Dear Claribel Shumway Cone,
You are my California cousin artiste friend and confident, and I want to thank you for something you did for me a long time ago.
I was 26 years old, working for Jeffery Cohen at Sutton Place Gourmet in Washington, DC, and you were coming to town for a visit. You called me and suggested that I join you and your close friend for a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Apparently some of my relatives had donated art to the museum in 1948.
Boy, was I in for an eye opener! It turned out that my great aunts Etta and Claribel Cone had bequeathed over 3000 pieces of art, jewelry and fabrics to the BMA. They used to take steamers across the Atlantic to Paris to hang out with Matisse and Picasso, gallery owners, Gertrude and Leo Stein among others. They dropped the bomb on Modern Art in America. I was so impressed, because in my 26 years I never knew about this family history. Apparently I was too into sports and girls and such to pay attention to the arts. But this day Claribel took me to Baltimore changed everything, everything I wasn't even aware of at the time. At the moment I was in a hustle bustle job selling gourmet foods in a fast pace city. Later I would be in a small southern town taking pictures and trying to sell them. I was not yet free to just do my art. Who ever is? Picasso maybe...
Little did I know, I was to later become a collector of art and an artist as well. A few years prior to this awakening I learned how to develop images in the darkroom at UNC-Chapel Hill. I loved taking pictures and still do. Little by little I allowed myself to be freer with my arts. Because of my encounter with Jean Cocteau, via a gallery devoted to his works on the rue de Seine, I let myself begin learning to draw in my way. I figured he drew as he saw things, not as they were. Why couldn't I do that? I started trying by drawing Buddha's due to the simple lines of the faces.
My friends asked me when I would start painting these faces. I said "never. No way! I don't paint."
But after a Christmas in Greensboro and a void in Wilmington I had to do something, something to fill in the emptiness of time and boredom. It wasn't Paris! Paris is a place where you can be doing nothing and feel productive.
Well, I took brushes and pigments to canvases and voila! "Hey, I am an artist."
Selling is another story. I love stories.