Through the original post, “Portrait of the Artist with a Nerd,” I was introduced to one of my wonderful readers, Sammi1228. I do so love hearing from readers. That is why I write. I already know these stories. I tell them to you for the love of working the words, and for your entertainment and engagement. So I was delighted when Sammi1228 contacted me about the original story. The two of us have begun an email correspondence on this particular story and on the artist it is about, John R. Byron. Sammi has gathered some current information on him. So, with Sammi’s permission, I will reconstruct, paraphrase, deconstruct, and quote some of our correspondence.
Our interaction began with Sammi sending me this email (edited):
“I have been trying to find out information about a print I have and saw it in your blog, “Encounter at Weathertop” by John R. Byron. … Is this print something I should be taking better care of? The artist sounds so cool from your posting. Thanks for any help. Sammi”
The email also included a reference to the lithograph numbers. The “Encounter at Weathertop” lithograph I have is 67/1000. That is, it is 67th out of 1000 total copies. I explained the value of these numbers, the most important being that there are only 1000 copies of this print, and that way back when Mr. Byron expressed to me he would never reprint it. Having a copy of something rare is a valuable thing.
In a follow-up email, Sammi explained how her mother got the lithograph in a garage sale. As such, neither of them knew the artist and had no background on the image. Though she did not say it, I suppose there may have been questions in their minds if it was indeed about “The Lord of the Rings” or just something like it. I explained to her that beyond its limited characteristics, it was doubtful that Mr. Byron’s work would ever enter the hallowed halls of those like Picasso or Warhol. Still, as a limited edition it had value, and more importantly, as a gift from her mother it had much more value. She should treasure it. My blog post gave her an origin story for her print, and I hope that has increased its value for her.
In later emails she asked about framing the work, which led to an interesting and I believe useful discourse.
From Sammi (condensed):
“I am going to frame the Byron litho and was wondering how you framed yours. Originally, when my Mom got it for me it was in a silver metal frame but I was wondering, considering the subject matter, if a natural wood frame would go better with it. …”
My reply (condensed):
“When I bought mine from Mr. Byron, he had it mounted in a large black mat – probably close to 6 inches from image to the outside edge of the mat. …
As for what my suggestions would be, definitely have it matted – black with a nice, wide border. As for a frame, that can go so many ways, and it really depends on your decor. If you have a more modern / rococo or eclectic style, I might go with a small, simple frame – black metal, silver metal, brass, gold, something like that. If you have a more old-world decor, wood definitely, but I don’t think I would go big and fancy. Let the artwork speak, not the frame.
Now, as for what is most important…
Because of how you came upon this artwork, you are not aware of this, most likely…
Where ever you hang it, BE SURE you can place a small artwork lamp immediately over it. These are inexpensive and can be gotten at your framing shop or a Lowe’s or Home Depot or the like. It doesn’t sound like much, however… I think you will be surprised at how the artwork will suddenly take on a new depth and vibrancy. John painted it with this in mind, at least in part. It is that lighting that really drew me to it when I saw it in his show gallery. We literally spent 15 minutes or more just talking about that aspect, turning the little art lamp on and off, looking at the differences. …
So, whatever you do as far as the frame, be sure to include a lamp. …
In the end – keep the frame understated (plus that will make it cheaper). Be sure to use an artwork display lamp. And most importantly, enjoy it.”
In Sammi’s subsequent email, thanking me for the information I had given, she asked, “Is Mr. Byron still around and doing art?” As I pointed out in the original blog post, I had looked for information on John R. Byron, to no avail. But her questions and interest sent me on another search, and lo and behold I found a tiny scrap.
John Byron was one of many featured artists in a gallery in Bisbee, Arizona, or at least he was at one time. All I could find on him, reflected in some of the comments on the original blog post, was a single page document containing nothing more than a few short paragraphs and some images of some of his other work. (http://www.discoverbisbee.com/documents/MicrosoftWord-JOHNBYRONBIO.pdf) I sent a request to the folk in Bisbee, but I did not receive a reply. I did call the number that is shown on that page, however it was no longer in use. I passed all this information on to Sammi.
Sammi had more intestinal fortitude that I, and actually called the gallery in Bisbee (http://www.facebook.com/pages/55-Main-Gallery/146441015447356). That call shed some more light. Sammi has learned that John Byron passed away in 2012*, during his 69th year. Some might say, with me writing the original blog post in December of 2012, there was some synchronicity in the universe. I could only wish he had seen the post, but I feel sure he did not. Still, some might say there were some sympathetic waves taking place.
(* Originally entered as 2013, but now corrected by information from 55 Main Gallery in Bisbee, AZ.)
Sammi wanted to share at least one of John’s pieces that is displayed in the Bisbee gallery, so I present it here.
If you look carefully, the artwork hanging on the right side is very similar to the artwork at the top of this post. In the gallery, it is titled “Hidden People”. In the artwork above, with careful inspection you can see some dwarf like folk in the lower left. (You can click the image to see a larger version of it.) These are not evident in the piece that is in the gallery. But that was something John did. He considered himself a “working artist”. He did not paint a painting and consider it done. He worked the concept, painting it again and again, until he had a finished work he was happy with.
I have to say, I have always enjoyed his use of light. He was not afraid of contrast. The light against dark creates wonderful depth.
I also have one that I want so share – a self-portrait of the artist.
To John Byron, I feel certain that I was just one of a million on-lookers. But to me, John was one in a million and will always be remembered. Thank you, Sammi, for sharing with the world. And John, thank you for all the bright colors.