Woke up early. I am already in my art studio. It’s still too early to paint…not awake enough. I miss the Gift Prolific painting and work. I am in kind of a grieving stage. Just then I open my email to this:
Josh (& Gift Prolific support crew!),
I am that person. I am the girl who somehow walked away from the Gift Prolific with four beautiful gifts: a series of four skull paintings on the same board, numbered 151 through 154.
I am a scientist, through and through. I’m a question-asker and a note-taker, the sort of person who keeps leaning on the limits of “Why?” until she finally gets to “We don’t know.” So when – out of all the beautiful art so carefully hung in the on-playa gallery – I saw a piece of scientific illustration propped up in a corner in the dust, complete with figure labels, I had to ask if the board with the four illustration panels was available to adopt.
The response from a gallery volunteer was slightly hesitant. It only took me a second to realize why: it wasn’t one painting with four sections – it was intended as four separate paintings, four separate gifts. I suddenly felt a wave of guilt! I wasn’t trying to take away paintings from three other people, certainly. There were other beautiful paintings, particularly of birds, that I liked quite a bit, I assured the volunteer.
But of course 151-154 were all still on the same board. At a quick question from the volunteer, You said would gift the paintings as a set. I felt simultaneously quite guilty and very pleased. It was my favorite art there. After reading about the Gift Prolific in the online blog, then coming to Burning Man for the first time and stumbling upon the gallery while wandering aimlessly, I managed to have the presence of mind to write down when the gallery would open for adoptions and where the gallery was. Then, I somehow actually made it back to the right place at the right time (how often does that happen on the playa?). And then I was receiving my gifts. I smiled my biggest grin – it was heartfelt – and thanked you, Josh. As I’m thanking you now.
As part of my PhD program, I recently moved to a new university in a new town. Most of my things are still in boxes, but I have taken the time to decorate one particular corner. The art you kindly gifted me is quite at home my bookshelf, alongside my Evolution textbook, The Sibley Guide to Birds, Strunk & White’s little book, and Darwin’s Origin of Species, among others. There may or may not be some Stephen King present as well, though I’m sure the skull theme suits them fine!
The shelf is at eye level, so the paintings and books are the first things I see when I enter my bedroom. I like the balance between art and science on that shelf; I am reminded that there is beauty to be found in science, whether in the structure of a urchin test or in the logic of an elegant theory or experiment. I also really like that there is no way to orient the paintings as they are now without at least two being sideways. It’s a good reminder to look at things differently.
One day I may seek out a bandsaw and separate numbers 151, 152, 153, and 154, but for now they’re right at home, whichever way is “up.”
Thank you for sending this email today! I really enjoyed hearing your perspective. And I am glad that you are part of the Gift Prolific. I did indeed intend to give these paintings away as individual gift paintings. But I just never got around to cutting them up into 4 pieces. I don’t know if that is because I was being lazy (certainly a possibility), pressed for time (also a possibility), or if I secretly enjoyed them all being together (hmmm). But my inaction works as part of the whole process anyway. I am glad that you enjoy them. And I like your take on it, reminding you to look at things differently. In fact that seems to be the best way to look at it. Very cool. I am glad that as a scientist you connected with this artwork. My wife is also a scientist and I find a lot of mutual love and affection for the world in the areas where art and science meet. Thank you for putting this on your shelf with so many fantastic science books! That is right where it should be and I am honored! And I am glad you made it back to the gallery to get it. That seems perfect and you are right…..not easily done out there! I am sorry if you felt guilt. I hope that the guilt feelings are faded. You should know that it wasn’t your doing….it is definitely my inaction (to not cut them up)…But in the end it works very well. And maybe (if you feel like it) you can cut them up and gift them. Or share them with someone. But only if you feel like it. Take care. Thanks for being a part of this whole thing. I am really glad that you are into it. THANKS!