Tonight I went to the 11th annual ART for AIDS Evening of Silent and Live Auctions benefiting UCSF AIDS Health Project which provides mental healthcare and support for people living with HIV. The well attended fund-raising event hosted by Bonhams & Butterfields auction house was colorfully lovely, and tasty, and just enebriating enough. I was wearing ballet pink and felt pretty for the first time in a while.
I toured all the art before the bidding. There were several pieces of art that, as an artist I wanted to copy, and, if I were a person of means, I would have wanted to buy. But I didn't look at almost any people in the eye except the friend I brought and the hors d'ouvres and wine servers. I was afraid of running into people I might have known from a long time ago but that I wouldn't recognize or be able to place. One of the people I did want to see to thank saw me before I saw her, which was nice, and hugged me. Another I reached out and shook hands with and said, "Good to see you," in passing, but I'm not sure if he recognized or placed recognition of me or not--but he would be good at not being readable that way if he wanted not to be.
The live auction was charged and interesting. I watched the room from standing at a little standing table with my wine and lttle crab things with three men I never looked at. They weren't the same three men by the time I sat down in a fold-up chair to the right of my friend. I don't know how many items sold, but it all seemed to go quickly, and the participants seemed pleased with the sales. Near the closing of the auction, (the second to last item up), my friend raised one of our two ticket/bidding-number programs at a $2100 dollar call for a permanent pigment print of a man's face superimposed on Marie Antoinette's portrait, titled "Maria 2007" by Deborah Oropallo. It was not one of my favorites. All eyes paying attention were on my friend for the few seconds before they were all on someone else. He raised the bidding number, and attention of the room, and my heartbeat, again at $2900. The print ultimately sold to someone I didn't see for $3100 to happy-seeming applause.
At the beginning of the waning for the applause, a salt-and-pepper haired woman to my right leaned over me to my friend and asked him--if she might ask--why it was that he quit his bidding at $2900, and reminded him that, after all, this is "the moment" for the artist, Deborah Oropallo--who has quite a following in the gay community. And that the money raised goes to such a good cause. My friend sincerely did not hear her at all and smiled nicely. She turned to me and asked me why he quit, and asked also--"if she might ask'--to tell her about my collection.
I wanted to say, and wish at the moment that I had said, "Oh, no, no, Honey... [with that exact satisfyingly informative laugh some gay men perform when some straight women mistake them for straight]. No, no, ...you see, I am just a client of the benefiting agency, AIDS Health Project--I have AIDS, and mental health problems, and I save up money each year for the $50 admissions for myself and for someone who hasn't been to this event before. And this here, [gesture to my friend], this is my straight friend and shelter from storms, and cat-sitter--for when I get to go out of San Francisco to visit people I'm related to, or suddenly need to go gut houses in New Orleans, or for when I am involuntarily committed to the psych ward of San Francisco General Hospital for quitting eating and the wardens threaten to break into my apartment to let Animal Control go get my cat to take care of her while I'm being taken care of.... But thank you for asking--about my collection. And I don't know why my friend quit bidding on "Maria 2007," or started.
In most of my past I would have said easily in that situation: "I am a client of the benefiting agency. Thank you for your support of us," and either walked off with a polite smile if possible or handled the reaction with poise, and gone home done.
But instead I pretended for real that I didn't hear the salt-and-pepper-haired woman at all either, and I smiled encouragingly. I'm older now. I don't know what that has to do with it, but it does.
And now I've come home to my exquititely beautiful ebony oriental shorthair cat. And I am hanging with unfinished emotional business. --Not just about the art collector/benefactor woman (who did not herself bid on anything. Nor did her companion).
But I can't talk about the rest of it. I have to leave it at that.