Being the daughter of a prolific and wildly talented painter has been, and continues to be, an honor. Dad left hundreds of works in oil, encaustic, pastel, watercolor and pen & ink (not counting the dozens of sketchbooks), and it is my job to figure out what to do with them. As I've said before, each of those paintings represents his voice and soul and I've been protective of them all of my life.
Dad was an artist and had his own sense of organization, which honestly I'm still trying to figure out. In addition to one of the bedrooms in his house being stuffed floor to ceiling with paintings, they adorned every square inch of wall space AND a giant outbuilding in the backyard.
In his final days, I tapped every connection I had to contact Ghislain d'Humieres, the former Director of the Fred Jones Museum of Art. I asked Ghislain and Assistant Director Gail Kana Anderson to come meet Dad and to see all of the work in situ. It's rare to be able to do this, as so often when we see works of an artist, he or she is already in happy mountain, and the collection is already tagged and organized. Seeing how an artist actually lived is a pretty cool thing.
When Dad died, I had my hands and heart full of The Things You Do When Someone Dies. Though I knew it had to be dealt with, I couldn't fathom how to tackle the collection on top of everything else. Luckily, Dad had a lot of truly extraordinary friends, and I had my Amazing Michael and Dear Alissa. Here's what happened.
Julie D., one of Dad's friends, also happens to be a professional registrar. She and Michael worked together to determine storage solutions and what archival materials were needed to preserve the piece. Julie then went to work developing a complex system to document the works, while her husband, Farrel, who happens to be a database engineer (and a fabulous musician), went to work designing a database to store and organize the information.
Michael researched climate-controlled storage spaces large enough for the collection, then rented one (I thank the Universe nearly every day that we passed over the one in Moore.) He bought and installed shelving that would house everything. Dear Alissa, an old friend I love fiercely, put out the call to a bunch of her students at OU, who came for several days to organize and prepare the paintings for transport. Michael then rented a giant truck which, alongside Dad's F150, was filled with paintings. and Michael, the students and I hauled every piece to storage.
I bought more pieces of cardboard than I ever thought possible, and began work on unwrapping the paintings and arranging them with cardboard in between so that they wouldn't be damaged banging up against each other.
Julie organized a team of Dad's traveling buddies, two of which are professional photographers, all the salt of the earth. Mark, Becky, Cathy, Susan, Keith and Julie worked their asses off in the heat each day for several weeks to sort, photograph, measure, describe and document first few hundred paintings on canvas and board. (Oils on paper and pen & ink coming in the Fall/Winter.)
Each painting has a paper record noting its location in storage, size, description, materials, condition, title if known, provenance if known (they'd holler at me while I worked to ask about stuff).
From here, I'm not sure what will happen, other than continuing work on the cataloguing and on fattening the database with historical sales and other records.
My goal is to curate several small collections of like pieces for traveling exhibits to Europe and the Southwest, the Big Goal being to find a very lucky museum to host a retrospective. I'm not in a hurry to sell off the collection - but each of these works needs an audience, whether they be buyers or the general public.
As we move forward, I hope each of you will find something you like about this blog or Dad's work to pass on to your friends and contacts. The more we can get his name and his life's work out into the world, the more settled my soul will become.
In the meantime, through the grief, I realize how extremely fortunate I am to be surrounded by such great friends. Dad was fond of saying "to have a friend, you have to be a friend..." I hope some day to be able to come close to giving back what I've received.
More soon. Actually leaving the house to wander around The Latin Quarter.