• Stuart Sheldon

Read Your Parents’ Secrets

“What are your favorite books of all time,” I asked my 81-yr-old father. “I’ll have to think about that,” he told me, raking his fingers through his thick gray hair.

My dad is a bright, gregarious man who closes his eyes and throws back his head when he laughs, which is often. He’s a seaman and a spinner of yarns, though I would not describe him as a reader. I did not know which books he cherished. And, when he got back to me after a week, his choices showed me so much … about who he is … and who I am.

The goal posts of my life

His favorite books: Huckleberry Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Catcher in the Rye, Centennial and My Glorious Brothers. The last two honor his love of country and Judaism – no real surprise there. But, the first three choices really touched me. The books that hit my dad hardest “in his kischkes,” as he would say, were those he read as a tender and impressionable teen. When his dreams were literally unadulterated. Before career stress and divorce and the ravages of time. What they screamed, loud and clear, is that, deep down, my dad is still the boy he was and will always be.

Catcher In The Rye, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10″x8″, 2015

In fact, no matter what we’ve accomplished, for better or worse, we are all still very much the children we once were.

The Road, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8″x10″, 2015

In the late 1940s, when my dad was transitioning from boy to man, his spirit guides were barefoot adventurers, sailors and seekers. His book choices tell me his icons have not changed to this day.

Cold Mountain, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 10″x8″, 2015

Last Sunday, walking on Miami Beach, my two sons and I came to a pond, green with algae and teeming with tadpoles. The kids immediately lay on their knees at the water’s edge, eager to scoop up the little squiggly creatures. A mother a few steps away reminded her young girl not to touch the “dirty” water. In that moment, I remembered clearly how excited I was when I encountered tadpoles as a young boy. And so, I nodded gently when my sons looked back at me for approval. With huge smiles, they plunged their arms to the elbow into the cloudy water.

Where The Wild Things Are, acrylic, book cover, paper on cardboard, 8″x10″, 2015

As I’ve come to know fatherhood, I realize I’m just a boy doing his best to make my boys thrive and feel best in each situation.


I invited my father to be at my side to experience the most important art exhibition of my life, which opens this Saturday & Sunday in the Bay Area.

One thing I do know about my dad is that, in his heart of hearts, he too is an artist. Life did not allow him to pursue it, so he has lived vicariously through my journey … from film school to magazines to fine art. He has been a welcome wingman, for his enthusiasm matches my own.

Best Books Ever Written – Thank You Dad, acrylic, book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x136″, 2015

I made a huge piece in his honor for this show, titled The Best Books Ever Written – Thank You Dad.

It spans twelve feet … long and complicated … like my father’s life. It is chaotic yet resolved. Passionate and forthright. Included in the piece are the covers of Huck Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Catcher in the Rye and the rest. Along with books that remind me of my dad: The Old Man and the Sea, Unbroken, Don Quixote and The Giving Tree, to name a few. And books about boys who struggled and won: Oliver Twist, The Little Prince. In essence, this piece shows all the facets of the diamond of my father: the man, the boy and the twisting landscape in which he struggled, survived and succeeded. 

Best Books Ever Written – Grownups Are Overrated, acrylic, children’s book covers, paper, oil crayon on canvas, 60″x60″, 2015

You and your friends are cordially invited to my exhibition this weekend! 

Opening is BOTH

Saturday, May 9 6pm-10pm 


Sunday, May 10 (Mother’s Day) 12-4pm.

Show runs through May 31

With music Saturday night by special guest:

DJ Shissla/Shizzy (SpaceCowboys).

Style A Gallery – 30C Princess Street | Sausalito CA 

My catcher in the rye

Even if the work doesn’t speak to you, you’ll get to meet my dad. And that will definitely be worth the trip!

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©2020 Stuart Sheldon.