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.)