Monday, February 27, 2012

My Dinner with Jerome

Sometimes life turns on a dime and last night was one of those dimes.  This morning everything looks the same but inside the tectonic plates have shifted.

I live in a small town where there is a web of connections that hums whenever something or someone new arrives.  Recently the announcement of a new art class started the vibration.  Jerome Grimmer is back. Jerome Grimmer is teaching a class. Jerome Grimmer is doing an art teaching app.  Jerome Grimmer.  It seemed like every direction I turned there were stories and comments about Jerome Grimmer.  I signed up for his class in art fundamentals wondering just who this Jerome Grimmer was.

When I arrived at the class, one of my friends told me, "If he asks you a question, just respond, 'value contrast.'"  And then they all laughed. The first class was indeed on value contrast, well plowed ground, one of those intellectual concepts you think you know.  I sat in the back of the class waiting to be convinced.

A friend who is working on Grimmer's app told me that he had sent him a copy of my mindmapping book but I was startled when the class opened with a slide of the book cover.  I knew something was different when he spent the first several minutes talking about how to think about our paintings and how to find the story we're trying to tell ... using mindmaps. He proceeded to show us value contrast in sample photos and then, one by one, displayed our individual works.  Over and over he asked, "Where is your eye drawn?" "What is the story you're trying to tell?"  By the end of the class, I was ready to go back to each of my art pieces and look at them in a new way.

However, last night started because I was handed an opportunity I didn't know how to handle.  The gallery in Morro Bay offered me a spot as a featured artist in May and right after I said "yes," I started panicking.  Things I didn't know about managing an almost-solo show made me dizzy.  Dizzy enough to send a note to Jerome asking if he would meet and give me some advice.  I was somewhat hesitant; I had heard that he was busy and that he had a big ego so I didn't know if he would have time for me.

What I learned later was that he does have a big ego ... but that he also expects everyone else to have a big ego ... what could more correctly be called a healthy ego. I would go on to learn that he expects greatness from everyone he meets. Expects greatness.

So we met at Starbucks and slowly, through a conversation laced with stories and tangents, we talked through images of my art and through an endless series of "why" questions.  Why this subject?   Why this medium?  Why metal?  Even, why this signature on this slant?  This conversation went on until hunger forced us to a pizza place where it continued.  

And, somewhere along this conversational path, something in me shifted.  At one point, he told me I was fearless.  The way he said it and the way he linked my story together made it feel right.  I wrote in the journal where I was taking notes:  I AM FEARLESS.  And, I swear, I could feel those 50 trillion cells in my body perk up and take note.  Somewhere in the background, I could here a bugle blowing and a telegram passing down my spine:  Wake-up!  There's a new game in town!

Possibly the greatest gift from my dinner with Jerome was not about my art ... or even the confidence that he somehow poured into my spirit ... but the witnessing for myself the incredible power of mentoring.  I have now experienced first hand how gentle guidance and sharing of relevant experience combined with an expectation of greatness is truly life-changing.  I have no idea where this "new game" will take me but I know that I want to hold that expectation of greatness for everyone I come into contact with and hope to pay forward this gift of mentoring I received.

About this image:  In the Garden of East and West

With Jerome's help, this is the image I chose for the postcard for the Morro Bay show.  The theme of the show will be "Dynamic Dreamscapes" and the reception will be Friday, May 11 at the Gallery at Marina Square in Morro Bay ... you are all invited!