Friday, February 17, 2012

Heart and Soul: Appreciating Fine Art and Artists

Tonight Dean and I visited the art studio of our friend, Jeff Hein. Click >> here<<  to see his website.  We met Jeff and his wife, Jen when we were first married and lived downtown.  We were all in the same LDS Ward (congregation).  Jeff taught our Sunday School class, and I gained a lot of respect for him while I listened and participated in those classes.  When I learned that Jeff was an artist, I didn't necessarily have more respect for him, but it was different.  You wouldn't know that he's a phenomenal talent.  He's super cool and way chill about the whole thing.

I have always been a fan of fine art; I think my time in Europe helped my appreciation grow.  You don't get much exposure to fine art in Pekin, Illinois.  One of my favorite places in Chicago is the Art Institute---where I could stare for hours at the impressionist artwork.  I saw a Van Gough exhibit that the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my friend Steve in 1999.  I have been to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.  Dali is not necessarily fine art, but viewing his pieces really opened my mind.  I saw a Picasso exhibit in Hungary, and that caused me to wonder if I was missing a few boobs on my own torso....Picasso loves his boobs.  And in a completely inappropriate segue, I've been to the Vatican museum to see all of the emasculated marble, male statues.  I've seen the Sistine Chapel with my own eyes.

I know I'm biased, but I've got to tell you that I hold Jeff in regard with the masters with respect to his talent.  I have a copy of one of Jeff's paintings on the wall in my office, and I look at it every single day.  The painting tonight was one of Christ.  It was commissioned for the LDS Temple in Boise, Idaho.  It was brilliant!  It will bring people a lot of joy.  He is working on two other commissioned pieces for the Honduras Temple, and I hope to see those when they are complete, too. 

You know what I appreciate most about Jeff?  When Bradley was 12 years old, he was going through some really rough times.  Jeff, at that time, had an art class that he offered on Thursday nights.  Bradley had expressed some interest in art, and I thought that if he could have some structure that he could explore his talent...and learn from Jeff.  Jeff had never allowed a child that young to join his class, but he made an exception for Bradley.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. 

I wish that I could tell you that Bradley discovered a miraculous talent during his time at art class, but he didn't.  That's OK.  It was important to me and Dean to give him the opportunity to explore his talent.  Jeff was willing to give Bradley every opportunity that Bradley wanted to pursue, and I appreciate that.

When Bradley experienced some serious trouble as a young teen, Jeff was one of the people that I called.  I wanted him to know what was going on with Bradley so that he could be a positive influence.  I am a big believer that "it takes a village," and Dean and I decided that Bradley's troubles were beyond our capacity as parents...we couldn't manage them alone.  We enlisted several trusted adults in Bradley's life with whom to share his struggles so that he would have a support group.

Tonight when I walked into Jeff's studio (and I haven't seen him in many years), I said, "Hi Jeff, Wendy Davis..." He said, "I can't believe you just introduced yourself.  I know who you are!"  Well, ya know...he's kind of a big deal, and he kind of had some star-struck fans there....and I didn't want to assume.  It didn't surprise me one bit that he inquired about Bradley right away.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate that.

There are many qualities of great artists that the experts have debated for centuries.  I can tell you what makes Jeff one of my very favorite artist....more than is the person he is and how he represents that in his art.  And I seriously appreciate how he was important in Bradley's life at a crucial time.