An Unexplained visit from an artist friend
It wasn't your typical "visit". Nor was it a typical friend; this one was dead. His name is Gino DeSimone. He was an artist, neighbor, and friend, and lived in my building with his wife Alice for some years before he died suddenly in 2013 at the age of 80.
It all started a few months ago when I was doing some cleaning out and found myself thinking more of Gino - it had been 6 years since he died. His wife died about a year ago. One Friday I was having a vision lesson with my vision coach Nathan Oxenfeld by Skype and got a little teary when I mentioned I had let go of some of the art books Gino had given me.
Exactly one week later a very strange thing happened. My friend Joan got the thought to go into a familiar thrift store she passed and look for some frames for me (as an artist I"m always on the lookout for frames). She was pleased to find a pile of frames that had just come in and was told "some lady dropped them off this week". As she picked up a small wooden frame with a pen and ink portrait in it, she exclaimed to herself "that's Gino!" But then, feeling that it couldn't be, thought "these artist types all look alike" (we laughed over that one later). That night when she proceeded to show me what she found, I said "that is Gino!" I recognized it not so much by the drawing, although it was a likeness, but by the total package - the frame, the matting which was uneven, and the sketch. I felt I had seen it before. It looked just like the one his wife had given me about a year after he died. I thought I still had it and had to go look for it, maybe there were two of them? We were both baffled.
When I couldn't find it anywhere I started to wonder. Maybe it is the picture Alice gave me. But how did it get into a thrift store? I still don't have the answer.
I had tried doing a portrait of Gino myself after he died, to give to his wife. But the grief was still raw and I ended up putting my attempted painting and the gift from Alice away in storage. I vaguely remember letting go of the half finished portrait after a few years, but had no recollection of what I did with the framed pen and ink sketch of Gino.
Who was the lady who dropped it off at the thrift store? And how did she get it? I thought of Gino's stepdaughter Stephanie. I wrote her a little note and asked if she knew anything about it. And did she still have that little brochure that was Gino's bio which also had a pen & ink sketch on it? I wanted to compare the artwork. Who drew the pen & ink sketch? I also took the picture out of the frame to see if there were any clues. Nothing. No date, no signature, just some disintegrating masking tape which I replaced.
Stephanie called me a few weeks later. She wasn't the lady that dropped it off and didn't have the brochure anymore. But she had one of Gino's self portraits and would I like it? Definitely. She stopped by that afternoon and confirmed that the one I had was indeed one of Gino's self portraits. Comparing the artwork it was undeniable. I told her I looked for a signature but couldn't find one. "Oh Gino never signed his paintings, that's how you know its his". We talked about her mother for a little while and then I thanked her and she drove away.
So how it got there remains a mystery. But that it got to me (whether its the same one I had or not), that's a miracle. A wise dear friend of mine told me that's what it is if you can't explain it. Because, really, what are the odds a picture of my late artist friend would end up on my kitchen table like that?
So I can only think that Gino came back to me. He's more than the books or the picture, his spirit is alive and he wants to continue to hang out together and chat about art. I sign my paintings "G&CK". The G stands for God, but now I like to think now there is a little of Gino in that "G" too :)