This weekend I was in Kansas City and Mark, Wayne and I filled the time with art. Saturday we had a wonderful lunch at Mama’s 39th Street Diner and then headed over to the Thomas Hart Benton home for a tour. Mark had been there before, but neither Wayne nor I had.
The weekend before we had driven by it when Mark was showing me different neighborhoods. I took a liking to two homes across the street from the Thomas Hart Benton house and started referring to how happy I’d be living in one of those house. Eventually, I settled on the one on the corner as my favorite and as we drove around looking at other neighborhoods I would point out other homes and say, “I’d be happy in that house… I’d be happy in that house…,” but then would turn and say, “But I would be happier in that house in Roanoke.”
So, when we decided to go the Benton house, I told Wayne he’d get to see “my house” since he hadn’t been with us the weekend before when we were driving past. He decided he’d move into the other one I loved, which is right across the street from the Benton house. So, we’re enjoying this banter as we go in for the tour.
As our guide gives us a tour of the studio (amazing!) and home (beautiful!) he mentioned that Thomas Hart Benton’s wife, Rita, was the one who really marketed his work. She would have things hanging in the house and if they sold one, she would put up another one. She was the one who managed their financial affairs and really made it possible for him to work as an artist. Throughout the tour, we heard about Rita’s business prowess.
I mentioned to Wayne, another artist, that he and I needed a Rita to take care of selling our works. As we left we took some more photos of “our houses” and decided when we had a Rita we would be able to enjoy living there, lounging in the gazebo between the houses, and employing gardeners to keep the grounds looking so beautiful. But, of course, all of this starts with a Rita.
We had time to make a visit to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, which I loved. They had an exhibit by Jules Olitski I really, really enjoyed. Wayne and I again talked about our need for a Rita.
Saturday night we went to see the Monet exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins. It’s the three water lilies panels from Kansas City, Saint Louis and Cleveland – reunited for the first time in decades. It was stunning. I love Monet. Wayne and I talked about art and brush strokes and paint and how what we need is to have someone sell our things so we can focus on making art. We again mentioned we need a Rita.
Wayne and I also talked at length about how we both long for a community of artistic types to connect with. The impressionist era model is the one we love – they worked on their art and writing but gathered daily to discuss and share ideas. This is something that’s missing in my life, and apparently in Wayne’s as well. Again, we need a Rita to be selling what we create.
Sunday we met at the Jerusalem Cafe for lunch and tried to convince Mark he could be our Rita. We would happily give him the standard percentage. Mark was having none of that, unfortunately. We then popped over to Union Station where I did a quick interview with Wayne about his artwork that’s in the Art at Work exhibit. The need for a Rita continued to be a topic of conversation.
Mark had suggested going to the Nerman museum at Johnson County Community College so we headed over to see that. After the gallery, we explored one of the nearby buildings where they have art in the hallways. We saw what was on the map and then noticed another hallway that had some art hanging, so we detoured that direction.
The last piece of art we stopped at had a lot of texture in it – a theme that kept coming up all weekend. Mark had gone on ahead, but Wayne and I were still examining it. We turned to leave and I noticed directly across from the artwork, through a glass case where someone’s office was, sat this sign saying, “Rita.”
I’m a big believer in signs – in this case literal and figurative. I’m not sure what this one means, other than that someone named, “Rita,” works there. But it is definitely a sign. And we definitely need a Rita.