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Dreamer 39: Art for Anderson's Heart
Host: Dreamer Concepts, an Art Space for Emerging Artists
Title: Dreamer 39: Art for Anderson’s Heart
Location: 324 East Main Street, downtown Norman
Time: Opening Reception will be held from 6 to 10pm
Date: Friday, November 11th, 2011
Contact: Amber Clour, email@example.com, 405.623.1369
*** Photographs of Mr. Simmons work are available
Dreamer Concepts, an Art Space for Emerging Artists, will host the opening reception for Dreamer 39: Art for Anderson’s Heart on Friday, November 11th from 6 to 10p.m. at the Dreamer gallery, located at 324 East Main in downtown Norman. The exhibit will feature works by Veteran Mike Simmons, who tackles large canvases with the use of only one, limited-dexterity hand. Dreamer 39 is not only a display of Mike’s hard work and amazing talent, but is a fundraiser for his grandson, Anderson.
The setting sun is painting horizontal lines across the walls of a small space Mike calls the “arts and crap” room. He shares it with several other veterans. In view about the room are paintings and projects of varying degrees of artistic ability, yet in front of us, as we sit for our interview, is a brilliantly colored acrylic cactus on canvas. “This one has been the worst,” Mike says as he points out the fine thistle details. Three thin white thistles to each black dot and black dots covering the 2X2 foot patch of this large canvas. He says his hand shakes so badly the delicate details are a challenge.
Simmons started painting in tempura at the age of eight. By high school his paintings were used to fill the display frames on the walls of his father’s frame shop. There is pride in his voice as he recounts the feeling of a customer wanting to buy his framed work off the wall. In 1965, he won the Young Talent of Oklahoma.
As a teenager, Mike volunteered to join the Marines in Vietnam and then Korea. Painting was pushed to the back of his mind. He returned, married, divorced, worked for Channel 4 news where his creative juices once more began to flow. It wasn’t until he married his second wife, Carol, the ”love of his life”, and was working full swing as a TV Director that he once again began to paint.
But in 1993, the painting once again stopped. Mike was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and that same year Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was all he could do to just keep working. Mike recounts “it was like squeezing coffee out of old coffee grounds.” He lost an average of 10% of mobile ability a year from ’93 and then in 1999 Carol passed away.
There is a space of time here in Simmons timeline that isn’t as well illuminated. What is understood is in the last ten years while in assisted living he has faced mistreatment and injustice. Always the warrior, Simmons spoke out against these conditions and fought for his human rights, as basic as the need to be assisted to the restroom. Horrors that one would never think are possible still today. Through these trials - loss of loved ones, the frustration of loosing mobility in three quarters of his whole body, becoming confined to a wheelchair and the violations in trust of those charged to help him - Simmons did not succumb to helplessness. In 2010, he decided to rise above and start painting again. When asked what changed, he said “If you are going to do something, you better do it before it’s all gone.”
With only the partial use of his left hand, he paints to the side of his wheelchair, lining up parallel to the canvas. In order to not smear what he is working on, he localizes his painting -starting at the top right of the canvas and working his way down to the left. He battles the limitations of his chair and the longitude and latitude of the canvases by reorienting the canvas-sometimes putting it on the floor from the easel or on its side in order to reach it.
It’s the acrylic that inspires him, the possibilities found in the paint. He is ever exploring its attributes, excited by the ability to bulk it up for texture or use it as a lacquer. He thrills at its shine and iridescence.
Simmons had been painting again for only a few months when this past March, his grandson was born with a heart defect. His painting was given a purpose; he felt “it was all he could do to help.” Now he is using the proceeds of all his paintings sold to help his daughter and grandson.
This exhibit will be available for viewing during regular gallery hours or by appointment until December 2nd, 2011. For more information about Dreamer 39 or the gallery, please visit our web site, www.dreamerconcepts.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org/405.701.0048.
Dreamer 39 was brought to you with gracious support from INDIVIDUALS like you, the Jim Drummond Law Firm, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund, the Norman Arts Council, Realized Possibilities and Republic Bank & Trust. Special thanks to Shevaun Williams, Jeanne Flannigan, Vanessa Rudloff and Kori Kent.
This article is a written collaboration by Amber Clour and Vanessa Rudloff.