The Oddly Enchanting City
I like Memphis. I’ve only been a few times in my life, but it’s an oddly enchanting city to me. Just a few weeks ago I made the 6 hour drive for River Arts Fest. I left around 5am, with my car loaded down (even the front seat). It was pitch black out, and the steam from my piping hot coffee was unusually visible in the darkness. Longer drives like this I enjoy alone sometimes, as I can catch up on my investigative journalism and art business podcasts.
I particularly like the stretch between Jackson and Memphis, where the cotton fields have a warm lavender glow as the sun comes up. The leaves were falling and it was just a beautiful morning all around, but the forecast for the weekend was bleak to say the least. Rain was coming that afternoon and possibly all day Saturday. As I got closer to Memphis, I realized I would be setting up by myself, in the rain. I didn’t have a jacket or parka, so I went on the hunt for one. After several unsuccessful stores I googled Sports Academy, and it said there was one 16 miles away. By now I was desperate, so I took the drive and landed across the river in Arkansas.
Let’s just say the scenery left much to be desired. Boarded up windows and paint peeling off many of the houses, I internally kicked myself for not being more prepared. The map took me to a literal “sports academy”; a wooded area where people shoot things. Good grief I thought. I drove back towards Memphis and found a CVS off the beaten path and solved my rain gear problem.
Set up took about 2 hours. It mostly drizzled which I was thankful for. I set up the bones of my tent and decided I’d get there early the next morning to hang the art. My dry car was a relief, as my shoes were soaking wet.
I knew my hotel was in Southhaven, so I made another 30 minute drive and realized I was now in Mississippi. It took a while for me to find the hotel, so when I found myself standing at the check in counter , a feeling relief gushed over me.
“I’m sorry, you’re not booked here” was all I heard. I made an out of character laugh and thought, well, this figures. Back toward Memphis, through rush hour traffic, I found my correct hotel an hour and a half later. Have you ever been so happy to arrive somewhere? I crashed and set my alarm.
The next morning the rain was intense. To be honest, I was dreading the day. Attendance and sales were going to be down, if not bad I figured. I’ll save you all the boring details, but sales were terrible. One of the worst single days ever actually. Talk among other artists was that yes, today was bad, but tomorrow they were coming in droves. The sun would finally be out and they’d be buying.
Sunday came and we all were hopeful, but by 2pm, I was starting to worry. I may have told some of you this before, but through my years of pursuing this professionally, I have always found that mentally navigating a bummer show is the hardest part of being an artist. A bad show here and there is understandable, but when they start to pile up it’s really scary. The emotional gymnastics of, “Oh, no, I might have to go back tot he office cubicle” are terrifying to me.
Here is what the roller coaster was like that day. Around 2:10 pm I was behind my partition wall hiding the fact I was crying, by 3 pm I had sold at least 6 paintings, and by 5 pm when the show as over I had sold more in 3 hours than probably any show ever (See all the paintings below that found homes).
So maybe you’re thinking, gosh, what a baby. Crying in your tent? But knowing all of you, and how supportive you’ve been over the years, your thoughts are probably more along the lines of, “yep, I’ve been there”. I’ve always clung to the idea that anything worth doing is never easy.
As I leisurely took down my art and tent, I found myself contemplating why I had a such a soft spot for Memphis. At the end of tear down I had a few minutes to stand by the railing that overlooked the Mississippi river. I looked up at the bridge that went from Arkansas to Tennessee and then it hit me. I was 23 years old, in my Acura Integra, driving across the country by myself with all my things from California. That was the last time I was on that bridge. I had left my entire life behind to make a new start in Tennessee. I could still remember what it felt like crossing over to Tennessee, that my new life had begun. Memphis was the first time I felt like I was home.
THANK you Memphis for all your support and valuing living artists! Visit my www.marisarayart.com to view original paintings, and visit my ETSY shop for prints and small works!