Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In Remembrance of Artist Paul Sheldon

It was with great sadness that I was told a few days ago of the passing of the artist Paul Sheldon.  Mesia Hachadorian, the director of Cobalt Gallery, called me this past Friday and informed me that Paul had died very suddenly the previous Wednesday.  We both shared the shock and sadness of the moment - that horrible and huge feeling you get when your mind has to try to process your world going forward - without one of your friends in it.

I thought back and I could not remember specifically when I had met Paul.  I ran into him coming and going from the Max Gallery when he and I were both represented there.  I got to know him a bit better when he came on board at another gallery where I also showed work, Cobalt Fine Arts in Tubac.  Paul and Cobalt Gallery did very well together, and it was there that I ran into him regularly, during demonstrations and other occasions.  At some point I began to kid him by saying "Well Paul, we should at least be friends because when we both kick over they'll say that we were two of the best Arizona colorist painters!"  It was all a joke at the time - I could not have imagined that I would now be writing a blog and he would no longer be with us.

As artists Paul and I shared one thing that was unmistakable - a great love of color and a curiosity to see what extreme color statements could do in the confines of a painting.  I don't know if Paul would have identified with Fauvists, as I have, because I never actually heard him talk of painting movements or where he thought he fell in the greater scheme of things.  I actually almost appreciated that because many of us who have found our style that we love and are known for - many of us don't spend that much effort worrying about how we will be remembered on exactly where we fit.  We just do our work and go at it with the sense that it doesn't require that much talking about.  Paul seemed very much that way.  He just painted and didn't expound.  Sure he did demonstrations of his work, as we all do - but he was never preachy or self-consumed.  It was more like a sort of 'have a look if you want' mentality that I very much respect.

I last saw Paul a few months ago when we got together to play music.  He played the hammer dulcimer.  He dropped by our house, set up his instrument in our son's play area and he and I ran thought a series of tunes matching my 12 string guitar to his dulcimer.  After a lot of fooling around we decided that "Tequila Sunrise" by the Eagles and "Too Sober to Sleep" by Justin Rutledge were the best songs for the two instruments, and we practiced them a few times.  Paul had a great natural ear for music.

At about that moment I was on my way to look for a gallery in Santa Fe around that time, and we talked a few times on the phone quite extensively about ideas for showing work - and he and I even discussed a possible trip through Colorado to look for galleries.  Paul had just gotten himself a fine new truck and was eager to make a big trip of it.  It stands in my mind now that we all have that in our lives.  Those plans we want to get to but never come to fruition.  The lesson - if you have a mind to do something, do it before anything else gets in the way.  You may not have tomorrow to take a road trip with a friend and see the mountains of Colorado.

There is one great consolation when we think about the life of an artist who has left us - the work.  The work will remain as long as people care to preserve it.  So many lives come and go on this earth, people spend their time and they are gone with little more evidence than the gravestone.  Artists have a buffer against their mortality in their work; and so we can look again, maybe even with new eyes, and be thankful for the beautiful colors and glowing images that an artist leaves us.  He put himself into those works, so he will, by default, remain with us.

Paul, if I could speak to you I would say thank you for your friendship and thank you for the work that you have left us to enjoy for many years to come.  I was very glad to know you - and if it happens that there is something on the other side for us when this life is over, I hope it's full of neon-cowboys, Arizona sunsets, and old Western Movies.

Thank you Paul.