That wish is that we all take the time to get to know and understand someone, uncovering the rich layers of stories and skills they hold and see the light that makes them shine. That is one resolution that I think is not unreasonable.
Patrick Dennis’ column appears the second Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian. Find him online at www.patrickgallery.com.
Ongoing and upcoming
“Color! Bright, Bold, Soft or Subdued” — Jan. 4-21. Cambria Center for the Arts, 1350 Main St., Cambria. Details: 805-927-8190, www.cambriacenterforthearts.org.
“For the Birds” — Jan. 9-19. An all-media exhibition timed with the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. Art Center Morro Bay, 835 Main St., Morro Bay. Details: 805-772-2504, www.artcentermorrobay.org.
16th Annual Cambria Art & Wine Festival — Jan. 26-28. Multiple venues. Details: www.cambriaartwine.org.
“Dimensions 2018” — Jan. 5-Feb. 18. San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, 1010 Broad St., San Luis Obispo. Details: 805-543-8562, www.sloma.org.