Back in the early 90's I spied a photo in a coffee shop/gallery in Santa Rosa. The photo was called "Johnny Get Your Gun" featuring a gun point blank at the camera, the shooter blurred in the background. I had to have it, but back then I couldn't find the $100 bucks. I kept the phone number on a little slip of paper, but I never called. One day, my boss (Helen) said to me, I want to give you a performance award and I know a plaque won't cut it with you, how about you buy something you want and I pay. And so it was; Helen (who abhorred the photo) became my financial backer in my first art acquisition (okay, my only acquisition). As I dialed the number I thought "this has been too long, the phone number is probably no good, the picture probably sold," etc. etc. But to my surprise, it wasn't and it hadn't.
The photographer answered the phone on the first ring. She was moving she told me, tomorrow and although she didn't really want to sell the print, she desperately needed the cash. When I came over, cash in hand, she handed me the framed print, but as I took it, she didn't let go and a little push and pull happened. As I realized that it meant something very important to her I promised her it would always have a place of prominence in my home. With that she accepted the sale. I felt terrible. I mentally promised myself I'd return it to her someday, that she was really just loaning it to me.
And now almost twenty years later I still carry this print around. There's something so objectionable about it that I have yet to have a visitor who admired it and untrue to my promise, it has often sat on floors and closets, occasionally pulled out with ambivalence and some regret.
Such was the case last week, as I came across it sitting on a dusty floor. I picked up the print and set it on a bench, propped against the wall where I could see it.
It was Fall, an odd transitory sort of season as it is, when the LA Fires began. The fires burned and burned and as they did the City filled with soot and the air clouded over with smoke. Yesterday it was so bad that when the sun began to set, the smoke turned the sunset blood red. It was at that moment that I looked around my darkening room and saw the red sunlight shining straight on, and only on, Johnny Get your Gun.