Thursday, September 8, 2016

     About seven or eight years ago, Mr. Wonderful and I accidentally stumbled on an artist’s work we greatly admired. It was hanging in a gallery in St. Augustine, Florida, where we used to stay the night on our way to southern Florida on vacation. The artist had a unique perspective whereby he would show you a scene through a window or a door, and there was usually an ocean in the background. The colors were stunning, and the perspective different than we had ever seen. We agreed that if we had had a place for one of his large canvases, we would find a way to buy one. As it was, we had no wall space, so the subject was closed. I did keep his information on file, and I revisited it every year or two drooling over his beautiful work.

     Fast forward to the present. We are looking for a piece to go over our couch. Now understand that I used to have a business representing 20 artists, and I educated people about their work. The one rule of thumb is you never buy a piece of art to match your decor. You buy it because you like it and it has value based on the expertise of the artist. A big HOWever, we need a large piece that is dramatic and that fits the space we need to fill. The problem: neither of us could remember the artist’s name, and we weren’t even sure where we first saw his work.

     Saved by the Google bar, I entered “artist who paints pictures where you can see the ocean through a window.” What? Somehow, I managed to recall the St. Augustine connection, so I began researching galleries there. I found an artist who did similar kinds of work, but not the guy we were seeking. 

     Three weeks ago, on a casual stroll around the beach community we frequent on Sunday mornings, we entered a local gallery. Yes, you guessed it: there was the artist’s work on display. His name is Steve Harlan, and he’s an incredible talent. We spoke with the salesman who, of course, saw the gleam in my eye and immediately set out to make it impossible for us to walk out of there without a credit card slip in his fist. We resisted, but we both knew we were hooked.

     In the meantime, we came up with an alternative solution to the over-the-couch issue. We have a beautiful tapestry that would work, even though it is not dramatic. It is, however, a piece we own, so there would be no out-of-pocket expense. “What fun is this though?” I thought. We decided that the Harlan was off the table, and we moved on with decorating our new home.

     Then a few days ago, Mr. Wonderful said, “You know, I really don’t know if I like putting the tapestry over the couch. I don’t think it has any impact, and I still like the Harlan.” “Oh no,” I responded. “I totally agree, but I knew we shouldn’t consider this expense.” We both knew what this meant:  another trip to the gallery on Sunday morning. I recalled that the salesman said that the artist would be in town in September, and if we bought his work, we could meet him, and he would sign a complimentary copy of his book with all his work pictured.
      We entered the gallery to find a display of Harlan’s work, and a sign inviting people to his two-day exhibition. “Oh no,” I thought. “We’re cooked.” An hour later, I was standing next to him, the artist, his arm around me posing for a photo. I recognized the “It’s only money” expression on Mr. Wonderful’s face. (Easy for him to say, I’m paying for it.). The ironic thing about this story and the reason for telling it is that this artist had been living 30 minutes from us in North Carolina all these years, and we didn’t know it! Quelle coincidence!