Four and a half years ago I was beginning to develop my collage painting process. Newly retired, I was eager to proceed but not too sure which direction to go. Being an educator, I thought a class might be the right place to start. I signed up to take a class with Greg Storer, an artist I have admired for many years and a colleague of my husband, Mark. (not to mention a former Buckeye who played for non other than Woody Hayes) After working for a few months with Greg he decided to open a studio in Northside and sponsored an exhibit of student work. I elected to show a piece that I had just completed- not something from class. Little did I know at the time, it was a decision that would change everything. On the way to the show I told Mark that I was tired of beating my head into the wall and maybe I should just “get a job in a bank”, and give up this crazy and difficult process. During the show Greg came over and told me someone wanted to meet me. He said she was an important person in the art world of Cincinnati and I should feel honored that she wanted to meet me. The lady was Pam Kirchner. She was the painting curator at the Cincinnati Art Galleries. She told me that night that she really liked my new process and that “I was on to something”. She offered to mentor me and invited me to visit the gallery as soon as I could. I took her up on her most generous offer and visited her many times for critiques. Panera salads and Diet Sprites were my only repayment of this precious time. One day I asked Pam if she thought I would ever show at the Cincinnati Art Galleries. She thoughtfully replied, “You aren’t ready… give it about 5 years.”
Little did I know at the time, our visits would soon end. Sadly, Pam died. I was not family, or one of her closest friends-I was just a blip on her radar. She did make me feel important and special when we talked. Her death was a huge loss to me as well as the art world of Cincinnati. I still wonder if I adequately expressed my gratitude to her for saving me from a retirement of cashing people’s checks and boredom. Her words are in my sketchbooks as well as in my heart.
Yesterday I received a phone call from PJ Grimm, assistant to my friend and mentor Daniel Brown. (I would not have met Daniel if not for Pam inspiring me to enter that first piece in a juried exhibit that was judged by Daniel) PJ called at Daniel’s request to invite me to participate in a show at the Cincinnati Art Galleries in March. It is a group show of contemporary still life paintings. Imagine my reaction- grateful to Daniel for including me, and also emotional because by the time of the show- Pam’s prediction would come true. FIVE YEARS. Five years of hard work, ups and downs, growth and confidence building. Pam’s words echo in my head. When I am really stuck- What would Pam say? Wow. I am humbled by the thought that perhaps she knows and is proud too.
This is the piece that started it all. “Hydrangeas”, which is always included on my website as a tribute to Pam. Maybe its owner will let us borrow it for the exhibit.