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Episode 6: The Onion Seller (The Farmer's Market Triptych)

InitCapWhen did I begin painting for exhibitions? Back in 1983, I was approached by then president of the University of Dubuque, Walter Peterson. Dr. Peterson was a patron of the arts in every sense of the word. But he was particularly a patron of local artists. He was the first to organize "event exhibitions" in a converted chapel on the campus of the University, one of the oldest structures on the campus.


Walter removed all of the pews, and lined the interior walls with white paneling that would serve to exhibit artworks and upon which you could easily spackle the nail holes for the next exhibition. He invited local artists such as myself to exhibit for a month, but it was those Sunday afternoon opening receptions that were the real opportunity for artists to connect with patrons. It was pure genius. Artists such as John Gantz, Frank Licciardi, Dorothy Rossiter, Joan Mulgrew, and many others, mounted exhibitions of their work. and everyone sold well and that certainly would make it all worthwhile. I don't remember how many pieces I prepared for my first show, but I do remember I sold every one of them. I was either good or I was delightfully inexpensive. Anyway, I was heady with success. I had two more exhibits through the 1980s, both were equally successful.

I am celebrating that period of my history with a triptych dedicated to the cultural legacy that is Dubuque's Farmers' Market. It was one of my favorite subjects in my first show at the University. I did an invitation and a program cover featuring drawings from that exhibition, "Pearl" and "The Onion Seller." I had painted a watercolor and a pastel based on those two figural subjects but I'm not entirely sure who bought them or where they might be. I have the printed program covers framed on my studio wall and I look at them every day. Since that time I took up oil painting, and I have long intended to create entirely new versions of these subjects on canvas. My upcoming University of Dubuque show is the perfect time.

In this episode I begin the process of making three successive paintings, a three panel triptych dedicated to the memory of those who made Farmers' Market an ongoing success in Dubuque that continues to serve as a constant source of inspiration to me. The market has been going on almost continuously for 130 years in virtually the same place, surrounding Dubuque's historic City Hall. One of those people I met back in 1983 is Pearl Ott. She was a vendor at Farmers' Market since she was a little girl and continued to be a fixture there well into her 90s. She posed for me holding flowers. It was marvelous.

This painting is "The Onion Seller." I'm not certain who he his, but I had a photograph of him which I can no longer find in my archives. I did have the show program, thankfully, that afforded me the opportunity to revisit this favorite subject of mine.

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