Horatio Alger’s stories about poor young men attaining success for their perseverance and hard work were greatly popular more than a century ago.
Not only did Alger’s “rags-to-riches” grant hope to the impoverished, but they helped propagate the American Dream as an attainable goal to most anyone willing to go the distance.
While no one can deny that there are many who’ve realized the so-called American Dream based on merit alone, most will agree that in today’s economic climate one’s socio-economic background is a a better predicator of one’s future.
Despite this disheartening reality, every once in a while the rare story about a hard-working have-not who gains deserved recognition after years of laborious effort brings with it a refreshing dose of optimism. One such story is that of Gary John.
After a decade of living day-to-day, many of which were spent homeless, John caught the eye of the gallery owner Bruce Lurie. It had been an ordinary day, unlike any other, but on a whim, John decided to “deviate from his painting schedule to attend an art walk,” as described by Michael Aushenker for The Argonaut. Moving inland from Venice where he spend most of his time painting and peddling his works on the Boardwalk, “he headed toward Culver City and eventually meandered into the Bruce Lurie Gallery.”
Gary John, Key Crowns
John looked around casually then headed back for the door when Lurie approached him. He asked John if he were an artist. John said that he was but was taken off guard when Lurie requested he bring 20 paintings into the gallery the following day.
Over the years years, John had met many, “celebrities included, who promised to help him find representation,” as detailed by Jynarra Brinson for the Santa Monica Mirror. “When Lurie expressed curiosity and asked him to bring his work in, John [was hopeful but] assumed the usual would transpire,” that his work would fail to meet Lurie’s expectations.
The next day, after John showed Lurie his paintings, he was so overwhelmed by Lurie’s reaction that he had to excuse himself and go into the gallery next door to sit down, where he says he “cried like a baby.” Lurie had been so amazed by John’s work that he offered a contract to John on the spot.
Since his transaction with Lurie, John’s paintings have continued to sell in abundance. Art enthusiasts and collectors alike have been going ga-ga over his playful yet gritty street style works on newsprint and cardboard.
Despite John’s overnight success, fame has not gone to his head. I had the pleasure of meeting him at Wallspace, a gallery in Hollywood owned by Valda Lake, who now represents John as well. A truly humble man, John’s passion for art continues to compel him to spend most of his waking hours painting, which he still does in the exact same place he did before meeting Lurie: outside, on the Venice Boardwalk.See more of Gary John’s artworks at Artsy