Perry Oliver

posted in: Personal Stories, story
Perry Oliver in his studio at home
Perry Oliver in his studio in Frigiliana, Spain

“I believe most artists can remember the first time they walked into an art gallery with their work under their arm. Mine was at The Print Center. That was fortunate. Other conditions were not so favorable.

“It was 1972, and I was visiting my parents in the States. Thanks to a lucky coincidence which had nothing to do with my initiative or talent, I had an early morning appointment with Lessing Rosenwald in Jenkintown. He was going to consider some of my first etchings for his collection, which I was going to see. I had been living and learning printmaking by myself in Nerja, at that time a remote village on the southern coast of Spain. I had a minimum of experience making art and less relating  with it and virtually none relating to somebody who really lived art. I was very nervous. Mr. Rosenwald could not have been more hospitable and helpful. He purchased a print. He invited me to see whatever I wished in his amazing collection, and he said “while you are here, go see The Print Club. They are an excellent organization, and you should become a member.

“During those years, when I visited the States, I prudently made the rounds of doctors and dentists (since then Spanish health care has improved exponentially). So I had an appointment at noon with the eye doctor in Germantown. I was a little nervous about that. My vision turned out to be all right, but to examine me the doctor gave me the drops. We raced to 1614 Latimer Street with me dilating like mad. I was very nervous again about art. What can I do and say with my etchings in an art gallery? I was accumulating a desperate mental and physical need to pee.

“We went in the front door at 1614 and I said, ‘I am Perry Oliver. Mr. Rosenwald said I should come to see you. Can I use your toilet?’

“I could barely see where I was going, let alone look at art or show it. A pleasant voice to the right said ‘yes, it is over there.’ I worked my way along a wall to the left until I found a door to push and went in. When I returned, much relieved and a little less nervous, the voice said, ‘we opened the folio and like your etchings. Can we have them at the gallery?’

“Well then, that was the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Thank you, Print Center.” Perry Oliver