scapes (land, sea, goat)

“The Golden Apples of the Hesperides” oil on canvas and wood with bronze and painted foam, 33″ x 21″ x 6″,  by Christopher Pelley, 1987-88

A group of us (all art dealers) were wandering the streets of Scottsdale, Arizona one spring in the late afternoon soon after a meeting we were attending adjourned for the day & like busmen (a holiday) fell into a local gallery (just one in a series of galleries that we visited that afternoon) and flustered the consultant (as we do) by heading in several different directions & all talking amongst ourselves, commenting, dissecting, critiquing, admiring, admonishing, giggling & punning; each of us trying to top another with a better story, better told (using language to its full potential as one will when in a group of purveyors of non-essential goods/esoterica/the intangible air of nothing & everything.)

This gallery (name forgotten–out of business) hosting a show of Christopher Pelley (see above & link on the right) paintings & mixed media work + drawings & works on paper.   Large canvases (4′ x 5′ & larger) of these brilliant southwestern landscapes in artist-constructed frames, some with shovels & rakes/tree branches/detritus utilized as baroque filigree.  Smitten, slapped hard by his humor, knowledge, references, draftsmanship, technical prowess.

One associate bought a drawing on the spot (three or four of us acting as his consultant, selling him.)  Had I had the wherewithal I would have bought a painting myself, I was so taken by Pelley’s virtuosity & storytelling mastery–it was a sharp pain in my gut (a good one.)  Instead I put a deposit down on a large drawing of a chair (you should have seen it!) & went home with a polaroid of it for my partner’s approval.

He hated it.   Hated may be too strong of a word, but he was certainly not as overwhelmed as I had been by the work.  I whined, wheedled, cajoled, extolled, pulled out the stops, described in great detail, gestured grandly & kissed & begged, all to no avail.  He still didn’t like it.

In the meantime, biographical information about the artist retrieved in Scottsdale, mentioned that he was also shown in a gallery in Chicago (where we lived at the time.)  I called, “yes we have one painting & a couple of drawings,” they said when I inquired about Pelley’s work.

The next thing I know I’m standing in this River North gallery (another name I’d have to look up, I’m sure I still have it somewhere) & the owner has pulled the painting “The Golden Apples of the Hesperides” (above) out of their storage area & set it up on a low set of print drawers (I still have, stored wherever their name is hidden, a polaroid she took of it.)  I had to have it.

My partner challenged me (he loved the painting) by saying, “it’s a lot of money, if you have a $50,000.00 weekend this week, you can buy it on Monday.”

“Okay,” I replied, contemplating how in the hell I was going to do that, I mean, all things considered, my little gallery didn’t often have $50K weekends, but it seemed a reasonable request & goddamn it, sensible to boot (which is why I love him.)

Saturday came & went, we sold some art, but hardly anything approaching the $$$s I needed to secure my trophy painting.   Sunday, a short day (noon to 5) & suddenly a man walks into the gallery mid-afternoon  & two hours later walks out having left a check for $50K  for several works of art.  May I just say I was dancing in the street.

Monday, I’m at X gallery writing a check for Pelley’s “The Golden Apples of the Hesperides” (if you want to know the mythology behind the title, click here.)

I realize it may seem crass to crow about selling & buying art, but you should know, that in the intervening 22 years that we’ve owned this painting, it is still as potent & beautiful & intriguing & alive as if it were the first day I set eyes on it.   A day does not go by without me pausing before it to admire his use of color, his brushstrokes, the beauty of it’s simplicity & complexity; those contrasts in color & form, its verisimilitude.  The dreamy landscape & the conceit of the window framing it with the ‘apples’ on the sill, begging Heracles to steal them (warm pies begging to be stolen,)  mythology & reality conflated.  It opens my imagination to many possibilities, all of them valid & true (for me.)

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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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