When I was exhibiting at 619 Western in Seattle several years ago, I noticed a sample of the proverbial ‘little old lady’ wandering purposefully through the crowd of observers, looking at paintings. She had little interest in my work, but she lingered briefly at at some drawings, and soon left. She chatted briefly with one of my artist acquaintances on the way out. I was certain that I recognized her from ancient times – back in the late ’60’s or ’70’s. I asked my acquaintance about this mystery woman and he said that she was often through the art venues and would sometimes negotiate a sale, sometimes returning months later, or occasionally visiting the artist’s studio where there was no crowd – making an appointment. She is and has long been an interior decorator servicing prosperous individual’s abodes, and also office settings such as business lobbies, conference rooms and so forth. She selects the chairs, desks, lamps, lighting fixtures, carpets, paint colors, traffic patterns for clients etc. When she occasionally needs paintings or sculptures to accent these rather formal arrangements she negotiates the price with the artist – usually less than half the artist’s asking price and pays cash. The work then goes to a posh frame shop for just the right type of frame to accent the environment she has created. She sells the artwork for 5 or 10 times her purchase price, which amounts to a significant ‘finders fee’. It is a bit of a racket, but she is very effective and successful.
I gather that she has married and changed her name, but way back when, she was known as Leonarno. She is probably 65 or so now, and was perhaps 22 when she was a striking feature in the Art School that I was in the last stages of attending. She had some proficiency with egg tempera via Tompkins (a local practitioner) and later she converted to acrylic, producing modest sized vaguely landscapish abstractions in muted earth tones. Quite nice paintings; well within the dying Northwest Style of the time. Back in the day, I had spoken to her a couple times – I was curious about the egg tempera technique, but she was reticent about the secrets of this uncommon medium.
She was an attractive but assertive little bird. Now her hair was dyed a stark black and in a fully styled cut in contrast to the long ‘ironed’ dark hair fashionable in her youth. As a young woman she was about 5’3”, very thin, with an odd body type. Her trunk was short and high shouldered, and her legs were unusually long. She was what someone called “a High Pockets” female. Now as an old woman, she seems quite small with a very pronounced ‘widow’s hump’ that reduces her height and she has an odd bird like stride with those longish legs.
It is a strange phenomena to see person that was known long ago and to see the wonder that age has wrought. None of us plan to look old. In our youth and young adulthood we don’t give it a thought. Time, diet, health, and the vicissitudes of life -both the best and worst, play a part in shaping the creaking husk we inhabit in aged descreptitude that will accompany us to the grave.