I wish I could recall more of the stories I brought back from road trips years ago. Recently someone did remind me of this story.
The last several years of my career I was at a show in Bay Harbor, Michigan, near Charlevoix and Petoskey, on Lake Michigan. Summer homes, summer play land. Old cottages, restored Victorians, new mansions. So many walls to decorate.
Ann came to this show with me a couple of years. She always wanted to take the ferry across from Wisconsin, but practicality won out and she flew into Cleveland. I recall I did drop her at the Gerald Ford International airport in Grand Rapids to send her home.
The exhibitors were set up back to back down the main street of the town, from the beginning of town to the docks on the bay. A long, long show. I was the first booth at the beginning of town, right in front of a restaurant with beautiful breakfasts!
I never arrived to set up this show before seven of a beautiful June Friday evening; it was one of my longer drives. Every year I was there the same artist was in booth number two. She was an artist. Her watercolors were large, translucent, flowers, reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe. She was a tiny slip of an oriental girl, accompanied by a handsome young American. He dressed in crisp khaki and open throated Brooks Brothers. She dressed like an artist.
Their relationship was unknown. Ann and I called him The Agent. He set up the booth, hung the work. The artist sat all day in her director’s chair, in front of the restaurant. Wealthy summer residents who looked at her work were escorted from picture to picture by The Agent, and eventually would be escorted to the artist for an introduction. It was too pretentious for a summer outdoor art show where all the artists knew each other. These two made no effort. The artist would return pleasantries with anyone who stopped by her chair—until The Agent cut between.
The last year Ann and I were there, the artist and The Agent had not set up when we arrived or by the time we left in the evening. Early Saturday morning their canopy and display were up when we arrived, the art hung. There was an attempt to hang art outside, in the space between our booths, but there was very little room. The Agent accosted me as soon as Ann and I appeared. “I wanted you to set up your booth closer to the other line!” he said at once. “I want you to move it.”
No professional booth can be moved on demand. The display is integral to the canopy; the weight is enormous, it takes several hours to set up. It ain’t going to happen. And, I was set up perfectly within my marks. And, I do not read minds, or I might have accommodated him the previous evening. “Oh, Ann, I believe The Agent might want to use part of my booth space for his display; let’s set up farther into the intersection.” Right.
The Agent was surly and rude toward us for the entire day Saturday. He even kicked my tool box and broke the latch. The artist just sat in her director’s chair and was the artist.
The next morning, at breakfast with a bunch of us, the artist’s work came up. A lot of art was represented at this show and other artists agreed her work was exceptional, she would be important some day. Of course The Agent came under discussion, too, and his place in the artist’s life was speculated. “What’s his name?” someone said to me. “Dick,” I responded at once. Ann is so polite she spit none of her food on her plate.
The show was very busy on Sunday, too. Neither Ann nor I left the booth except for a restroom, and then it was four o’clock, we packed up and left. I saw artists from that show at other shows, and the experience with the artist and The Agent was strange enough to be discussed. The consensus was she needed to be rid of him, Dick held her back. I agreed with that. I never said I didn’t know his name.
Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show