It was 1994. I was 21 years old. The day I decided that I was going to look for an apprenticeship for the summer, I ran into my acquaintance Flora in the Auditorium at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and I eagerly shared my new goal with her. Her response, “my dad is an artist”. I asked her what his name was and when she said “James McGarrell” I nearly spit up my coffee.
A year or so before, in community college, an art teacher told me that my work reminded him of McGarrell’s. I had to go to two libraries and search many books to find a single image of his paintings. Who would have ever imagined that I’d one day spend a month as his apprentice at his beautiful home in Newbury, Vermont having one of the most pivotal experiences of my life.
There were so many firsts for me, there. They didn’t live like anyone I’d ever met… less like Americans and more like Europeans. I was accustomed something more suburban; I was raised by urban, east coast parents. That summer in Vermont I had my first sushi, sorrel soup, fiddlehead ferns, mid-range red wine and pesto. I went to my first farmers market, went on my first (and only) mushroom hunt worked in my first garden, and heard Billy Holiday for the first time. I shared my most intimate secrets with my new best friend and heard all about hers. Got turned onto the recently aired Twin Peaks and given a stack of VHS to finish them when I got back to Miami. Oh yeah and, as part of my job, crated up lots of paintings for shipping, listened to NPR every morning with a real artist and modeled in the nude. I will never forget these experiences; the details of them are so fresh, like it was yesterday.
I’m forever grateful for Anna McGarrell for inviting me into her home and making me feel so loved and special. To prove how much she understood me, she even wrote a poem, especially for me.
I stayed in touch with the ladies, independently for a while and Jim, through them. I even visited Flora 1997 and we went to NYC Pride together, from Baltimore. Soon after that, the distance grew to the point where we lost touch completely. As of early this year, James passed away, 3 years after his wife and 8 years after his daughter. I found out about each of their passings via the internet. I wish that I could tell them again, how much they meant to me and that they are a part of me, forever.