Myths are powerful. For instance, it is a myth that Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime....probably perpetuated by starving artists consoling themselves when their work doesn't sell. Van Gogh did sell work during his lifetime. His brother Theo represented him in Paris and sold several of his paintings.
A few months ago we were in Gremillion Gallery, and for the first time saw works by a wonderful artist, Lionel Kalish. The gallery who-ha we were talking to at the time said that he was an 80 year old man who painted with a magnifying glass because his eyes were so bad. Last night, we went to an opening reception for Lionel Kalish at Gremillion Gallery. Delightfully I got to visit at length with him. He's not 80, but he is 75. He gave an extensive explanation of his style, technique, his feeling that his art should inspire an emotional response in the viewer...it was awesome. He graciously answered all my questions.
He asked me and my friend, Debra what we did after a while. I replied that I was a new, fledgling artist, at which he immediately replied, "Oh, I'm sorry." He then asked me to describe my work. This is a toughy for me. How do I describe it? I started with, "It's nothing like yours. It's not detailed (his is very detailed), it's a little messy (his is very neat), representational (his is all from his imagination), sometimes fuzzy (his is focused, for lack of a better word), colorful (his, though colorful, is much more muted than mine), painted in bold strokes (his is very precise). I also mentioned my upcoming solo exhibit. Then an amazing thing happened. He asked me if I would send him an invitation! I couldn't believe it! I didn't want to leave to find a pen because it seemed so surreal. When no one in our group had a pen, he himself went over to the guestbook with me following him like a little puppy dog. He found a pen, and carefully wrote his address on a piece of paper for me. And said again, "Please send me an invitation to your exhibit."
We sat down together for another little visit, and I asked, "So, do you use a magnifying glass when you paint?" Right then and there he said with a sigh, "No, I don't know why they perpetuate that myth. Thankfully, my eyes still work, and I don't need a magnifying glass."
Reese and I had been so amazed at the original telling of this 80 year old man using a magnifying glass to paint, that we had repeated it several times. I came home and told Reese what Lionel had said, that it was a myth, and Reese said that he heard the same gallery who-ha telling someone the same story she told us that same night, not five feet from the truth.