We all have heroes, don't we? This somewhat strange phenomenon of idolizing a person, borderline wanting to be a person who could be so far fetched, a pillar to us mortals, is a powerful, often mesmerizing, and entirely misleading thing.
I remember my first hero: Cal Ripken, Jr. Growing up in suburban Maryland and playing little-league baseball in the 1980's made this an easy one. Everyone in my position loved the "Iron Man". He represented what was good about the sport, community, and, as some felt, life itself. I'll never forget parking in front of the old Memorial Stadium and walking through the turnstiles for my first glimpse of a big-league ballpark, the very one that my idol called home.
As I've grown older and become a bit more of a realist, my choices in heroes reflect a growing man. While I do continue to admire Mr. Ripken for what he did in his career and how he's continued to help thousands of aspiring little-leaguers, I've added others to my list. Pat Conroy, the author, and Clyde Aspevig, the landscape artist, now share that space and represent two men at the pinnacle of their craft. In both men, I admire their talent, body of work, and their ability to communicate through an art.
They say you should never meet your hero, but I took that chance last weekend. I made a trip to Cartersville, GA, an hour north of Atlanta, to the Booth Western Art Museum. They hosted a unique weekend event that focused on western art, but the true draw was Clyde Aspevig.
The gallery has a temporary exhibit of 30 recent works of Mr. Aspevig (the one below is my favorite). I can honestly say I had the same unbridled excitement walking down the sprawling hallway of the museum and into the exhibit as I felt over 30 years ago entering Memorial Stadium. I was in the presence of something much bigger than myself and in absolute awe.
I had the distinct pleasure of hearing him speak about each of the paintings, give a speech about his personal philosophy on the arts, and observe a live 2.5 hour demonstration. I did, in fact, meet him and he was as approachable as any other human being. That experience did not disappoint.
The video below was recorded at a prior event of Mr. Aspevig, but his speech at the Booth was almost identical. If you've got 30 minutes and any interest in the general arts, it is well worth your time.
Mr. Aspevig is from Montana and is clear that his surroundings are instrumental to the person he is today. This is no different than most of us. So, while I've never been there, I do understand what Mr. Aspevig refers to with full appreciation and a hint of jealousy. It is a part of the country that I've grown to remotely love and, without a doubt, will visit someday soon.
So, here I am one week removed from a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I sit equally humbled and inspired. I know I'll never play in the big leagues, likely never write best-sellers that turn into award-winning movies, or paint pictures that are coveted world-wide, but I can dream. We all can.
None of these three men have any idea who I am. Maybe that is the beauty of it all. However, I certainly know who they are and am proud to say they have a positive influence on me and what I aspire for. So, each time I sit down to write or spread paint out on my palette, I can at least in my mind envision that I am in the place of being influenced by my heroes and hope that one day, too, someone will think of me the same way.
For more of Mr. Aspevig's work, please visit: http://www.clydeaspevig.com/.
Additional information about his practice of Landsnorkeling can be found here: http://landsnorkel.com/. (Admit it, you are curious. Go there. You'll be inspired, too.)