The Poet in “The Painter’s Garden”

July 3, 2017

I visited Jim McVicker a second time in the Eureka-Arcata area back in the mid-1990s, when I flew up there to spend some time with him and Terry Oats at their home, after which we drove together down to San Francisco, where Jim had an exhibition for which I wrote the catalogue copy.

While I was visiting, Jim began working on a painting of their garden, and I suggested that it might work better if he had a figure kneeling at work in the midst of the flowers. I walked along the garden path, crouching at various points, until Jim said, “Stop there.” It was a warm day, but I had a hat on, and the fragrant poise of his garden’s flowers helped me hold a pose long enough for him to render a symbolic votive centered in an enduring cycle of renewal.

I would like to note that Terry is also an exceptionally fine painter herself, and I would consider myself fortunate if someday she were to have the chance to include or feature me in one of her paintings, or if I were to be the subject of a portrait. Let’s put it this way: it’s on my bucket list. In the meantime, my office at school has a large painting of me that was done by Linda several years ago and exhibited at the Department of Art’s galleries in a portrait show. We still haven’t located a truck big enough to haul it back home, so when students walk in my office, they are often initially puzzled by my “office mate.” “Is that you?” “He’s the poet,” I tell them. “I’m the academic. There’s a difference, and I prefer it that way. I hope you’re here to discuss Literature.”

Painter's Garden - DETAIL - WM

(Detail from “The Painter’s Garden,” by Jim McVicker. July, 1996.)