Wednesday, May 5, 2010

David Hockney and the Rube (by Delmar Lemming)

When I was 16, I had a chance to go to Boston and spend the weekend at my Aunt Pinky’s house in Brighton. It was the dead of winter and I planned to attend a Celtics game in North Station on Saturday night. On Saturday morning, however, a friend and I were kicking around downtown Boston and decided to visit a real honest-to-goodness art museum. Being from sports-minded Turners Falls and not terribly worldly wise in the ways of culture, I gamely ventured into those hallowed halls of marble and majesty. I did not really have a clue of what to look for. An imposing attendant in a sports coat met me at the door and I made a ridiculous request that only a mill-town teenager could muster. “Excuse me,” I said. “Could you point me in the direction of the best painter you’ve got here?!” I did not want to waste my time with the second-rate stuff. Can you imagine! Well, this ardent culture vulture surely spotted the rube but did not let on. He answered me with a wink, “Oh you want David Hockney, his work is that way.” With that he pointed in the direction of the Hockney section.
Well, I was impressed with the sunny California gardens, the stucco and the fine trimmed lawns which I would later learn were made of painted concrete. Ten years later, I was living in the north of England in Bradford, West Yorkshire. In the quaint little town of Thornton on the road to Halifax, I actually was introduced to David Hockney’s mother. We were on a way to a CND benefit where I would be singing. Anyway it was a gloomy day and there was no sunny joy in sight. I thought of Mrs Hockney's wonderful California scapes in his adopted home far abroad. I learned that, in fact, David Hockney came from a small mill town background too.
Another lifetime later, this past February, I ventured into Chicago’s Art Institute and met up with Hockney’s wonderful work again. I felt like I was in the company of an old friend! I love this attached painting. The man's diffidence, the woman's wise gaze. Oh David Hockney, thank you for the light!
(Delmar Lemming)

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