I celebrated my 42nd Birthday yesterday, and nostalgia sets in as I remember milestones and memories.
About 16 years ago, I was working in a gallery as a salesperson. I had been working there for a couple of years, and I enjoyed being around all the art and artists. It was a wonderful full time job. I worked long hours and then stayed up late at night to paint.
I became aware of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and my desire to go was strong. I called my employer and requested time off so I could attend, but they said it wasn't possible. I turned in my two weeks notice and quit the job. I had a two weeks before the tulips would be in full bloom, so I spent all my time painting, anticipating what it might be like to be there. I bought a board that was 4 feet by 4 feet (the biggest painting I had ever attempted) and began painting feverishly. Working on it became more satisfying than eating or sleeping, I enveloped myself in it. I was giddy as I anticipated going to see the tulips. I tried to think of the largest gathering of tulips I had ever seen, and I decided it was either a flower bed in front of a bank, or a flower bed in the median of a busy street in New York City. I was so eager to experience the abundant expanses I'd see in Washington.
I was also aware that the Springville Museum of Art Annual Spring Salon was accepting entries at that same time, and I decided I'd try entering the large painting I was working on. I went on the last day, at the last hour, with my oversized, brand new, still very wet painting. I had stopped at Home Depot on the way, and asked a worker to cut me 4 pieces of wood in four foot lengths, I also bought some gorilla glue, wire and clamps, I fashioned a makeshift frame in the museum parking lot, then went inside to fill out the entry work and buy myself some drying time. As I filled out the papers, I became stumped, as I often am, on the line that asks for a title. I knew I had used multiple title combinations utilizing "red" and "tulips" and there wasn't much time left, so I decided to just name them "the tulips", but in Spanish, it sounded prettier, "Los Tulipanes".
When I got home from the museum, I got packed, and my mom, my sister and brother and I drove up to Washington. It was absolutely magnificent! I noticed that what I had imagined wasn't exactly what I saw, and I was grateful that I painted what I had before I came. I took in my experiences there, and they became part of me for my tomorrow. I'm grateful for the parts that come both from within and without.
When I arrived home, I was pleased to learn that my painting was accepted into the Museum show! It was my first time entering, and to be accepted was a great honor! There was a write up in the newspaper, and the museum director at the time, Vern, mentioned my painting, and he said, "Oh, what colors!"
I didn’t have a job anymore so I had the time to paint a lot, and think about what was next. I painted and frequently visited "Los Tulipanes" in the museum. I hadn't had much of a chance to study it, or even think or process the decisions I made in that painting. When I looked at it, I marveled at the reckless abandon that was present in the brushstrokes, and the way the process was unobscured and the big bold strokes, the scribbles in charcoal and crayon, unapologetic. I remembered the way I’d squirted out entire tubes of paint, and broke brushes as I painted so forcefully. And yet, in spite of it all, there it was, wild and free, hanging on the wall in the museum. It made me smile to think I had actually made it, and I couldn't wait to bring it home, to spend my days with it, to see it in all the different lights of days and nights.
When I went to pick it up, the director said he wanted to acquire the painting for the museum per ant collection. I was devastated. I wanted it for me, but he wanted it too. Over time, we came to an agreement, and the museum became its home. I had my first solo show in the museum a couple of years later, and “Los Tulipanes” was in it too. I borrowed it for a show I had at BYU, and it has been consistently satisfying to stand in front of that part of myself again. One day, I received a phone call from the museum asking if it would be acceptable if my painting appeared in the movie, "Charly" (and it did for a split second). In 2005, the museum called and said that the Governor of the state of Utah, John Huntsman Jr., wanted my painting to hang in the Utah State Capital, in the Governor's suite. It has hung ever since. I miss seeing it, but am often reminded of how many others get to see it and enjoy it. My consolation is that I have a digital file of the painting that prints beautifully. in any size, from tiny, to it’s full size full grown reality. A big print is displayed in the Hospital at the University of Utah, another in Primary Children's Hospital, and in many homes. I am so very grateful that this painting not only brings joy to me, but to many others.
I will always need “Los Tulipanes,” it is definitely one of my favorite paintings that I have ever painted.