Some years ago, in a previous version of my life in Chicago, I got to know a wonderful man. His name was Dean. Coincidentally, the day I met him, Dean Martin was playing on the stereo (we still had “stereos” back then.) “Do you like Dino?,” I asked. “My parents named me for him, actually,” was his reply. That felt to me like an auspicious beginning.
He was a quiet man, but during the time we spent together I learned a little about his life. He had briefly been a member of a famous 1960s blues band. His brother was the front man. One day his brother died, as bluesmen sometimes suddenly do, and there was Dean, grieving for his brother and unsure what do to with the rest of his life.
He turned to art. Painting, sculpting a little. And then he began installing his art around his home, then friends’ homes, and eventually, he became one of the most valued installers at the Chicago Art Institute. I met him because he still worked on the side, installing art in the homes of friends, and friends of friends. He came to my house to help me hang all the art I had collected over a decade in an old house. Now I was in a new house. I was grieving, but I was also starting over.
I loved to watch Dean work. The way he walked through the rooms, just quietly looking. First at the pictures and sculptures, leaned haphazardly against the walls, or set about on tables. Then at the walls themselves. The play of light. The empty spaces, large and small. The relationships between the colors, compositions, angles and curves. The way you might be surprised by turning a corner and seeing something beautiful. Where you might stand just to let yourself become completely enveloped in something. It was like meditation. Like seeing the harmony that could come out of what felt like a chaotic jumble of works collected over a number of years, not necessarily having any relationship with each other except something happening in the mind of the person who saw them, fell in love with them, brought them home and wanted to live with them forever … or at least, for however long “forever” is in the life of one person, one couple, one family. I asked him how he related to all these works of art, some of which he might not necessarily like, himself, and how he figured out what their relationship was to one another. “Dance with the one that brung ya,” was all he said. I was eager … to learn, to be “right” about Art. To have my sense of taste validated. He dispelled all my ideas about certitude with that one sentence. And ironically, opened up a new way for me to experience art with more receptivity and vision than I ever had before.
I did not quite realize how much I had learned from Dean when we began thinking about the placement of sculptures in our gallery here at The Sculpture Ranch.
Some of you may already know that our founders, the Beninis, moved the last of their paintings to their new home in Marble Falls this Winter. Admirers of Benini will be glad to know his sculptures are still here, housed in a special section of the gallery, and around the Ranch. When the last truck pulled out, with the work of Benini’s life in its bed, it was a moment not unlike the day I met Dean. Some sadness at the passing of an era. But also, a new beginning. Fresh, alive with possibilities.
And then there was that daunting assemblage of all we have here. So many beautiful works of art. So many hours of inspiration and toil on the part of the artists, all set about on tables, or standing in the middle of the floor. The first time I looked at it all, taken apart and standing around looking a little bit scared and out of place, I felt a little overwhelmed (or was that me? Maybe they were fine and I was the one who was scared and out of place?).
Then we got to work. Pete and Jen were still charging hard at painting the gallery. The big space looked fresh, awesome … and empty.
Then Tara and Greg and I took a deep breath, and with a lot of help from Pete, whose great ideas and sheer physical determination never cease to impress us, helped us move everything into place.
It is a new beginning for The Sculpture Ranch.
We will open our gate again, quietly, on Friday March 4th. Regular hours will resume—Thursdays through Sundays, from 12-6. And, as always, by appointment. Just call ahead and we will be delighted to greet you.
On Saturday March 12 we will have an opening reception. Please join us. Bring your families, bring your friends, bring your love of art and your desire to be renewed, as we have been, by this incredible journey.
Let’s fill ourselves again with joy, inspiration, and the promise of change. I think Dean would nod and say, “Yeah, that’s the way you do it.”
We look forward to seeing you.