The picnic, by James Tissot, image from artrenewal.com
I taught a workshop today. From the time I rolled out this morning till I walked back in the door was twelve hours, most of it on my feet and thinking and talking. I am ruined. So tonight's post is mainly to avoid missing a day. Tonight I am going to tell you the story of the absolute worst visitor I ever had in my gallery . I did about fifteen years of retail galleries in Rockport, Massachusetts over the years, and in several different locations around the town . I must have seen hundreds of thousands of visitors. Most were the way people are, that is they walked in, looked at my paintings and then went on their way to the next store. Some were very friendly, a few were rude, and an even smaller number were horrid. But there was one visitor who eclipsed them all as the most singularly dreadful visitor I ever had. She was so nasty that she was in a league of her own, no one else has ever approached her in terms of venom or malice.
There was a guy who knelt to pet my old hound Trey, who lay in the middle of the gallery floor and greeted everyone with his tail, thumping it on the floor if they payed him any attention at all. He was a remarkable animal, a giant golden retriever, red, the color of an Irish setter and he weighed 130 pounds. This guy remarks as he pets Trey, I like your dog a whole lot more than I like your art man......
This woman was nastier than the pug faced and bald headed skeptic who gestured at one of my 8 by 10's with a very cheap cigar and dismissively asked if I would take ten dollars for it.
There was the woman who innocently tried to give me twenty five dollars for a twenty five hundred dollar painting. She knew a good deal when she saw one. Her husband just shook his head in disbelief. I tried not to be insulted, she just didn't know what paintings cost, and misread the tag.. No malice there.
But all of these were outdone by one dumpy and magnificently malevolent English woman who walked into my gallery one afternoon wearing all black clothes and dark sunglasses. As she walked around my gallery she looked at my paintings and said "I like art that is spiritual. My art is spiritual. This art is not!
I was at a loss for words, that doesn't happen too often to me. But THAT didn't earn her the title of nastiest. She left the gallery and I was more amazed than wounded that someone could be so unpleasant.
I was still smoking cigarettes in those days, and an hour or so later I was out on the sidewalk in front of my gallery under my big sign that said Stapleton Kearns Gallery, and she came walking around the corner towards me.
When she drew even with me she paused for a second, looked up at the sign and in a very English accent said" Stapleton Kearns, now there's a name that won't go down in art history, if you don't mind me saying" and then she walked on.
I will never know who she was and I remember thinking at the time that this woman was trying to injure me, an absolute stranger to her, for no reason other than I was an artist with a gallery and she probably resented that. She had what I came to to call artist two syndrome. I will tell you about that tomorrow night.