Monday, February 25, 2008

Rolfe's Gallery

In my previous post …. I have mentioned about my Swiss Friend … Dianne … the widow who is living in an apartment at Bethune St. …..

Well in this post I have decided to write something about it …..

They call it WESTBETH …. short for West of Bethune. It is located at the corner of Washington St. and Bethune St. and on the other side of it lays the Hudson River where the chilly breeze welcoming anyone approaching comes from.

I usually frequent myself there if I have spare time to visit my friend Dianne …. And as I have mentioned in my earlier post entitled BETHUNE ST. she remains the sweet old lady that she is.

WESTBETH is mostly inhabited by painter, actors, musician and other artist. The waiting list to get a door would take years …..

In the lobby just beside the mail boxes you could see walls turned into bulletin boards …for announcements and ads or self expressions posted by residents. It is really a place conducive to enrich someone who is passionate about art ….

In there is where Rolfe’s (her deceased husband) den is located ….

Could an artist’s passion for the arts transcend death?

Although I only met Dianne when Rolfe had already passed away.... ....aside from Dianne’s stories ….
....just by seeing their apartment and the things that had been left untouched (Rolfe’s things), just the way they were when the man was still alive … gives away the person of this man to me.

The walls are bare white and the ceilings are high … I could tell that much enough space and air were preferred by the people living there … and to my mind it had to be Rolfe’s preference.

.The apartment is bare … as ever and according to Dianne it was bare as it was when Rolfe was still alive. All one could see are the big working table ...brushes ....the oil paints … piles of bare canvas those that were still waiting to be touched by Rolfe’s magic brushes…

.Rolfe’s works are neatly wrapped in Manila paper and piled on customized shelves where Dianne had kept them. I tried to ask her to let me see them but there was sadness in her face and would say …THEY ARE ALL PACKED AND I WOULD RATHER NOT OPEN THEM … READY FOR THE SWISS BENEVOLENT SOCIETY TO PICKED THEM UP JUST IN CASE ANYTHING HAPPENS TO ME.

I understand her and respect her choice … and I am sure there is more to it than her reason for not unpacking and seeing it once again.... what her husband once had made. She probably does not want to look back and remember…. I guess when it comes to her heart she will never forget the details….

It may sound weird …I did loved drawing when I was a kid and a teen ager … but then I ended up with a very different line of profession. But ever since I entered Rolfe’s den I felt more passionate about art …. Something I have never felt it before… I myself would be surprised and every time I go there … there is some urge to pick up my chalks or charcoals and my drawing pad and would come up with something neat. I would tell Dianne that it as if Rolfe’s spirit would want to see me draw and would teach me something.

Some techniques that I never figure out before … or inadvertent stokes that would come up with a good form … thus becoming an art. I have never felt such enthusiasm to draw until I have gone there.

The place kept in calm silence …solemn by the memories shared by my old friend with her husband …. Gives me a certain kind of atmosphere .....although melancholic gives out an air of optimism …. Optimism that has been emitted from Dianne’s aura.

I could see her as a woman of simplicity … wisdom and courage. If one could see her an Old widow …childless … living by herself and yet full of life and hope … one could infer that this old lady lives life as it is and had bowed down to the fate of acceptance .. about life ….

She would often tell me how she and Rolfe met … that she was already engaged to some other man … but she met Rolfe in the Art School where she attended in Berns. They arranged to meet up one day but she was about to cancel it and tell him to forget everything about them in a phone call but fortunately Rolfe had already left.. on his way to the venue of their meeting place … Dianne was not left a choice but to meet him …and the rest was history. Just one missed phone call …a fortunate miss … I see her eyes light up whenever she tells me that story…..

Often I would hear her utter “Well that is life … and there is nothing we can do about it … everyone would go …”

Dianne would always feed me with her words of wisdom and courage as she tells me stories (though she repeats her stories a lot of times something to do with her loss of memory) about her youth that as a child she was a dreamer, often her mind would wander… … she would tell me a lot with pride about Switzerland particularly Berns …

A Toyland is to a child … its paradise as much as WESBETH is to me … my passion …. Not only do I get the solitude that I experience inside Rolfe’s den. I also get to talk with a lot of artist living there and would unselfishly teach me a thing or two about drawing …and stuff… who became my friends meeting up at Chelsea every once in a while.

Rolfe’s gallery is not only a repository of his paintings ..of his art works but is a repository of memories he and Dianne shared over the years of their lives. An art school for me as well as a spiritual oasis.
Copyright Symbol 2006