In the last week each day I experienced a memorable event involving youth. First, a woman came in with her little boy who was bursting with happy liveliness. He wore big glasses that seemed might fall from his face at any moment. As he bopped around the room from painting to painting she explained that he was artistically precocious and the family came to Santa Fe from Illinois partly because of all the art to be seen. As I stood next to her she pulled out her smartphone and scrolled through images, finding a photo of one of her son's drawings. It was remarkable for it's detail of an old fort on a hill, with a perfectly drawn American flag on a tall pole, fluttering in a breeze. I was impressed. With pride she said, "That's amazing for a five year old! I mean, the other kids are making stick figures!" By now the boy was next to us and he quickly corrected his mother, "I am six years old!" She smiled, "You were five when you made this." The boy went to the couch and sat down, rocking as he looked around, then jumping up again. I handed him a folding glossy card with images of my paintings. They thanked me and walked away. A few minutes later, the lad ran back to me holding the card. "Mr. Boone, you are the best artist!" Now it was I saying thank you . . .
The next day, a man came in with a boy about the same age as the first, and gently explained that he wanted his son to be able to see an artist working. This lad was much quieter, but very observant. They only stayed a few minutes. The father gratefully thanked me for being open to their intrusion, and they left, the boy wide-eyed and not saying a word.
Then came a father with his teen-aged daughter. He explained that his daughter was interested in art. He observed that my paintings were thick with paint and wondered how I made them. As they stood next to me, I opened my palette box and used my palette knife to mix colors together. The girl stood watching, transfixed. I said, "Most artists use the palette knife to mix colors and get new tones or colors. Then they put it aside to use brushes to apply paint in thin layers. I use the knife to paint." The little lesson lit them up and they walked out satisfied.
Several other stories unfolded. A young woman, 24 years old, came in while my assistant Therese was working. She loved a mixed-media piece called "Tango Passion". It is a rather large photograph of mine from from a tango club in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I printed on canvas and stretched it over stretcher bars. It depicts two dancers in intimate embrace on stage, smoke swirling around them in red lights. She felt it would be great in a home she was moving into soon. She takes tango lessons and explained she worked two jobs and might not be able to afford it. Then she left, promising to be back soon. She never arrived on the day she promised, and I thought it was a missed opportunity. The next day, Therese stopped in for a brief few minutes, and by coincidence at the same time, the young woman returned. She said she wanted to buy the art if she could make payments. I agreed. She said that her mother and grandmother were dancers.
Another day, two young women came in and I was immediately struck by their friendship and that one was white and the other very black. They looked around, obviously just for enjoyment, and one joked, asking did I ever "get stoned" and paint. I responded that I had not used drugs since I was about her age. "Spirit fills me up. I do not need to use anything to get high." She immediately was impressed with the answer and apologized, also saying that the colors and vibrancy might make people wonder what state of mind I had been in when they were created. Then she explained that the two of them were with a church mission that was getting young people off the streets and helping them straighten out. She pointed to a logo on the front of the tee shirts they were wearing. I reached behind my desk and gave them both a copy of my book, A Heart Traced In Sand, Reflections on a Daughter's Struggle for Life. "This is a book I wrote about my daughter who died of cancer when she was nineteen. I used many of her own diary writings." As we talked about tests and sufferings that we must face in life, the black girl looked in my eyes with a big tear falling down her cheek. "Why does life have to be so hard sometimes?" I assured her that though it is hard, there is something in us that can endure even the most severe trials. "God never abandons us. Tests come to make us stronger." When the girls left, I felt deeply connected and sensed them for a long time afterward. One of them marched by my window later, smiling and lifting my book to wave to me.
Lastly, three generations of a family came in as I was arranging prints in my flat files. The old man was struck by one piece in particular. It's a big reproduction of a photograph called Kashmiri Children. I explained that I was in a Himalayan village in Kashmir, India, making a landscape painting when many of the young people came around to watch me. I made a painting, but even better, took some remarkable photographs that afternoon, including the one he admired. He introduced himself and his daughter and mentioned they were in town for a family reunion. I showed him a large print of the picture on museum paper that he could buy. "I want to bring my wife back." He promised to come back that afternoon or the next morning.
They left and I did not see him again so thought it was only a fluke. The next afternoon, the old man's daughter came back. "Did my father return?" I said no. "I want to buy that print for him . . . for Father's Day". Then she looked around and said she hoped he would not walk in while she was with me. "We will keep it a surprise," I said. "If he comes back, I will say it sold." She bought the print and payed to have it shipped to her father's house. "You will be able to enjoy it when you go visit him," I said.
How appropriate the string of youth events includes the sale of an artwork featuring young people.