In mid-April this year I stood in the main room of the gallery just taking it all in. Honestly, I was a little emotional. I was surrounded by the beautiful solo show from Mark Grantham; his first in six years. It was the culmination of a journey that Mark and I had been on together for two years. A journey, for me, that really started over five years ago when I dared to think I would open an art gallery in Halifax.
The first thing I did when I knew I was really going to do this gallery thing was make a list of my dream artists for the gallery. (The gallery history can be traced through a series of scribbled journals and daytimers). On the first line of the first page I wrote "Mark Grantham".
One day, a few years later, the man himself walked into into 14 Bells. Always humble and gracious, Mark thought it was necessary to introduce himself. "Of course, I know who you are," I said, "let me show you something."
I didn't contact Mark in the early days of the gallery. He had recently left a gallery and I knew through the grapevine that he was well represented by his partner Albert Robichaud. Mark and Albert were trailblazers in online art galleries (Markgrantham.com is 20 years old this year!) and Mark was a popular fixture at the local markets selling his work. And to be honest, I was probably a little nervous approaching a Nova Scotia art celebrity.
We had a wonderful talk that first day. I was sad to learn that Albert had died by suicide a few months previously. Mark's personal and professional landscape had shifted drastically. He was open about the trauma of living as a suicide loss survivor. Albert was not only Mark's partner in life but was deeply involved in his daily art practice, managing the website and sales and even titling the works. It was understandable that Mark was unsure about his future art plans but it is a testament to his professionalism and strength that he was still painting and showing up at the market every weekend.