I am living in “overtime” after heart surgery in September of 2009 during which I had four bypasses and a valve repair.
I don’t think I’ve been more vulnerable that being split open like a lab frog on a cold slab. I doubt that I will ever make art about
the experience but who knows?
Such experiences, like marriage, the birth of a child or the death of a family member, are pivotal and
life changing experiences. Before you go under the knife, you take a quick inventory of your life and what you believe. When you are
standing on the banks of the river you have to have some commitment about what awaits on the other side. Not everyone has this luxury
of introspection in what could be ones final moment. I thank God for the skilled surgeons and specialists and the superior American
health care system that is in danger of being screwed up. In some ways I see myself lucky having surgery now rather than ten years
from now. Who knows how long I would have to wait or if I would even qualify at 74 years old.
If the surgery had gone differently
I would not be here to write this, to mow my lawn, plant a garden, make art, write music and enjoy my wife and grandchildren. Such
experiences reminds one of what is important. At the same time I would miss my friends--not the superficial Facebook kind--but genuine
friends, the ones that would show up at your funeral and celebrate your life.
I know that many people face their mortality in more
terrifying ways. My recovery, with peaks and valleys, was mild compared to survivors of roadside bombs and auto accidents. Most of
my life I’ve known that my family and my faith were more important than fame as an artist, but sometimes I forgot my principles and
I often became consumed by high expectations and a sense of professional urgency both as an artist and as an educator. The art market
has its stresses and pressures to compromise your values and make quick mediocre art that will sell. The University is another corporate
business rather than a place of the Renaissance. Administrators have a narrow vision if they have any vision at all and a slow paced
mediocrity is valued over visionary creativity. These were the “windmills” that I was jousting and, in my change, have decided to
pick my battles more wisely. I am a changed man. I am very aware, thankful and appreciative of the “second chance” time I have left
and I’m going to use it wisely. I’m going to love, create, rejoice and “tell it like it is” to the best of my ability. I know that
I’m getting back to normal as my passion comes back for art and music—both being instrumental in my recovery. I held my “chest” pillow
in one arm and played the piano with the other two weeks after my surgery.
As I’ve redesigned my complete website, I want to take the
opportunity to thank the many people who had an influence on my life by supporting my art and encouraging me. You know who you are.
“You” includes the people who purchased one of my pieces to those who have purchased many. Maybe I don’t make enough art but I remember
everyone who invested in one of my sculptures. “You” includes the former students who contact me many years later to tell how much
they appreciated my teaching and the mentors and fellow artists who encouraged me over the years. If you purchase through a gallery,
I probably never met you but thank you for your support as a patron. This is from someone for whom Vincent van Gogh is his patron
The Art of James Mellick: Testimonial
The artist with "Stacking Dogs" in 1985.