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Time Travel Art Machine: The Painting I Never Got to Sell
Because a semi truck broke it in half.
Back in 2013 this Bruno Sammartino painting was destroyed and I almost died. Okay, maybe this needs a little more context. That’s a lot to lay on you.
A few months earlier I had started working full time making wrestling art, primarily the ‘Champions Collection’ project where I was painting all of the world champions. Naturally, Bruno was included in that and I made this painting to publicly unveil at WrestleCon in April 2013, tied with WrestleMania 29. I loaded up about a dozen paintings, some art books, displays and prints into my truck and drove from Kansas City to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. I saw this as my chance to be seen in person and get on WWE’s radar.
Well, I almost did.
I was about three miles from the venue when I got t-boned by a semi in an intersection. I remember seeing it coming at me, cussing, and then getting hit which shot me off into an uncontrollable spin before colliding with a concrete pole.
Everything went black.
I woke up against my airbag and I staggered out of the truck. I’d been unconscious for a while, fifteen or twenty minutes and what I see strewn across the street is a nightmare: Prints and books blowing around, symbolizing what I thought was the bitter end of a promising career. I had bet everything on this show and it was clearly over. At one point a cop was using a shovel to scoop them into the trash, a visual that will stay with me forever.
I looked back in the truck and the gridwall I’d had in the bed had flown through the rear window, demolishing this painting and nearly decapitating me. I don’t know, it might have been the bit that saved my life.
While the EMT’s checked me over, a cop took the report and told me that people simply don’t survive these accidents, let alone coming out with just one literal scratch on my arm. I know I was lucky but in that moment I didn’t feel like it. After grabbing my suitcase, the cops gave me a ride most of the way, dropping me off a half mile from the venue and so I walked with my roller bag towed behind me, watching people load up for WrestleCon and knowing I wouldn’t be a part of it. Ever.
News spread back home pretty quick and to my amazement the folks at my printer’s office, AlphaGraphics Kansas City, reprinted all of my prints and overnighted them to me. I could still do the show. It might not be all over. And it was a strong event, with my strongest sales up to that point. Through a combination of the work itself, my having some buzz, and the sympathy around the wreck the wrestling community turned this awful experience into a relative success.
By November I was working with WWE and I was featured as a part of WrestleMania Axxess the next year. Katy and I were invited to the friends and family area of WM and as I was walking down the hallway Bruno Sammartino himself was walking towards me. He nodded and smiled at me, I said hello and once he was out of sight I leaned against the wall to gather myself.
I was in a very different place than I was the year before.
Love you more,