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Let me tell you a love story

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

It’s Valentine’s Day and not uncommon to reflect on romance in one’s life. I spent Friday updating our inventory of artwork for insurance purposes and realized that fine art has been interwoven with my married life for nearly 34 years.

Prior to dating the man who would become my husband in 1981, I was a single mom with two small children, getting by from one paycheck to the next with barely $10/month that was unbudgeted for necessities. Working in downtown Denver gave me the opportunity to window shop if nothing else, and getting outside for the lunch hour was routine for me.

One day I spotted a very large and spectacular oil painting of snow-covered Maroon Bells in the window of a prominent gallery near the Brown Palace; and out of curiosity, I went in to inquire its price. Needless to say, it was well beyond my budget; but that painting would become a significant part of my life.

The first time I visited the Evergreen Meadows home of my husband-to-be, there was the brilliant blue sky  (it’s still brilliant even when cloudy) contrasting the rugged contours of Maroon Bells that had drawn me into the gallery on 17th Street! John and I had never discussed the painting, but it certainly generated conversation then and has become a favorite story to tell ever since.

About 20 years ago we contacted the artist, Michael G. Zittel, to update insurance values and shared our story with him. Yesterday’s effort to find Zittel produced only two likely offspring, also prominent artists in other parts of the country with roots in Colorado.

On a wall in John’s kitchen was a large oil picture of Crappies by Amy Brackenbury eyeing a tempting fishhook. I’d also admired Brackenbury’s wildlife paintings that had been on display in a bank lobby on 17th Street during my noontime walks. My comment about the Crappies drew a chuckle from John as he related that his former wife’s reaction had been, “Why would you want THAT on your kitchen wall!”

Was this a sign? At least this man and I had similar tastes in artwork…. His collecting of original art had not begun until he’d divorced. Then, like assembling new furniture, acquiring art allowed him to create a home that reflected his personality.

In tracking down the artist this weekend to update values, Amy Brackenbury enjoyed the story – and the photo I sent, as she’d failed to capture the image before selling it.  

An early gift to John was a bronze statue, the first casting of aspiring artist David Parvin. He’d brought the wax into my office to show off his new hobby in 1981, and I’d been so impressed with his talent! I told him I’d be his very first customer if he’d take the next step by having it cast in bronze. David would end up quitting his job in the helicopter business and becoming a renowned artist in sculpting bodies with great precision and anatomical accuracy.

Over the next few years we acquired #1 of each of his series (of 25) of his next 4 bronzes. Between an economic downturn and his increasing success, we could no longer afford to be collectors of his works but followed his career through Sculpture in the Park in Loveland and galleries around the state.

Last night when I googled David Parvin, I learned he’d passed away suddenly two months ago, still active in a successful sculpting career up until the end. His hundreds of sculpted figures and castings will continue to bring joy to their owners for many years to come. He used my two children as models for facemasks when he first began working in a different art form using a material similar to what's used for dental impressions.

Our home is marked with visual reminders of our life together over the years – a botanical print of our first trip together, an oil from our honeymoon in Spain. We reflect on our favorite trips daily as we pass by paintings from those places. Artwork has been a dependably touching gift for special occasions.

Some time ago, we inherited a large oil painting of a Spanish dancer with lots of documentation tracing back to an artist born in the 1800s. The shipping costs from Europe were $200 back in 1963, so it had to have some value; but 20 years ago we didn’t have the benefit of googling to get answers. Yesterday I explored the Internet in search of information about this artist. The Italian painter, long since deceased, has a legacy that lives on. His paintings are still being auctioned off in Europe.

I also tracked down Barbara Burlingame, who says she’s made Florida, Virginia and North Carolina her home since Evergreen; and her return email says I own one of just five or so pieces she ever created of her colorful “gingerbread” birdhouses mounted on canvas back in the 1980s.

In building our collection of art, our walls now boast the works of 16 different Evergreen artists, whom I can follow by Internet, if not in person, for decades to come. How fortunate we are to live amongst so many talented folks! And I get to live with one of them!

Isn’t the Internet a fabulous tool for tracking down people? As with genealogy, it’s fun to explore the lives of artists who have been like family on the walls of our homes over the years. 

I hadn't realized it along the way, but art has certainly played a significant role in our love story.