"She bestows power upon the women in her paintings, lifting them out of the familiar role of victim and vessel. By transforming a pagan world into one in which women can be heroes, she advances the likelihood that we will have to revise everything that we know if we are to proceed."
--John Yau, "A Different History"
In early September, I discovered that there was going to be a solo show of paintings by one of my favorite artists: Kyle Staver! I had discovered her work online about a year ago, and have been madly in love with it ever since. (As evidenced by this blog post I wrote back in March: A Love Poem for Kyle Staver.)
I deeply longed to see her paintings in real life! The only time I had ever seen a real-life Kyle Staver painting was earlier this year, in April, when I walked into the artist Ken Kewley's house and right there, in the entrance way, was a huge, amazing Kyle Staver painting! It took my breath away; I felt physically struck with emotion.
Consequently, I started to cry. (This is an embarrassing story for another, future blog post.)
Art-emotion-addict that I am, I desperately wanted to go to the show, but I was scared of the idea of going into Manhattan by myself for an evening, something I had never done before. A friend suggested I drive to the train station in Morristown, NJ, and then take a train into Penn Station, so that's what I did. I felt especially grateful for my rockstar husband, who took over all the dinner-making, homework-helping, and bedtime-enforcing responsibilities that evening so that I could escape.
All during my drive, and then during the hour long train ride, I kept imagining what it would be like. Would I get lost trying to find the gallery? Would I get to meet Kyle Staver? I fantasized that I would be in a vast, quiet gallery radiantly brimming with Kyle Staver paintings, elegantly sipping champagne with Kyle Staver and perhaps a few other interesting artists, while we talked about painting for hours...
But....when I got there, it was like another world. In the first place, I had never been to Chelsea before, and I was completely unprepared for the intensity of it. There were about fifteen thousand galleries all having openings on that same street! It was insane! It was like every art opening I had ever gone to in my life in Easton, where I live, times a million! It seemed like there were dozens of galleries within each building, galleries within galleries within galleries... People were pouring out onto the sidewalk with wine and arty-expressions, engaged in arty conversations, and I realized how very small I was, how very small my little town of Easton was, and how massive New York City was.
Then I finally found the right gallery. (I had to ask some arty-people for help.) When I walked inside, the heat of the hundreds of bodies hit me like a powerful ocean wave. I saw Kyle Staver in the crowd but she was absolutely surrounded by people. I knew, with a sinking feeling, that I would never get within twenty feet of her. The place was PACKED! It was hard to see the paintings, but I did slowly make my way around, floating in my own private bliss. I spent lots of time looking at each painting, and I had thoughts like this:
"What would it feel like to paint this large?"
"Could I be brave enough to use colors like this?"
"How could I ever give myself permission to paint so brazenly?"
Suddenly I was overcome with shyness. I didn't want to be around so many people; I didn't know anybody. I wanted to be back home where it was safe and cozy. I felt lonely and pathetic. I saw a bench in a shadowy corner, and there was a spot open, so I sat down to hide in the darkness. Next to me on the bench was woman who smiled at me in a friendly way. Her name was Martha, and we started talking. She was so sympathetic and kind, that I found myself opening up and telling her about my whole adventure, my long trip, my deep desire to meet Kyle Staver, and my overwhelming feelings of shyness...
"Well, I happen to know Kyle Staver very well," she said. "My daughter has been best friends with Kyle Staver for decades. My daughter is a painter too, Janice Nowinski."
So, Martha and I looked at the art together for awhile; it was so wonderful talking with her about art and life! Then she introduced me to her daughter, and also to Kyle Staver.
I had this conversation with Kyle Staver:
"I really admire your work!" I said.
"Thanks!" she said.
And that was that. And yet, I was elated! As I traveled home, I felt lucky in so many ways!
But my favorite part of the adventure had been meeting Martha!
That night, I wrote this on the Kent Art Gallery Facebook Event Page:
"I'm so glad I came and got to see your paintings in person! They were so large and evocative, I felt like I could almost step inside them. This curve of light against her side was my favorite part, but it made me feel like a voyeur."