I am learning that if you stay flexible and keep your heart, mind and eyes open you will see repetition in your life that you might not otherwise pick up on. I have been very observant since Ive been here… I think it is due to my vulnerability and trying to learn a new place. I see the same people morning after morning. I see the same College of Charleston student parking his car on Murray, getting his bike off the rack, putting the rope lock around his neck, and heading off to school across town, the same man walking his golden retriever going along the same path with the same rhythm as the day before, the same older lady riding her bike along Murray enjoying the start of a new day. The fun part though is seeing the same people around town and feeling like I know a little bit about them. I could tell you what kind of a dog they have or what time they normally are out and about in the morning. It makes this area feel very neighborly.
As Rocky needed to study this Sunday, I decided to head out with Crew. We walked up E Bay to go to Harris Teeter to grocery shop. Its not exactly around the corner, but it is so pedestrian friendly here, that I have no reservations with walking. All cars yield to pedestrians. No questions asked- Its as if that precedence was established when ladies and gentlemen would walk and the carriages would have to wait for them to cross the street. Now, its cars and not carriages, but these streets and sidewalks are made for walking. They were set up as such and the infrastructure of the downtown is for those on foot.
I was walking back home from Harris Teeter along the very commercialized shopping area of King St. I was almost out of that area when I felt the desire to turn around and not head home. Why would I go back inside when there was such a fantastic area to explore and dots to connect? I turned around to walk North on King and just as I did, I looked to my left at a small ( I am talking tiny) window panel and door nestled in between Le Creuset and a bookstore that obviously was a small entrance to an upstairs residence. On a side note, you might recall my post about The Sylvan art gallery and the artist William Berra… well another artist that the sylvan gallery represents is Rhett Thurman. My grandmother had written a comment on the post that she particularly like the work of Rhett Thurman. Mr. Sylvan had told me the other day that Rhett Thurman pieces were one of their all time best selling art. Well, seeing the name Rhett Thurman written on a comment on the blog, it burned that name in my brain. Now back to the window and door I am seeing on my left, there were beautiful paintings lined up just inside the door that looked familiar. As I am trying to “connect the dots” as to why I am standing here looking in the window (with my forehead up against the glass) and trying to recall where I have seen this art before, a man’s voice comes from behind saying , “That is my wife’s artwork”. I turn to look at this man— he is a neat character with a full head of curly gray hair, round tortoise shell spectacles, and carrying bags of groceries. He comes around to the door, takes his keys out and starts to unlock this narrow door. I look at the door and at the bottom it says “STUDIO OF RHETT THURMAN- BY APPT ONLY” . I look up at him and he says “Are you familiar with Rhett Thurman?”. It all “connects” right then and there. I said, “Yes, actually I was with the owner of the Sylvan gallery the other day and he was introducing me to the work of Rhett Thurman. He never mentioned where Rhett was from though.” The gentleman said, ” Well, this is her home upstairs here and her studio. I have a feeling she would be delighted if you came up.” I was flabbergasted!!! Go upstairs? Go through this narrow door, past these paintings, and up the steep steps to this dwelling atop King St? Taken aback, I said I would love to if I wasn’t intruding. So, I take Crew out of the stroller and step inside. It was an immediate atmosphere of 1800’s with the texture of brick walls, creaky heart pine steps, and antique oriental rugs lining the steps. More than anything though, was the beautiful smell of linseed oil and turpentine from the studio upstairs. I look up to the landing I am approaching and the loveliest woman with shoulder length white hair, and the classiest sense of casual style I could imagine. She said, ” Hello there, come on up!” I walked up those steep stairs not sure of what I was doing or where I was. All of this was happening so quickly. One minute I was power walking down King St admiring the historic buildings and wondering dreamily about who lives above these shops and what they must look like inside, and then the next minute I am upstairs of one! What was going on?
I approached the landing, turned the corner into their residence and the chorus started singing. I was standing on the original 12″ heart pine, under a 12′ ceiling, and looking out into her light filled studio where the sun was pouring in the rippled glass of 3 huge original windows. There were oil paintings everywhere! Propped up in stacks, hung on the wall, stacked on tables… it was an artist’s dream to see this. She had an enormous easel with a canvas sketched out in red paint awaiting the oil paints to fill the space. On an antique table, she had her oil paints perfectly squeezed out onto her palette and a cup of brushes just jumping with anticipation of the work they were about to participate in creating. I stood in one place and just spun slowly around taking in every last detail. How was I in the private studio of the legendary Rhett Thurman looking at artwork with price tags of thousands of dollars? I proceeded to start a firing squad’s worth of questions asking her about her passion of art, her journey, and her techniques She was so kind and tolerant of all my questions. It was an extraordinary outcome to a less than extraordinary walk to the grocery. I’ll tell you one thing, I am saving my milk money to one day have a Rhett Thurman painting. I will want to treasure this forever.
Click HERE to see her work and read her bio