Sunday, May 14, 2023

Mothers Day

 Today, 20 years ago I had my first art fair, which I did for a few years basically just to spend time with my Grandfather on Mothers Day. At the time I skipped out of my graduation for my MFA(which I don't regret missing for a heartbeat), and exhibited in the Marshfield High School gym, which is where the Marshfield Art Festival was held. I made $800, and my career officially started. Not everyone gets to be in the arts for 20 years, I realize I am lucky.

Shortly after the passing of my Mom, a member of our family fell victim to suicide. Its been tough. The paintings I wanted to be about healing went in a different direction. Its anger, raw emotion and whatever needs to get out of me, sometimes that is about healing. There are no answers, this is not intellectual. Its from the gut. Today was my first Mothers Day without the two matriarchs of our family, I painted. Its what I do.

I will be making my shows, I am getting through this. Thank you to all the people that reached out to me during this time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

My Mom

 My Mom passed on Easter. This was the eulogy I gave 6 days later on April 15th. I will try my best to get through my shows, get through the summer. I may not have as much work as usual, but for my own sanity I will be there. At the end I gave my Mom all I had, and I would have had it no other way. That's just what you do. I have been run through the ringer lately, loosing two of my favorite people, but I am not alone. We as a country have survived a rough patch. My work for the rest of this year will be dedicated to those who have lost people, those care givers, those that need to heal. For peace and tranquility. And for my Mom.

No, I am not dressed in black today. Today I want to make it clear we are celebrating my Mom.
As a nurse for 40 years my Mom dealt too often with end of life situations, and she always said, "funerals are for the living". So we hope to grant her dying wishes in good spirit, or later with spirits, or in her words: "a brewski". My goal is that this talk reflects my Mom's personality or as we would say in my field- oeuvre. Some of this may not be appropriate, but I would think my Mom would want laughs at her funeral.

My Mom had fun. She was fun. Not in a loose woman, barfly sense, no, she was good fun. Kind, gentle and known for her good disposition. It was difficult to watch cancer take away some of her good nature. While going through countless family photos, it was hard to find a photo of my Mom not smiling, not looking beautiful. Personally I was relieved to even find a couple decent ones of me, with way too many looking awkward or just immature. It took awhile for me, I guess, to grow into myself, not my Mom. She pretty much looked like herself in every picture. She looked good.

My Mom went through a lot of tough circumstances and did it bravely and with dignity. With her parents both sickly, my Mom took over some of the head of house responsibilities at age 12. I asked my wife Katie if it was okay to say her brothers were difficult, she said "that would be putting it mildly." My Mom laughed at life and laughed at its cruelties. Sometimes Mom had bad luck. She told of walking into a Kmart and falling in someone else's puke. Grandpa once spit out the front window of the family car, and hit Mom in the backseat. Her cousins infamously once said "hide the pies, here come the Schmollers" upon her non monied family entering that relatives home. Mom laughed at it all. Just last week I stuck my tongue out at her and despite being on her death bed, she made a silly face back at me. I won't ever forget that moment. She good naturedly laughed at you when you had an "owwie". She smiled when she cooked for you. She smiled at life and life shined down upon her.

My Mom was not worldly. Her Grandpa Gottfried lost all his money in the Depression. Her Dad, Herb, had to drop out of school to support the family. They lived in an average house in a blue collar neighborhood. My Mom was salt of the earth and never really strayed from that. Every year since 1959 she went up north to Lake Namekagon to fish, other than that she never lived further than a mile from the family home she grew up in, the blessed 1084 Whiterock, the house Herb was born in. My Mom was loyal to her family and to her hometown. She was a lifelong member of this church, got baptized here, got married here, and is today fondly celebrated here.

No, my Mom was not a doctor. No. She was a nurse, it was her calling: caregiver. She was born to care for the needs of others and she was damn good at it. It depends on my mood I guess, when I am feeling good, I think we are all talented in different ways. In a bad mood I think too many people are just duds. Anyways...    some people are good with words, or money or numbers. An athlete is intelligent kinetically. An artist with emotion, color or line. My Mom was good at serving others. She took care of her aging parents, even bought a house for all of us to live in together. She took care of her kids, her pets, her husband, her marriage, her patients. While some people remove flaws in a design, my Mom removed your splinters. Some people have pop in their bat, my Mom popped your blackheads on your back, and with joy. She would wash your feet, do your laundry, AND make you feel special at the same time. Love was my Mom's vehicle and she drove it with ease, whether repositioning your pillow or administering an enema. She joked of her fingernail not growing any longer after years of removing bowel obstructions. She was called Goldfinger, she would sing the song and giggle. She even had a pin on her lapel she wore with pride. She sheltered her children from the grim realities of a nursing home. She didn't bring her job home with her too often, and usually it was the frustration with dumb doctors and over administrating.

At home some people work with wood or glass as a hobby, carefully perfecting their craft. My Mom's medium was hospitality, and mainly in the form of food for others. Grandpa said "we aren't the richest family, but we are going to eat the best on the block". Grandma and Grandpa both loved food too. Fresh caught fish, Cornish hens, homemade donuts. I have fond memories of Grandpa sopping up a sultry gravy with a piece of white bread. I am so blessed Mom took care of my Grandparents-for they helped take care of me. I truly believe being raised by four adults had a profound impact on my life-especailly two of them that had their formative years come during the Great Depression. Mom carried on the tradition. She could whip up a perfect egg sandwhich as quickly as she could hook up a catheter, and both with a smile. Mom had a bottomless pot of coffee, and offered everyone a little "schmeck" to eat. Crullers, pies, sandbakkles, pecan fingers, a ham sandwich. "Can I get you something to eat?" "How 'bout a piece of toast?" My Mom really enjoyed making people happy.

The first time Katie went up to Lake Namekagon on the traditional "up north" family vacation with us, I believe she was appalled by the family dynamic. The men would fish, clean fish, eat and fish again. The women played kings on the corners and went to town. My Mom cooked. This was my Mom's "vacation"? Cooking and cleaning up after people. She went fishing a few times during the week and would get to town too, but the bulk of her days were spent serving up to a dozen people. Egg after egg. Precariously piled high pancakes served copiously with Aunt Jamima, stacks of bacon, Canadian bacon. The rented cabin was saturated with a heavenly smell I have burned into my being. Bakery. Fish fries. Gluttony. I am sure it violated one of the seven sins, and it lasted all week. All this cooking and cleaning and all on vacation?-this was strange to Katie. Perhaps Katie thought it was a setback for women's lib. Oh no. My Mom got herself a trade. My Mom made good money. My Mom was independent and strong. She worked hard and was in control of her life. Taking care of people made my Mom happy. If we were happy she was happy.

My Mom was largely a happy person, especially pre-cancer. She supposedly had many dates and many suitors. She bought herself a yellow '68 Mustang and I am sure she was a hot chick bumming around town. Truly she was a beautiful woman, how my dad got her I have no clue. She picked the right guy though, because I don't know of anyone who could have loved my Mom and been more supportive of her than my Dad. My Mom kept up lifelong friendships, not everyone does that. Kept up with family. Kept up with the Grandkids. Kept our ancestors alive in our house with stories and photos prominently displayed. My Mom was dedicated to her loved ones, and I was lucky to be one of them.

I didn't find out my Mom had stage 4 lung cancer until after her seizure on March 5th. She shielded us from that as long as she could. I wish she hadn't, but she was selfless and would have it no other way. I want to tell you two fond memories from the last months. One was at Katie and I's art opening on March 4th. Ironically today is the last day the show is up at Tory Folliard Gallery. It is for most people very prestigious, in the art world, it's a big deal to have a show there. I am thankful for my success as an artist and proud but mostly I could take it our leave it. I enjoy doing good work most of all. The two people I really enjoyed sharing my success with were my Grandma Fletcher and my Mom. To tell your Mom you made it, never got old. To see your Mom proud of you, never got old either. I thought of all the hardships she endured and persevered over and it felt damn good to make her happy. So our big opening was on March 4th, and because of covid we hadn't had a show in Milwaukee since February 2020. We weren't sure if my Mom was up for going but she was. We thought she would only want to stay 20 minutes but she stayed hours. She had a great day. We had a great day. She met our clients, old friends and new. Star and Paul were there. Judy and Jessica. Her kids and grandkids. Bethanne and Mark. The place was packed. Her last good day we were all together as a family. She saw me as Mr. Andy Fletcher one last time. It was a fantastic day. The next morning she had a seizure, was put on a ventilator, and was never the same. She came home on March 30th. We all worked very hard as a family to get the house ready for her return. We know this is what she had wanted.

The Wednesday before she passed I played guitar for her and sang. At that point she was not very responsive and clearly towards the end.The care giver, Lori, was with her and everyone else had gone into the kitchen to eat. I didn't want Mom to be alone with a stranger so I started to sing. She became more cognizant and full of life as I sang. I played songs I thought she'd like. That's All Right Mama, Do You Wanna Dance, Money, Sea of Love, Stand By Me. Everyone came back to her. She became alert, and moving. Moving to the music. Moving in a way she hadn't done for a while. She tried to sing. She was moved and so were we. It was a profould moment. Mom loved music. Loved her family's history in music. The Schmoller Orchestra, Uncle Art on piano.After a long while she just smiled. Smiled a big long smile that she hadn't smiled for a some time and held it for 5 or 10 minutes. Try and smile for that long, it's tiring. It's effort. It was an astounding smile for someone dying of cancer. She ate her last meal and a few days later peacefully passed away. That Wednesday night I went home and cried hard. My Mom had given me one last grand moment. She had passed her love of music down to me. The depth of this bond is hard to explain, either you get it or you don't. Mom did. She felt it.

In closing let me say again, this is a celebration. My Mom's gift was love and compassion, and what a wonderful gift to have been given. It's okay to cry, I am not embarrassed. Seriously what difference does it make, I already chose to look like this. Mainly though, have fun. Share stories, and don't be too ashamed to tell poop stories, my Mom loved those the best. Eat drink and be merry. The last thing I said to my Mom was- thank you, and I do believe this is what she would want from us today. God Bless you Mom.

Friday, March 10, 2023


 My show at the Tory Folliard Gallery is up and the opening last Saturday went really well. All the support of clients, friends, and family was and is completely wonderful. I know that I am blessed. The show is up until mid April.

The next morning my Mom took a bad turn. All my energy is going towards my Mom. I pray she gets to come back home, and I will be doing everything I can to help her. When you see your mama in a position like this all you can do is think about everything she did for you. It's all love, and I need to be there for my family.

I will be trying to do a few shows in June and Katie is the poster artist in Ann Arbor. There are no guarantees at this point.  I will not be selling anything from my website, I will try my best to keep working and try my best to get to the shows I have. Its all up in the air. I just love my mama.

Its funny, all I wanted to do was a show that showed I am more than someone who paints pretty pictures, and now all I think I will be capable of is painting pretty pictures.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Hamm's Beer Show

 My painting will be displayed at the Hamm's Beer Club Fest in Medina Minnesota tomorrow Feb 26th from 9 to 3. Katie and I will be there, drinking Hamm's and geeking out!

Updates, updates, updates...

 Sorry, I have not been updating this, but as a general rule, we have been stupid busy.

First off we have a show at Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee with the opening on March 4 1-4PM. The work is somewhat of a departure, and it feels great. I will write more about this next week.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year

 Yeah winter showed up like a tax form from the government. We are having a "white Thanksgiving" here at the farm this year. The good news is I was out on the ice, 4", and did this painting on the 21st. If anybody did an earlier painting on the ice this winter in the lower 48 states, I want to know who that bastard is! 

Being on the river a few times lately, is like going home to me. A place to escape politics, capitalism, idiots(mainly), the news, everyone and everything. No music, no advertising, no farms, no nothing except the wildlife refuge. I owe it to myself to do a series of just the river before I die. The river has been a gift.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Catching up

     So I got a little busy. We made it through our schedule and at the end, out of sheer madness I guess, I added Memphis. I worked 6 months straight with no days off and got COVID 19 as my beer chaser reward. 

     In the meantime The Leigh Yawkey Museum bought my painting for it's permanent collection which made me extremely happy, for not only are Katie and I in their permanent collection, I know my Grandma would have been beaming with pride. Katie and I were the first married couple from Wisconsin to ever be in the Birds In Art Show at the same time. I don't do museum shows. I don't apply to things other than art fairs, and clearly I can't keep up with that anymore, so this was special for me.

    All I know is next year I am doing 4 maybe 5 art festivals tops. Never again do I want to work a schedule like this past year. Now I have all these loose ends to deal with and it feels dysfunctional. Doing shows are a blast and I can not say enough how much fun I have meeting people. My paintings open a lot of doors for me, of which I am very grateful for. That said I can't go on like this anymore. At every show people tell me, "No you have to come back, we love your work." Well, it is like that at the following show and people don't travel with us and see what it is like. It is like being on tour but in between gigs you are writing new songs and at the next show you are relying on the new shit to make your living. It is fucking exhausting. Only reluctantly am I an Art Star. Without a doubt I can say I have given it everything I could and that feels damn good. Seriously how many people give everything they have to give to something they love? I know I am truly blessed.

     We are both writing a book, and have written everyday this year recording all the madness. We are going to keep restoring our farm. We got the land put into the Pollinator Program with the USDA and are very excited to see the land be transformed.We are going to slow down. We are going to do work that is more ambitious and we don't have to care if it sells or not moving forward. We have about 8 more months to bust our asses, and then we are making a change. Maybe it will be a sabbatical. Maybe semi-retirement. I don't know and I don't have to know. Clearly I am never going to stop being an artist, it is who I am to my core. 

I will post a few paintings in my available works page soon in case anyone wants anything for Christmas. 

Katie and I have a gallery show at the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee in March.

Thank you all for helping me get through the loss of my Grandma, she is so strong in my memory it is like she is still here with me everyday.