Monday, October 17, 2011

Sharon Kumm's Beautiful Art

I make a lot of wonderful connections by being a barista, often with artists whose work I admire immensely.

Some time ago, an artist named Sharon came in with her lovely handmade cards depicting historical buildings around Denver. I have posted some samples of her work above (click on the image for an enlarged view of the images). I remember being so giddy with how wonderful her art is. I told her so.

I asked her how much the cards were. They were wrapped for sale, seemingly. She said she would just give them to me but I insisted. "Eight dollars. . . ." was her timid response. I gave her twenty, bought two sets, sent one set to an architecture student and another to a dear friend in Mumbai (who collects handmade cards). "You should be selling these," I said, "I'm not just going to take them from you."

A light seemed to ignite in her eyes. I asked her if she had her work anywhere around town and she said she hadn't, said that maybe she should do something about that. And I thought, "This is nuts! Surely the historical society or the tourist peeps would want these in their store," so I offered to help her. She said that was okay. I went to the tourist center anyway and asked them if they took consignments (while showing them the card sets) and they said yes.

She came in to the store after that, many days in a row, thanked me and showed me each new project, often giving me her work after I had told her about what I had done. Each time she came in I asked her if she had checked the tourist information center or if she had thought about putting some of her work, framed, around the Santa Fe Arts District or somesuch thing. Most days she said she hadn't. She seemed a bit discouraged, especially after she had gone in to the Tourist Center and had been rejected with a stern negative.

I offered to take the work in again because I suspected that her rejection was a product of a certain kind of discernment that I detest but she said that was okay.

I have been worried about her. I hadn't seen her in months until yesterday. One of my coworkers had one of her cards. I ran immediately into the lobby to see if she was still there, found her, and then asked her how she was. She told me that she had put some of her work into a few different galleries. I wanted to hug her right there. She said that I was an inspiration and then I noticed her right hand above the table, shaking uncontrollably and realized when I asked her if she had been drawing any new work, there were only ever unfinished drawings or a few spare lines on any given blank page.

I don't want to end my post here but this is the image that has been with me for almost 24 hours, now. This image and the image of Sharon digging through trashcans for bottles and cans overlap in my mind. This image along with the realization that Sharon probably doesn't have healthcare or very good healthcare and certainly low means (I've tried to call her and her phone has been disconnected).

I can't end this post selfishly, either. I thought I would say something like, we don't know how much time we have with the talents and interests and loves we have, and that I've taken all this to heart in lieu of my own skills and interests and loves. . . . I thought that I might tie in to the political things that are happening right now, the protests and what not but that doesn't feel right, either. Both of the latter things feel like exploitations to me.

The thing is, despite the shaking hand, Sharon is doing something with her work, even if she is only intermittently able (or maybe not even able at all) to draw. Despite the shaking hand, Sharon is being proactive and every time I see her, her eyes are bright!

I suppose then, the right thing to do here is to say that Sharon is an absolute inspiration to me and I have definitely made sure to tell her so.