I was at Art Fair in Ann Arbor recently. This annual festival is famous for bringing hundreds of artists into town, blocking off whole sections of downtown streets for their booths. The extrovert in me loves the crowds of people, and the artist in me loves the beauty. While wandering through the hot streets of the fair, I glanced at the paintings on the outside wall of one of the booths–and knew immediately that it was the work of my friend Annette.
Annette and I were neighbors and friends for 10 years when I lived in Ohio. Our kids grew up together. Her style of painting is instantly recognizable, and my ex-wife and I had purchased two of her pieces years ago–she still has them in her house. I remember when Annette decided to take her art on the road–she spent all winter creating new pieces, and all summer loading her canvasses in a UHaul and going to different art shows across the midwest.The first year she did this, she was trying out which shows worked well enough for her to be worth returning to. All of this comes to me in a flash of memory and recognition before I turn the corner to see Annette standing there amongst her work.
We embrace with delighted smiles. “I knew this was you from the moment I saw the work,” I say, “This is new stuff?”
“Of course,” she says, “I am constantly working.” Annette is French and her English has a strong accent from her native tongue.
We have a ton to catch up on–our kids, the news in the neighborhood, what I have been doing since moving away. In between the pieces of our conversation a potential customer appears. I try to make room for him to admire Annette’s work, to inquire about prices, to ask her opinion and mine about what color would work in his new bathroom. I tell him who I am–there is a giddy recklessness to the moment: he may or may not be about to spend $2,600 on a painting; he may or may not care (or believe) that Annette is French, that I am a minister, that we were neighbors in Oberlin, Ohio. “I heard about that place,” the would-be customer says, “that store owner sued that liberal college for saying he was racist. I hope all those liberals fry.” He asks us what we think about that story from the news. “I don’t get political,” Annette says wisely. “I’m a painter, I don’t take sides on things like that.” I follow my friend’s lead and decide not to weigh in with my liberal opinions. While the customer is still looking at paintings, we are catching up fast. The customer asks about two paintings that he likes, but Annette suggests a third one, smaller, with different colors. She has a disarming frankness that comes from who she is and from spending endless hours in a little booth with her life’s work displayed, trying to make a living as an artist.
I decide it’s time to move on. The customer is still “thinking about it.” Annette is staying present to the stream of Art Fair goers walking slowly by in the July heat. I got what I came for in beauty, in human interaction–and unexpectedly in the connection with an old friend.
Divine spirit, remind us that the divine dwells in each of us as the creative impulse, the artist within.
May art and beauty flourish.
May all encounters between humans be blessed. May the meeting of old friends be blessed. May the meeting of strangers be blessed. May the transaction of business be blessed, every moment that we encounter one another a sacred moment.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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