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As a Canadian contemporary visual artist, based in Kamloops, an Interior city of British Columbia, Canada, I am often asked by fellow local  artists how it was and why  my work made forays into the US.  I answer, "Chance.  A series of chain reactions ,connections and graffiti." 

In the summer of 1996, I attended Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art and Design for Advanced drawing.  While there my husband, Wolfram, telephoned me to say there was a studio space available in the back-alley, just down from his office.  I should take, he said.   When I arrived home at the end of August I renovated the space: painted the interior rooms, added contemporary  lights on wires and painted the exterior of the building a cerulean shade of  blue.    I was excited but nervous to move my paints, easels, desk and books in to the back-alley studio.  I painted in an entirely different manner than the artists in the community.    I called the space Chazou, a term that I coined from a "drunken" form of the word "Salute ,"  a word a small group of artists used every night while drinking dreadful, gut wrenching red wine at a painting and language retreat in Montaigut Le Blanc, France during the summer of 92.  

Within a few days of moving into the studio space, the exterior wall was tagged with graffiti.   I had the wall professionally re-painted to cover up the graffiti.  The very next day, I arrived at the studio.  Again I was tagged; three times in one week.  And each time I painted out the graffiti.    I then realized that  my exterior studio wall was a magnet for young graffiti artists.   I got the brain wave that if I painted a mural on the wall, the graffiti artists would respect another artist's work.   I needed to paint a mural, a simple mural.  Who could I get to help me ?   I needed to be quick because I knew that I would be tagged the fourth time is I did not act hastily.  Ah ha!  Laura Gibson and Steve Boyd, two lovely, young adults that I had attended art school with and who worked at the local art supplies store.  I immediately paid them a visit.   "Could you PLEASE  help paint me a mural tonight?" I implored.   "Sure," they immediately replied. "We will be there right after the store closes.  What are we going to paint." "Gosh, I don't know.   Why don't we paint Matisse's Jazz Series."   Matisse's Jazz Series, a simple, straight forward design was on exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery and I just happened to have a copy of  the catalogue from the exhibition.   That night, with  enamel exterior paint, Steve and Laura tackled the project.  The wall was a true success.   No more graffiti tags.   And, the appropriation of  Matisse's Jazz Series , a foil to combat graffiti, became a landmark in the back-alley when people were directed to visit my studio.  


Now enter Michael Henderson.  One day,  while sitting eating my lunch in the studio with a couple of students, the door burst open.  "Are you Tricia Sellmer," this man asked.  "Yes," I replied.   "Well," he said "I have been up and down this valley, visiting all the artist's studios that I find, from Osoyoos to Williams Lake, looking for an artist with different work.  The two young people at the art store told me to look for you in this back alley, where there are bright painted figures on the outside wall."   "Oh," I said, still a little startled.  "Well, this is my work."   "Yes.  And, oh by the way, my name is Michael Henderson and I represent the Gruda Gallery in Peachland.  Your work is exactly what I have been looking for.   Something different. Something really different. Those two young people were right.   Your work is really, really different," he said, as he started to walk around the studio and look at the paintings.  "Oh," I said, still trying to comprehend what I was being told.  "Would you be interested in a show in Peachland?  Soon! "  "Yes," I replied.   And that is how I eventually met Dr. William Read.  Dr. Bill for short.   This story continues, but with Bill's words.

"My memory of the exact year is foggy.  This was my first visit to an art museum with my parents to see a painting exhibit, which was touted as the "official" first art exhibit for Communist China in the US at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  I think I was about seven years old, which would put it at about 1947, and my first visit as a child to a big city, fresh from a northern California horse ranch.

I was stunned to see such gigantic paintings, some taking half a wall in height, some almost as long as an exhibit  hall wall.  I was totally taken by one painting of Chinese gardeners toiling in amongst what looked like gigantic water lilies growing on dry land.   The flowers looked like the beautiful water lilies we  had at home in our pond.  But these were the size of small trees and rose above the heads of the gardeners.  I was totally hypnotized and felt like I could walk into the painting.  The gardeners were happily "caretaking" in my mind's eye.  I wanted that painting!  It was like getting lost in a novel, but this was a first -- to be drawn into a painting.  To me it was magic.

For many years and into my professional work life I looked for contemporary artists that painted huge oils of flowers.  One day, around 1979, when I was on faculty at the University of Washington, I met Michael and Marina Henderson, brother and sister-in-law of the Associate Vice President of Health Sciences, Dr. Maureen Henderson, University of Washington.   Her brother Michael was a painter himself, and I had seen some of his large oil paints of marine scenes in the Baltimore area.  His wife is a brilliant artist as well.  I told him my story of the 1940's museum painting and how I wanted paintings that could affect me in the same way. 

A few years later, Michael and Marina retired to British Columbia.   I asked them to look out for an artist who could paint huge canvases of flowers that I could acquire to recreate that moment at the China exhibit.  After they had settled in Peachland, BC, Michael called me in Chicago and said he had found my painter artist.   I flew to BC and we went to Tricia Sellmer's studio in Kamloops.  It was an exciting moment.  Beautiful flowers and gigantic canvases!   I could walk into them, even the small ones.

I can honestly say that I am likely now the world's major private collector of her brilliant large canvas paintings of flowers, as well as her abstract canvases and her charcoals.   It took nearly 40 years!!   I am now surrounded by luminous oil and acrylic flowers and abstract canvases and charcoals that I can lose myself in, which provide me beauty, energy and peace in a turbulent world.   I feel very lucky!

I have shared through donation and special gifts over 20 of Tricia's brilliant large canvas paintings to  the Benjamin Rose Institute in Cleveland, to the Flinn Foundation in Phoenix and to friends.  And working with Tricia, I have collected a number of other young artists in both Canada and the US.   I am addicted to her work!   She is constantly evolving and refining her artistic expression, presenting lively captivating messages that can challenge, while always giving hope and peaceful reflection --artistic treasures from a beautiful mind!! 

Dr. Bill

So, connect the dots.  What started with a phone call from Wolfram about a studio space just behind his office, led to graffiti on my freshly painted exterior studio walls, which directed me  to two young former art student companions who just happened to work at the art store where I bought my supplies.  And then Michael, who was from another community, searching for an artist with a totally different style, stopping in at the art store, introduced me to  Dr. William Read who was very interested in art and just happened to know other Americans who shared his passion.  Some of the people I never met in person but rather through telephone calls by the clients themselves or through their personal assistances.   Each of these people found something in my paintings that they wanted to have and wanted to share.   And it all started with a man's memory as a small boy and his first visit to an art museum in which he was "hypnotized" by the magical images of gardeners toiling away, taking care of gigantic waterlilies taller than their heads.