Mr. Phelps, I grew up for most of my early life in a house trailer. I never had fine things, elegant foods or high culture. We weren't sitting around the trailer discussing world travel or the daily life of Michelangelo, we were debating if an open oven was a satisfactory work around for a broken furnace, or wondering if our pipes would freeze (again) during the winter.Using one of Albert Bierstadt's greatest landscapes--specifically Storm in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Rosalie--he also talks about how (this type of) art makes him feel:
It was in my early twenties when I decided the ideals that I would pursue for the rest of my life--and it is art that continually serves as the guidepost towards those ideals.
Mt. Rosalie demands that I live my life like the painting--filled with drama, adventure, beauty, excitement, and love.The point in writing the letter was not just to show that "art historians can swim too" but to say thanks to Phelps for the inspiration received via the sight of his achievements--and to show the crucial importance of art, to Phelps or anyone, in one's life.
I never feel little in front of Mt. Rosalie. Only grand; only bigger than life. Full of my ideals. It's a feeling much like Elvis' famous quote on art: "When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book." Comic books filled Elvis with grand aspirations. So, too, does Mt. Rosalie for me.
While mini-biographical and thus of some interest to fans of the show, the above is the open letter's main value. If you're interested in what a passionate art historian thinks about art, and how he thinks art will help Phelps win more gold medals, head to the site now.