Gilchrist: Art Fair Divorce Court |

Gilchrist: Art Fair Divorce Court

Micaela Gilchrist

That couple you saw at the Breckenridge Art Fair last weekend swatting each other with color-saturated brochures? Yeah, that was us. Husband and I attend every summer art fair in Summit County. While there, we play our favorite game: Art Fair Divorce Court. When it comes to art, we don’t agree on anything.I want to buy oil paintings by artists Don Hamilton and Sascha Ripps. I loiter dreamily in their booths, imagining their paintings in my house. Hamilton’s plein air landscapes pull me into the deep yellow grass and the cottonwood shadows of the farms I knew as a child. I want to walk his dusty roads, swing that wooden fence aside and see who is throwing hay in the barn. Sascha Ripps’ winterscapes of our Summit County meadows evoke a tactile joy; the rutted texture of a snowy trail, the smooth and rough of rocks in spring melt.No, no, no, Husband says. Art shouldn’t just lay there. Art should do something for chrissakes. Art should gyrate like a stripper, spit water, grow plants, or, at the very least, create a daunting barrier between us and the neighbors – like that 8-foot wide prickly pear hedge at the Desert Steel display. Husband’s eyes get crazy as he designs his “all steel and concrete” landscape. He explains that he’ll pave our backyard with concrete and that Desert Steel will bolt 14-foot palm trees, seven-arm saguaros and spikey agaves in a perimeter around our property. Every last plant is guaranteed to weather a nuclear blast. Now, that is art, darlin’. While he designs his rusty cactus paradise, I drift over to Mary Staby’s booth. Mary is a long-time Frisco local who hand-colors her black-and-white photography. I admire her work. We chat for a few minutes and then I round the display and I see Mary’s photos of Paris. Ah, Paris. Mary has captured the places we visited in Paris for two weeks last summer. Here are Mary’s photos of the Ile St. Louis at twilight, the River Seine and the flying buttresses of Notre Dame.We walked everywhere in Paris. Husband’s knee ached after strolling on the granite paving stones. Somewhere near the Cluny museum, we spotted the flashing green cross above a Paris pharmacy. Here was my chance to practice my high school French.After the usual polite salutations, I thought I asked the pharmacy clerk for ibuprofen for Husband’s aching leg.But what I actually said in French was, “My husband’s ham isn’t working.”The clerk winked knowingly at me. She said, “We can’t have that. Not here in Paris. Not on your holiday.” And she handed me a box of little blue pills. No prescription necessary.My French got worse with each passing day. We ducked into a Monoprix on the Champs Elysees for basic toiletries like soap and toothpaste. When I couldn’t find the shampoo I wanted, I approached the clerk, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.”I need something for washing my,” I waved my hands around my hair, “for washing my goat.”She raised her brows. “Chevre ees word for goat. Cheveaux ees word for hair.””Oh, I am so sorry.” So I cast about for the right French words. “Madam, I apologize to you and to all of your family members who are goats.”Husband hooked my arm in his before I could apologize again. He said to the clerk, “Please excuse our French, we’ve just arrived from the Arctic Circle and we don’t get out much.”Back in Breckenridge, Mary Staby’s friends stop by her booth to say hello. I glimpse the Pont de l’Archeveche in one of her photos. Husband and I crossed that bridge every night on our way back to our hotel on the Rue Git-le-Coeur. This bridge is famous because lovers from all over the world write their name on brass locks, affix the lock to the bridge to symbolize the permanence of their love and then throw the key into the Seine. All of those couples have written their names on their locks; Jean et Claudine. Sam and Amanda. Etienne et Simone. Yes it’s sappy, but I asked him if we shouldn’t put a lock on the bridge, too.Husband said, “Why reinvent the wheel? This lock describes us perfectly.” He lifted the lock and read these words inscribed by an Australian couple: “We’re doing OK for now: Love, Trouble and Dickhead.”Au revoir, mountain people. See you at the next art fair.Micaela Gilchrist’s novels are published by Simon & Schuster and by Scribner in North America and in Europe and have been optioned for film by Paramount Studios. She is the recipient of the Colorado Book Award and the Women Writing the West Award. She lives in Summit County. Email her at

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