SHINIGAMI - a requiem

In this sleep of death what dreams may come...
— Shakespeare, Hamlet

"What Dreams May Come" • 24" x 20" • Oil on canvas  

 In 1976 I saw The Wizard Of Oz for the first time. I was 4 years old. It came on once a year, back when there were only a few channels, and before anyone had ever heard of home video. That movie made a huge impression on me. So much that I actually reenacted it at school during recess every day, all the way to second grade. I remember taking my huge pink and blue Easter basket for long walks through the field across the street from our house, looking for tornados. A lot of hours were logged in skipping and singing at full blast, hoping I'd somehow find myself in a technicolour dreamscape. I would have settled for an alien abduction, or any sort of insane adventure I could star in where my natural weirdness would be exotic to the locals. Finally, Mr. Provost, who lived two houses over, phoned to ask my dad if “that kid with the pink basket could please stop dancing on my crops.” 

First day of school

1977 Me, Mom and my Wonder Woman doll, trying to smile with the mumps.

 What a relief to have been born before reality TV took over the airwaves. It was my good fortune that the cheap television programming of the 1970's were old movies, not least because those old femme fatales became the scaffolding of my entire oeuvre, but also because watching old movies was something I shared with my mother while we made art together in the afternoon. Now I share that with my sister Lisa, every gay kid's dream big sister. I used to collect huge books of classic hollywood stills that I drew from and of course read them all 5 times over. If the painting thing hadn't worked out I really could have been a film historian. It's a testament to my mom that in spite of all my loopy idiosyncrasies, and all the trouble I had fitting in at school, I managed to somehow scramble together a decent amount of self-esteem early on. Mom focused on the special traits of her children with real conviction. And of course someone believing in, and relentlessly rooting for you like that, is a bigger deal than you ever realize at the time. 

 One day in 1976, after watching Bette Davis die into a vaseline smothered lens in Dark Victory, the reality that my mother was going to also die someday fell on top of me all at once like a windswept house. She found me crying alone in the back of a dark closet. I realize that's some painfully cliché foreshadowing, but I'm not kidding. Let me say that again, I was hiding in the back of a dark closet, where I would occasionally sit with a shirt on my head, flipping it like long hair. In a closet. Like Norman Bates.

One of my earliest oil paintings - 36" x 72" - Oil on canvas 

 I was practically inconsolable at the thought of her dying. She'd sigh like someone who'd had this conversation three other times about her own encroaching death. "I'm not going to die for a long, long time," she'd say. 

 Mom picked my name from a movie she'd seen in 1963 about Greek mythology, which was the first subject I remember being interested in reading. She was the oldest of seven sisters. All of them are truly amazing women with a rare bond. I've always been moved by how they rally around each other and I love the mythic concept of a family of just seven sisters. Of course I read about the seven sisters of the Pleiades. The oldest of the seven sisters was called Maia, that name means mother or nurse. The month of May was named after Maia, which coincidentally was the month my Mom was born. Maia's son was Hermes, the god of transitions. He moved freely between the worlds of the mortal and the divine. In a way that sort of runs parallel to how I approached the new series. Shinigami is sort of a Japanese version of the Grim Reaper. The women in these paintings exist in the space between life and death, which is exactly the vantage point I wanted to paint from. The past couple of years has, for me, been a confrontation with death. It was everywhere. In the news, more so than usual it seemed, and in my own life. Before 2016 I'd been to just one funeral. Since then I've been to 6.

Mom and Dad, 1958. 

My favourite photograph of us, 1983

 I've been asked a little too often for my liking if I was an only child. No. I was the youngest, which is the next worst thing. I think everyone knows the youngest usually gets the unfair advantage of a more relaxed parenting style, and I definitely came down hard on the backs of my three siblings. Thanks to a hearty combo salad of chromic illnesses, I sucked all the oxygen from the rest of our family, and pretty much monopolized Mom's attention. My acute baby asthma meant that if I coughed while you were anywhere near my crib, Mom would lash out at you like sheet lightning. This is what I've been told. I was allergic to just about every kind of food, so feeding me was a total nightmare. Then there were the variety of skin diseases. I was your basic giant pain in the ass. 

 Aside from my health issues, Mom had a very sensitive early awareness of my special challenges that the other kids didn't seem to have. Like when I used to run for shelter like a wild animal whenever we had company. The sound of car wheels on the gravel driveway would send me scurrying for refuge like a mouse under the flash of a fluorescent bulb. She would find me hours after everyone had left, hiding under my bed, asleep beside a small stash of food. 

"Nebula" • 12" x 16" • Oil on canvas 

 It was her nature to worry and I gave her a lot of material to work with. Some of my issues she could relate to, some she couldn’t, but there was always a profound empathy. When I was 8, the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet began to tear away like melting cellophane. I had to be greased up like a channel swimmer with thick buttery salve, wrapped up in a blanket and propped in front of the TV like a giant fajita. When I turned 11, a bunch of small bumps started appearing on my stomach, growing up my chest and neck. Suddenly there were about thirty or forty of them scattered across my torso. As soon as Mom noticed them she brought me to the family doctor. I can't remember what it was called, but I do remember him telling me that if those bumps had reached my head they would have choked and blinded me. Thanks Doctor Assclown! I'm officially a paranoid hypochondriac. He used a special round scalpel like a tiny ice cream scoop and dug out each bump. I'm guessing this was before cryotherapy, or maybe he was a sadist. I don't know, but it was like being stabbed forty times. Mom stood beside me, gripping the lifeblood out of my hand. It’s hard to explain, but the look on her face practically willed me away from being afraid. To this day, the memory of her in that moment still affects me.

In a photobooth at the Bloor subway on one of her visits to Toronto. 

My portrait of Mom

Mom made a point of smiling at everyone. She was a deeply warm and loving person.

 Mom was always worried that I spent too much time alone drawing. When I was older she told me about the day she decided to drive to my school during recess to take a peek at how things were going. I was in the 3rd or 4th grade and I guess she saw that I was sitting alone on the playground, off to the side, and it really bothered her. She went to the reception desk and started pounding her fist on the counter, yelling, "my son is all alone out there." I'm not sure what she expected them to do about it, but she was just always in my corner, trying like hell to make things better for me. In my head it plays like the "give my daughter the shot" scene in Terms Of Endearment. I do remember the art teacher suddenly and mysteriously asking me if I'd rather sit in her class room and draw during recess. 

 In October 2016, I got the phone call I had always dreaded. “There’s no easy way to say this,” my sister told me. I knew immediately it was either about Mom or Dad. I'd imagined this call so many times because, like most things I'm afraid of, I think if I'm ready for something bad to happen, it won't happen. No one close to me had ever died. I am 44 years old, and a virtual stranger to death. I've been able to keep it in the abstract for the most part. My creative work is where I turn to with questions or comfort where other people would religion. At the end of the day, I think the closest thing I’ve ever felt to what people think of as god has been through my mother's maternal instinct. It's an energy that was bigger than us. Muscular and elemental. Inexhaustible. That force ran robustly through my mother, and it left a deep, permanent fingerprint on my life. Whatever that was, it was a higher force. It gave me my footing, my foundation for everything, and I was shaken at the thought of losing my connection to it. In moments of deep reflection, whenever I begin to trace the fountainhead of whatever sense of well-being I’ve managed to assemble, I find it tethered to her, coiled up like an artery. No place like home. 

"Requiem" • 24" x 36" • Oil on canvas 

 "Mom is sick and she's not going to get better," she said. My sister sounded hollow. Even though I clumsily groped for the right words, I found I couldn't say much. I'd suspected for years that Mom had been hiding an illness from everyone, and she was. My family lives three hours southwest of me and I immediately started planning the drive.

 "Which hospital is she at?" I asked, "I'm on my way right now." 

 "She's not seeing anyone," my sister said, "Stay there until I call you." 

 I had literally just wrapped up my B-girls series the day before and shipped it to Los Angeles. I had nothing to do but sit, stare at my phone and ruminate.

 "But I want to be there," I said.   

 "She doesn't want everyone descending on her at the hospital all at once," she said, "Don't worry, she's not going to die tomorrow."

 I spent a week in limbo, not seeing anyone. Finally I just decided to make my way to London whether she liked it or not. When I walked into the hospital room, my mother looked a bit tired but relatively normal. I didn't ask her any questions and she didn't offer any answers. I avoided speaking about anything I thought would make her uncomfortable. I just sat with her. I showed her my new B-girls paintings on my phone. She told me she was proud of me for the last time. Dad and I took her for a wheelchair ride to the cafeteria and when we came back, there was something sparkling red on her bed. It was a pair of ruby slippers. The woman in the bed next to my mother had been wearing a pair and Mom had commented how adorable they were. That woman's bed was empty now and apparently the family bought a pair for Mom. She put them on and I took her picture. 

A week before she passed, wearing the ruby slippers someone had left on her bed. 

Those slippers were the one thing of hers I brought home.

 It was a good thing I came when I did because in spite of the doctors prognosis that we had a few months left, she was conscious for only a few days after I'd arrived. After the second day with her, she asked Dad and I to not come everyday because she couldn't rest with us there. The next day we stayed away and that was the day the cancer reached her brain stem and she lost the ability to find the right words. Soon after that she had to be heavily medicated. I wish I'd have come sooner but I had two precious days with her before she lost consciousness.

 I've thought a lot about what I would have said to her in that brief two days if I'd have known that was all we would have left, but I felt inept. We made small talk. We were both terrified and trying to hide it. Everyone thought she'd be coming home, and there was more time. She died on the morning of November 5th.

Nimbus • 16" x 12" • Oil on canvas 

 After her passing, I spent a month living with my Dad and helping to plan Mom's Celebration Of Life, which turned out to be a lovely ceremony. At one point I looked back and saw the entire hall filled with people who had loved her.

 After the ceremony I flew out to LA for my B-Girls opening, and then came back to be with my family for Christmas. It was two months before I finally returned home to Toronto. I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Part of me was desperate to get back to painting but my girls just stopped showing up. For some reason I'm not totally clear about, the only thing I felt like painting were fish bleeding underwater. 

Then, during a late night net surf, I came across the myth of the Shinigami. It's bascially the Japanese version of the Grim Reaper. After reading about them the work started flowing and the girls came back with a vengeance. To be honest, I really haven't dealt with my mom's death at all, but I couldn't help but paint where I found myself. This process of coming up with a series of paintings is a ride I've taken many times and, in writing this, I can't help but think of all those trips I took with my Easter basket in the field across the street from our house, searching for OZ. With age, the hunt just naturally turns inward. Everything I've experienced and everyone who's ever made an impression becomes immediately available to me when I create a series. This one was more difficult than any other. I wanted so much for it to be right, probably because it had direct connective tissue to my mother.  

As I sat silent with her, I felt death in the corners of the hospital room. That thing I have always been so mortally afraid of was slowly coiling around Mom like a mystical serpent. That was how it felt to me and, finally, that's how it came through in the paintings. I don't know if this series was therapeutic but it was definitely a way to keep working without avoiding the elephant in the room. 

Grand Illusion • 24" x 20" • Oil on canvas 

The look of the Shinigami girls was inspired by Anna May Wong.

Izanami • 14" x 11" • Oil on canvas  (in progress)

Last Friday I saw the Wizard Of Oz again for the first time in many years. It occurred to me that the whole thing is basically about being homesick. It was always this comforting thing to me, now it's hard to look at. Things are different. Home has shifted permanently. I know how fortunate I am to be happy and healthy, to be living out my dream of being a full-time artist, to have fantastic people around me that I care about and my wonderful father is still with me. But there's this thing here now to contend with. A new blank spot with it's own gravity. She was always the first person I called with good news. And in the bleakest times, her voice was like a tuning signal, sending out reassurance from anywhere in the world. Now it's a radio station that just plays itself softly in the background. I'm sure it will play me out. If there was a ever a person in my life that felt like home it was her. No place like home. No. Place.

The Shinigami reception will be Saturday August 12th, 12-4pm.  The show will run from August 8th to 19th. 

The Red Head Gallery 

401 Richmond St. West Toronto • (416)-504-5654

 

ANATOMY OF A PAINTING

All painting is an accident, but it’s also not an accident, because one must select what part of the accident one chooses to preserve.
— Francis Bacon

"Persona"  Work in progress shot

Source Material for "Persona" (film still from "Double Indemnity" 1944)

Source material for "Persona"

Source Material for "Persona"

Source Material for "Persona" (Jean Harlow)

Source Material for "Persona"

Source Material for "Persona"

"Persona" (early version and revised) 22" x 28" Oil on canvas - This painting started in 2011 (Left) but was wrapped up and put in the closet for 4 years until I found and finished her for my Veiled Hearts series in 2016.

I started work on "Persona" in 2011, but she just felt unfinished and was never shown publicly. Instead, she was wrapped up and put in a closet for 5 years. When I found her again in early 2016 she was ready for a new pair of shoes. There was a lot of source material that went into this painting. Often times I'll use an old film still as a starting point. That photo will be the general scaffolding of a piece and then I start to gather specific source material for the different visual elements I want to add. One of the biggest challenges is to try an blend all the elements with into one integrated scene. This painting ended up being one of my favourites from the Veiled Hearts series. I think what made it special for me was how the veils made these two women look like giant chess figures.

In the first version, the city lights in the background window were brighter, more stylized and out of focus. I decided to paint over it with an elaborate city skyline, (see detail below). It ended up being an insane amount of fine detail work. I think I went through an entire 14 hour audiobook just painting the city lights in all those buildings. 

"Persona" -detail 

Kelly Grace posing for me at her studio.

Slow Burn, 24" x 30" (final) 

red_dividerdark.png

"Resurrection" (first version) 

"Resurrection" (Final)

"Resurrection" (Final)

The painting "Resurrection" (above) started out with a photograph of a solitary figure in a field. For some reason I ended up with a truly tacky colour palette (top left, first version). I wanted a moody sky but it ended up looking like a greeting card. As I was painting it, I kept wondering, "Is this amazing or horrible?" Usually not a good sign. Sometimes after logging in a lot of hours on a painting that isn't working, it gets hard to be objective. When I feel this happening, I have to just stop and put it away. Sometimes for a few months or even years. Otherwise, as in the case of the tacky sunset above, the whole shebang turns into a demented Bob Ross moment. Finally, in total frustration, I showed it to a friend and she said, "That sky is way too fucking happy." Yup. I had no choice but to go back and rein in that crazy colour palette. After realizing that it should be a night scene, I had to set about putting a dark wash over all that finished grass, I decided to have her hands morph into foliage, growing inside the car and twisting around the handle. That, for me, made the image start to come alive. My friend Chris does CGI in films and he suggested I bring out the headlights of the car and that gave the piece exactly the kind of tension that I'd wanted in the first place. Sometimes it takes a village. Actually, I don't usually show my unfinished work unless I'm totally lost. 

SCENT OF THE MUSES

Throughout history artists know that they must incorporate a female principal into themselves to really see the universe as it is. The truly visionary perspective on the universe comes from a male incorporating the female perspective into himself.
— Camille Paglia

Sunburst And Delirium • 18" x 24" • Oil on canvas

Still Life - 2015 - 20" x 24"

Amy posing in my studio

To Quote The Killing Moon - 2013 - 16" x 20"

For "Maybe I'm The Afterglow" (below) I wanted a certain sort of child-like glow that I had a hard time coming up with, so I ending up using an actual child's face. 

Maybe I'm The Afterglow - 16" x 20"

Guinevere Van Seenus

Lauren Bacall

Lady Lazarus - 2011 - 22" x 28"

EXODUS was a piece that came out of an improvisational photoshoot with my friend, artist Kelly Grace, at her studio in April 2014. I rented as many vintage dresses as we could carry. It was one of those paintings that should have taken me about three weeks, but instead it took three months because I made the mistake of thinking I had to paint shadows on the wall for each butterfly. It made sense visually at the time, but half-way through painting all those butterfly shadows, I realized I'd made a huge error in judgement. The whole thing became much too busy and ruined the soft glow of the spotlight on the wall behind her. I had already painted a fair number of butterfly shadows, so I had no choice but to repaint the wall behind her. I just about lost my mind. Blending a perfectly round soft hazy spotlight is challenging enough, but painting it AROUND a gazillion red butterflies was a bit of a nightmare. Cadmium red has a way of eventually bleeding through anything that gets painted over it, so I had no choice but to paint around the butterflies, unless I wanted to start over. A few times I really thought this girl was going to just roll over onto the graveyard pile, but she stuck it out. 

Kelly Grace

Exodus (detail)

Kelly Grace

Exodus (detail)

Kelly Grace

Exodus - 2014 - 24" x 30"

MIRROR (below) was from my 2011 series, Colossus. They paintings were based on the poetry of Sylvia Plath. This piece was inspired by a story Plath told about the hurricanes her family experienced when she lived with her grandmother on the coast of Maine. She talked about finding sharks washed up in the garden. 

Grace Kelly

MIRROR - 2011 - 18" x 24" 

Here's another piece from my shoot with Kelly Grace. It was a simple concept with all the detail of the image going into the lace stitching of her dress, Which was a real vintage piece I rented for the shoot. 

Kelly in one of the vintage dresses I rented for the shoot. 

"Certain Sacrifice" - 2014 - 16" x 20"

FOR YOU, TO JUSTIFY MY LOVE

Many times I have been a victim of my own optimism.
— Elizabeth Gilbert

In December 2013 I received a Facebook message from a friend with a position at Hard Candy Fitness here in Toronto, a global luxury fitness brand in partnership with Madonna and New Evolution Ventures, asking if I would be interested in hanging my work at "Madonna’s gym." They'd recently opened clubs in Rome, Sydney, Mexico, Russia and Berlin, and this was their first, and only, North American location. 

I told my friend that I was completely tapped out of available work at the moment. Also, my gallery contract wouldn't allow me to show at a gym, so I had to pass. But before thanking him and signing off, I joked, "feel free to pass on my website to Miss Madonna."

He replied, “Who do you think chose your work?” 

"Um... What?" 

“Why do you think I’m reaching out to you?” he replied. Just like that. Like I was supposed to know he and Madonna were in cahoots, just plucking artists off the internet. 

“I presented her with 10 artists,” he continued, “and she chose your work.” 

The truly weird thing is, I don't think he would even have mentioned Madonna if I didn't make that lame joke about passing my website on to her. Talk about burying the lead. I shamelessly plied him for her exact words and I won't be so brazen to repeat them here, but let me assure you, it was enough to make me call my mother. 

He asked me to come to his office so we could talk about it. He told me that I was going to have to sign a non-disclosure agreement before we went any further. 

I was a little confused. What could she possibly have in mind that would necessitate a non-disclosure agreement? “Her people will draw up a press release,” he told me. A press release? This is when I started hearing the voice of Ricardo Montalban welcoming me to Fantasy Island and that Hawaiian music playing on a constant loop. Would I be involved in her next video? Is Jean Paul waiting to hear from me? Listen, I know that sounds ridiculous, but cut me some slack. At this point my heart was going into overload and had shrivelled up into a little gay raison. I hadn’t quite gotten used to the fact that Madonna had been surfing through my website. 

I was your typical garden variety 80's twink who loved Madonna, so being objective in this situation was just a little out of my range of mental powers.

He asked how much my paintings sold for. I told him honestly, without any embellishment. Then he said that she wanted me to do two new paintings for her ART FOR FREEDOM campaign. "It's an initiative for visual artists to submit work that expresses what freedom means to them." That's not exactly what I do, but he told me to just go to the Art For Fredome website and try to let it inspire some new work. So I did.

For the next two months I worked long, intense marathon sessions. I slaved some seriously long hours, 6 or 7 days a week on the first of two new paintings with the incentive that it would be judged by the object of my teenage worship. But you know, no pressure or anything. 

Yes, I visited the Art For Freedom website. Yes, I tried my best to let it inspire me. But what ended up happening was that I launched into one of the most ridiculously ambitious paintings I'd ever attempted. It was just too complicated and not from my gut. There was a baby wrapped in a black veil, held by a woman in a Martha Graham pose, standing in a dark cornfield with a human head growing out of the dirt. It was fucking crazy, even for me. I had to stop. I started another new and completely unrelated painting to clear my palette and untie the giant knot in my head. This painting became "The Wallflower Opus." Nothing to do with Madonna or Art For Freedom. Just one of my girls. But I think she accurately expresses my frame of mind at the time. (Below)

"THE WALLFLOWER OPUS" - 18" x 24" - oil on canvas 

Come February, I received an RSVP invitation to the big Hard Candy launch party where Madonna was scheduled to make an appearance and take part in an exercise class. I don't really enjoy crowds and this event sounded like it was going to be a zoo. Unfortunately, due to all the time my insane Martha Graham painting ate up, I didn't have any finished Art For Freedom inspired pieces to show her yet, so I didn’t RSVP. 

The day of the event, I got a message from my friend. 

“You’re coming tonight, right?” 

“No,” I replied, “It sounds like it's gong to be really crowded and I have nothing completed.”

“What?” He shouted, “Dude, her assistant just called me to confirm that her paintings will be there!”

“It hasn't been long enough!” I said, “I only have a bunch of works-in-progress. These are oil paintings remember, not sketches!”

“Well…” he replied, “She’s expecting to see something. You don’t have anything new?” 

I had nothing except the Wallflower Opus painting. It wasn't finished, and it was wet. I fumbled around in a panic. “I guess I have one," I said, squinting at the wet painting leaning against the wall, "but it’s not finished, and it’s still wet!”

“Bring it!” he said, “If she likes it she’s going to take it with her.”

It was 11 AM. He wanted the painting there by 5 PM because she would be coming at around 7. After I hung up the phone I ran around my apartment in a panic. I grabbed the wet painting and sat it in front of a portable heater. Then I ran downstairs to the teeny tiny parking lot behind my building to set up a small folding table. I had to spray paint the frame black to match the painting. It was sort of snowing, but whatever. Luckily, I had recently found a beautiful antique frame with just the right dimensions. It needed a little refurbishing, but no time for that now! I ended up spray-painting that frame black lacquer in a gentle snow fall. Then, trying to balance it by the wire on the back, so as not to get any paint on me or the stairwell, I slowly carried the wet frame up 4 flights (I live in a walk up) and set the whole mess in front of a heater, hoping it would at least dry to the touch by 4 pm. It did, kind of. I bubble wrapped it gingerly and cabbed it over to Hard Candy.

I walked through a gathering of fans and press waiting in the lobby. Once I was finally inside the empty gym, I carefully handed the painting to my friend who led me over to the area where she would be making her entrance. There's something strange about a red carpet and velvet rope through the middle of a workout facility. He disappeared with the painting and then came back with a few drink tickets.

“So I’ll be meeting her, right?” I asked.

“No, she’s not meeting anyone, not even me," he replied. "She’s just coming, doing press, joining the class, and going.” 

“What?" I said, "But I was summoned like a towel boy. She’s not even going to say hello to me?” 

“Sorry." 

Well that sucked out loud! “Someone should tell her to be careful with it,” I muttered, deflated, “it’s still wet.”

After all my talk about not wanting to be an old groupie, I ended up waiting there for 5 hours. I'd found some friends that happened to be there and I figured since I made it this far I should probably stick it out. I had to admit I was excited to see her close up. When she finally appeared, instead of walking the red carpet, she decided to trot like Rocky Balboa, with her entire head and body buried in a fur-lined parka. I saw a split second of the tip of her nose flash past me and run into the aerobics room. That’s it, I thought. I'm out of here. What a letdown. I got my coat and stepped out into the frosty night air, feeling uneasy.

Late that night I got a text from my friend. “Madonna flipped out over the painting. She loved it! She even carried it out of the building herself, and It’s going in her NY apartment.” 

My heart started pounding. Then 10 minutes went by and I realized he was finished messaging me. After the excitement of hearing that Madonna loved the painting, I started to think about what came next. We'd talked about how much my painting was worth way before I went to work. I waited for him to message me to come pick up a cheque. Radio silence.   

Finally I texted him, “This might sound like a dumb question, but is someone going to pay for it?” 

A lot of time went by before he answered. Finally he texted, “I made it clear that it was a gift.” 

My stomach did a full back dive into my groin. No press release. No nondisclosure agreement. No payment. So that was it. All done. I spent two months working day and night for what I thought would be some sort of once in a lifetime opportunity, only to get a glimpse of the tip of Madonna's nose.  Forget that this is my only income. Forget that two months of my life was just handed out as a parting-gift to a Forbes cover girl, and forget about the press release. The truth is, I would have been thrilled just to meet her and hear her say that she liked my work.  

It took me a few days to come out of the funk I was in. Once I did, I had no choice but to chalk this up to a learning experience. To this guy, saying “If she likes it she’ll take it with her,” was the same as saying, “Whatever you paint for her I will present as a gift.” But I didn't ask anyone to show my work to Madonna, or request that someone please leave one of my paintings somewhere she could see it. Sure, I got swept up in the excitement of the whole thing, and in the back of my head, maybe I thought if I asked the wrong pushy question it would all just go away. I texted him back, “This was definitely a miscommunication. I didn’t think I was working on a gift. But regardless, I appreciate you introducing Madonna to my work.” 

A few weeks later I posted a pic of the painting on Facebook with the caption, "This is the painting Madonna took home with her." That was my only recompense for the work.

The next day, the owner of the gym I go to, whom I've never met and have no connection to whatsoever, pulled me aside and asked if I'd met Madonna. Wow. That didn't take long to make the rounds. 

I actually have no way of knowing if Madonna even received my painting. If all this is true, did anyone tell her it was still wet? It may have gotten smeared or damaged in transit. I never did get a chance to varnish it. That painting probably has a very uneven finish. The antique frame was a little crooked, but hey, I had to be resourceful in a limited amount of time.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled that she responded to my work and that she may have it hanging somewhere. The truth is I don't know exactly what happened to that painting. And if I'd known all that work was going to result in absolutely no compensation at all, I probably would have respectfully declined.

So, now when anyone asks me if Madonna bought one of my paintings, I just say, "As far as I know, it's in her NY apartment," and leave it at that.  

My wet painting sitting in Madonna's dressing room, an hour before her arrival.