Plenty of artists could use $6,500, and on the surface, a commercial illustrator and a jazz drummer might not seem like the most deserving of attention from an art critic. Whatever. I wouldn't ask you to open your wallet for just anybody. Wendy Edelson and Gary St. Martin are stuck in Mexico, and all they want is to come home. Their website explains, as Edelson puts it, "how two normally rational and intelligent people came to be stuck in Mexico."
They went down there, as in a dime-store novel, dizzy and drunk on grief, running from the warm ash of burned-up lives. Edelson's father and mother had died in quick succession, on the same day in 1999 and 2001. But children are accustomed to saying goodbye to their parents. It is when it goes the other way that the universe inverts. Anyone who thinks this is a cliché simply hasn't seen it happen. Gabriel Merlin Kosdan, Edelson's only child and St. Martin's stepson, was a painter who graduated with honors from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. When he died in September 2002, he was 28 years old, in love with a woman named Seoda, and had lived for more than three years with two transplanted lungs. He'd been born with cystic fibrosis.
Nine months later, Edelson and St. Martin were expats in the Spanish colonial city of Morelia in the western state of Michoacán, known for idyllic mountains full of monarch butterflies. But the foreign paradise they imagined became "this crazy prison we created for ourselves," St. Martin wrote in an e-mail. They couldn't make a living on their art alone and, as gringos without visas, couldn't find non-art jobs. Moving had been a big mistake.
Edelson illustrates children's books, and lived in Seattle for 18 years before moving to New England in 1999 to be near her ill parents. Some of her paintings are at Woodland Park Zoo; her work is at www.wendyedelson.com. St. Martin is a jazz drummer in a line of Puget Sound musicians, including his cousin, longtime Seattle swing guitarist Jack Hansen, and his late grandfather Olaf Hansen, who in the vaudeville era was the stage manager and a tightrope walker at Tacoma's Pantages Theater.
They've considered hopping a bus and leaving behind Edelson's equipment and portfolios and St. Martin's drum set and six-foot speakers, but they need it all to work once they get here. So in January, for $11, they created www.stuckinmexico.com, which details their predicament and asks for donations to pay for renting a truck and relocating to Seattle. Their friends, locals Dennis and Kathy Deem, will ship a print of Edelson's work to anyone who donates $25.
"Unequivocally, absolutely, this is not a fraud," Edelson promised me in an e-mail that also itemized every last cost for the move. I believe her. Now let's help these nice people get back to being starving artists in their own country.