“La Bete et moi/deambulent dans les jardins/et marchent lentement sur les chemins de foret./ Il blanchi autour du museau/et j’ai des peignes d’argentes/assortis a mes cheveaux./ Je n’ai aucun regret/…..aucun……”
“Belle et Bete: une Anniversaire”—Jane Yolen, 1989
Interestingly enough, it’s been exactly ten years since John Bloedorn of Craven-Allen first introduced himself to me at a barbecue and asked if I’d like to have a show at his gallery. At the time, that seemed an odd request, since I was just another of this town’s haphazard gradstoodint-waiters-with-an-unfinished-dissertation-on-Thomas-Hardy. I did, also, write and draw the ads for an Indian restaurant in exchange for free food….but even that wouldn’t have seemed any reason to be considered an “artist”.
In any case, I fetched up enough pictures to have my first show in 1998 (“The Great Southern Rag & Bone Shop Show”), and have had plenty since.
In recent years, my job (a phrase I still prefer to “my work”) is certainly not anything I would have anticipated, in that almost all of it is done/sold elsewhere…. Germans buy up my French landscapes, and the French (not surprisingly, given their penchant for anything “Southern”) gobble up what I still refer to as “the Southern Rag & Bone Shop stuff”. Similarly, Howard Stern’s wife, of all unlikely fans, is among the Southampton types who just can’t get enough pictures of horses drawn by me and sold in Charleston.
All in all? Anyone would have to admit that mine’s an unlikely career trajectory (particularly given that my East Tennessee born&bred tail is not in the least French, German, Charlestonian, or, for that matter, married to Howard Stern).
For all the traveling, though (and an issue I considered when Craven Allen invited me to have this show) not much has changed in ten years. The locales have merely expanded. I’m still rather pathologically averse to cities (among all the places I’ve lived, Durham is the only one that could be called a city, and I’ve spent exactly one night in “our” Paris apartment), and I still prefer to spend my days in the country (either up in Virginia or in Perigord) messing around with and fussing over various dogs, old ladies, and old houses. Nowadays, those happen, for some quite specific reasons, to often be French dogs and old French ladies. Predictably enough, I enjoy rooting around old Cistercian monasteries (which are usually and gratifyingly off the paved-track), and My Idea of Hell is standing around in Notre Dame with 750 giddy Japanese tourists. Similarly, I’d rather spend my time at Welbourne (a wildly creaky old estate and house up in Loudon County) than at Monticello or the snooty-boots Farmington Club.
As for the title of the show? Quite simply, it’s regularly occurred to me, particularly over the past 3 years, that my life and my “work” have finally become what they probably will remain for a very, very long time. As I recently told my father, “If this is my mid-life identity-crisis, then I hope it goes on until I’m at least 80”.
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