Favorite Things

Preparing for art festivals at the Wise household is not all fun and games. Besides the trials of putting together a large, unwieldy tent that makes assembling Ikea furniture seem like a child’s Lego project, there are also [genteel pause] discussions surrounding certain weaknesses of character that inevitably emerge: Fred’s complete inability to fold anything and especially swaths of tent, his failure to stop me from losing my keys, and, most crucially, his unwillingness to let me control every aspect of the event.

A few days before the recent Sandy Springs festival, for instance, I strongly suggested—he might say “ordered,” but he exaggerates—that he create some nice watercolors of musicians, which tend to sell well. Maybe some café and bar scenes too. Maybe some images of people reading. (I thought about cats, but decided that would be going too far.)

“Sure,” he said. “You know those are some of my favorite subjects.”

I spent the entire day shuttling between art supply stores, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. When I drooped in the door, Fred was taking a nap. Watercolors were strewn over the table. I took a peek.

He’d drawn skeletons and nude figures. Two of his favorite subjects.

He awoke with a snort. “Hi honey!” he called out. “How was your day?”

I glared, pointing at the table. “What are these?” I fumed. “I thought you were going to draw musicians! How long have you been asleep? What have you been doing all day?”

He was defensive. “I was tired! I was falling asleep at the table. And these were me warming up. They’re what I was feeling this afternoon.”

I continued to fume, quietly.

“I’m fast, but I can’t always turn it off and on like a spigot,” he added, meekly.

I took a breath. “I understand,” I lied. “But it’s just that I don’t think anyone is going to buy the skeletons.”

“All right then! I’ll draw some cellists! And I LIKE the skeletons!”

Eventually relations were restored, new watercolors – including a few skulls and nudes – were priced and packaged, and Saturday found us in our booth at the Sandy Springs Artsapaloosa.

Early in the afternoon, a red-haired woman, accompanied by three children and a dark-haired friend, stopped in front of our booth and stared. “I love this!” she said.

She paused. She turned her head to one side as she stared at the booth, then turned to Fred. “Did you used to show at a gallery in Porterdale?”

Fred looked puzzled, then his face cleared. “Yes!” he said. “Why?”

“I bought a couple of paintings there. A woman sitting down, pointing at her chest?”

“The Lucretia?” Fred and I nearly squealed, speaking almost simultaneously. The Lucretia was a large painting he’d sold several years ago, one of our favorites. But the gallery owner had never told us who had bought it, and we had always wondered who it could have been.

“I thought I recognized your stuff!” She turned to her friend. “This is the artist who painted those pieces in my office! I bought several of his things from that gallery. I’ve never known how to find him, and now he’s here!”

For several minutes we all compared notes, expressing our mutual astonishment at finally discovering each other. Then she began looking through the watercolors.

She pulled out one of the skulls. “Look!” she said to her friend, then turned back to us. “Skeletons and nudes – two of my favorite things! I’m going to get this one. Do you have any more?”

I sighed. I could not look at Fred. I forced a weak smile.

“Oh, we have plenty.”