“I hope so,” Brian says. “That would be awesome. An entire household of artists would be fantastic.”
June 24 started as a normal morning at the Sartor house in Denver. Elizabeth went to the kitchen to make coffee.
“She came back into our bedroom and just sort of sat down and was just staring at me,” he recalls. “I just kind of clued in real quick that she was having a stroke.”
Elizabeth was hospitalized but has returned home and is expected to make a full recovery. The Sartors, however, are expecting a deluge of hospital bills. One night in the ICU can run a person $10,000. That doesn’t include CAT scans, MRI tests and doctors. It can and will add up quickly, and they're just starting to get the first round of bills.
Elizabeth is a self-employed acupuncturist, but her business was shut down because of the pandemic. To make ends meet, Brian says, they had to cancel their insurance.
“We were down to one paycheck,” Brian says. “Then of course this comes up.”
Brian is known for “Victory,” a seven-piece collection of soldier figures constructed out of chairs that’s been shown around the country. He is also an accomplished painter; while he mainly paints for his own gratification, he will take commissions. But right now, he's trying to sell his oil-on-canvas painting of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-era Beatles to help cover his wife’s medical costs.
“It’s always just sort of traveled with us,” he says. “I’m from Canada, so that painting has traveled all over the United States, basically wherever we have lived.”
The painting was part of his graduation thesis when he was a fine arts major at Western Michigan University, one of six or so in the project. Brian doesn’t recall exactly what the other paintings were, other than images he conjured from inside his head, but the Beatles one was “the granddaddy of them all.” He took the image from the CD he'd bought around 25 years ago; he was feeling nostalgic about Canada at the time, and that prompted him to paint the picture.
“I chose it because I’m from Ontario, Canada," Brian explains. "If you look at the picture, Paul McCartney has a patch on his arm from the Ontario Provincial Police. He got busted with marijuana in Toronto or something, and they gave him that patch. He put it on his arm.”
Brian has had numerous offers for the painting of the Fab Four over the years, but he’s never been inclined to part with it. It's spent a lot of time above the family couch.
“For one reason or another, I never felt like it was time to let it go,” he says. “This situation came up, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to help out with her expenses and rehabilitation.”
Elizabeth has always been a left-brained person, very medical and good with numbers, he says, but the stroke impacted her left frontal lobe and she sustained some brain damage. Since then, she’s been rediscovering the right side of her brain through painting and sculpture.
“It’s interesting how our two works have sort of combined,” he notes. “It’s been good therapy for her.”
Elizabeth was a physical therapist before she segued into acupuncture, so she's been approaching her own recovery as a healer. “She’s been able to pretty much pull herself right back out of it,” Brian concludes. “It’s been pretty awesome to watch.”
Brian Sartor is accepting bids for the painting at firstname.lastname@example.org until October 22.