Over three years ago, not long after my father's death in 2011, I drove with a good friend (for moral support, which, as it turns out, I would find myself in dire need of) to the bucolic, rural community college where my dad had taken art classes, dozens of them, in the fifteen years since his retirement to Sonoma County. My mission was fairly straight-forward, or so I thought. I was seeking anyone who might have known my father, sat beside him in classes, taught those classes, posed for students in those classes, even--it seemed well within the realm of reason to me--admired his work. I was in the early stages of developing what would become my art book/memoir about him and was on a mission to gather whatever I could of his life, particularly his life in art.
I never anticipated the vehement reaction of the gallery Directress. She seemed affronted, taken aback by my every word and gesture. My request to post the silly fliers in the art department office, in the hopes that someone might recognize Dad, prompted her to pull herself up very upright and say something to the effect of, "I've already asked and no one remembers your father. No-one." And then, when I pressed the issue, asking to "maybe, please, just tack up one flier, perhaps near the professors' mail boxes," she said there was no point in doing that, and added, "I am the department," to end the conversation once and for all.
I said nothing, only repeated the phrase over and over in my head as I left the gallery, determined not to forget it.
One of my hopes had been that through a gallery show on campus, some of the subjects he had painted during his years there would see their images and be pleased, touched perhaps. Some were models, but others might have been friends and colleagues at the school. He spoke of one gentlemen he had painted twice, a chemistry professor on campus, I think he said, a man he liked and admired. Dad said they'd talked of the war--which would have been World War II. This man had been a decorated pilot. Something like that. The conversation is now hazy. I wish I'd taken notes. But that would have been weird. In any case, like my father, I imagine this man is now deceased. I imagine too that his family might want to see these portraits.
I have no proof, but I believe this to be true.
The paintings in this post are from the years my father took classes at Santa Rosa Junior College.
My characterization of this encounter reflects my own recollections of events. I imagine, no, I expect, others would recall the meeting differently, if at all.