Thursday, November 30, 2006

Burning Down The House

My parents took turns burning down our apartment and smashing up the family car. I think my mother was the first to start a fire in our apartment by falling asleep with a cigarette in her hand. The mattress caught on fire and my mother was so upset and guilty that she ran away from home. She took a room in some hotel in the city and stayed away for a few days or maybe it was even a week. I was very young maybe three or four and I had no idea where my mother went or why she went, but I know I must have missed her terribly. She just stayed in the city, smoked a lot of cigarettes, went to a lot of movies and ate dinner out at the various eateries that lined Times Sq. She finally came back home, and I was happy to see her, after all she was my mother. My father next started a fire in our kitchen when he attempted to make some French fries one early summer night after he came home from work. It was summer so I was still playing outside even though it must have been around 7 in the evening. I was 6 or 7 and my father dashed down to the street yelling about a fire and to call the fire department.”Call the fire department.” He screamed. I thought he had come downstairs to call me up for bed, but he was more concerned with burning down the building then my missing my bedtime. My mother was on the night shift at our luncheonette so she wasn’t home to douse out the fire if she even could. We lived across the street at that time from the firehouse so the brave handsome men were there in no time, and put out the French fries fire as it came to be known. Our neighbors were so angry with my parents that they wouldn’t speak to them and would not let their kids play with me anymore, as if I had started the damn thing. Our kitchen was smelly and black with smoke the cheap linoleum on the floor was all buckling and dirty with soot. The smell would stay in that room for as long as we remained in that apartment. The landlord was a fuck and took forever to make repairs and repaint the kitchen but finally he did. My mother learned to drive first. She took driving lessons from a cute guy who I nicknamed dimples, and he would chuckle whenever I would call him that. He must have thought I was a weird little kid. I would sit quietly in the back seat as dimples took my mother out for her lessons. She loved driving a car, and soon she had her license but no car. My father bought her a brown and white 1953 Plymouth and soon we were out driving and listening to the radio, my mother and me. I thought she was a good driver, she never smashed up the car and we got to wherever we had to go in one piece. The problems with the car started when my father said “I’m going to learn to drive so I can go places too.” Soon after he took the car out for a spin, and collided with another car. The door to the beautiful 1953 brown and white Plymouth was smashed and the paint was all scratched. After that my father cried, and said that he would never drive again. Bullshit. Of course he drove again, and my mother had a hard time getting the car away from him, so we could take drives around Brooklyn in the sweet Spring nights of my young childhood. In 1955 we moved from our old small apartment to a bigger place just across the street and right next door to the firehouse which was a good thing because a few more mattresses went up in smoke from dropped cigarettes. In 1957 my parents bought a new red and white Pontiac. It was so beautiful. But soon my father had an accident with it, and then my mother had an accident with it and it did not look so pretty anymore. I thought my father was a terrible driver, a scary driver. Whenever I drove with him I would get tense and hold on to the arm rests and hope that he wouldn’t kill us all. After one of the accidents he had with the car he decided to save money and try to fix the car himself which included an ugly paint job in which he covered the car with a dull ugly gray flat paint. He didn’t even have the sense to use a glossy paint, no he had to use flat gray. I hated how the once beautiful car looked. It seemed to say “don’t look at me please I’m all ugly and gray when I was once hot red and white.” It was the joke of the neighborhood. Sometimes on warm Summer nights he would go down to the car and fiddle with it, trying to make it better, but all he did was make it worse. One night a cop car drove by as he had his head under the hood, and the cops asked him what he was doing. Maybe they thought he was trying to steal this piece of shit car. Anyway he got smart with the cops and they arrested him. The whole neighborhood including me had their heads out the windows watching this spectacle of my father being handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car. I hoped that they would keep him in jail until at least I graduated from college, but they only kept him overnight and fined him. My mother lost her interest in driving after that and lost her interest in him as well.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Study Of Clouds 1972 (recently sold)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Blow Out The Candles. Part 2

At first I didn’t recognize the man standing in the doorway of my parent’s new apartment. A little girl clung to his side and a young woman who I assumed was his wife stood silently by. Then it hit me; the balding guy with glasses was my old buddy Mike who I grew up with during the early 60’s. Where was his curly black hair? Gone. Mike as a young boy of 14 was incredibly good looking, even with his bad acne the girls still were gaga over him. Tall, slim and dark with a wonderful smile and beautiful brown eyes he was a stunner. I was of course head over heels in love with him as were a few other boys I knew. But Mike was straight as a line, and even if he wasn’t how could anything ever happen between two 14-year-old boys in 1961. We had gone to the same junior high school and had known each other slightly. Then at the end of our sophomore year Mike was accepted to one of the brainy high schools in the city and we lost touch altogether. The next time I saw him was in 1961 on a cold fall Friday night when some old friends of mine from junior high dropped by my house unannounced for a visit, and Mike was with them. I had just started high school and had not seen these guys since graduating junior high. Mike was still handsome but by now his skin had erupted into a landscape of pimples and acne ruining his smooth dark complexion but even with the awful skin he was still gorgeous, and now he stood in front of me some 23 years later his looks just about gone. “Look at you” he said. I smiled and was not feeling all that comfortable seeing him again and under such strange circumstances. My parents were busy unpacking and I was still trying to take all of this in. Do you ever see Sy” Mike asked? “God no I haven’t seen him in years, not since after I moved to Manhattan and he visited me a few times. I heard he was a junkie,” Mike said. “I’m not really surprised Mike” I replied as the smell of greasy cooking odors filtered down from the upstairs apartment. Sy was our other close friend, and my main competition for Mike’s attention and friendship. Sy lived only two blocks away, so it was easy for him to spend time with Mike. I lived more than 14 blocks away and would have to make the long uphill walk in order to see Mike or Sy and I can’t tell you how many times I made that schlep in freezing cold and boiling heat.

Sy was half-Jewish and Italian; his father had met Sy’s mother in Italy during the war and had married her there. After the war they returned to America and set up shop so to speak in Brooklyn. Merilla Sy’s mom was very attractive with big eyes and a deep sexy Italian accent. I was very taken with her and one of the reasons I would like to visit Sy was to see his mother. Sy however did not inherit her good looks, but looked more like his father who resembled a bullfrog. Sy was somewhat effeminate but no one in our circle ever said anything or made fun of him probably because we had no idea what a homosexual looked like. They certainly didn’t look like Sy. Sy dressed very nicely in all the latest fashions and he loved to dance all the new dances that were popular in the early 60’s and was the life of any social gathering as he danced up a storm. He was tall and lanky and at times he seem elastic the way he would twist and turn all over the place. When sitting he would place one long leg over the other, a Newport held daintily between his fingers and with his free hand play with his hair. The girls loved to dance with Sy and the boys would stare in wonderment as he took over any dance floor he was on. That was his talent. I was the artist of our group, and he was the dancer and Mike well Mike was the looker. The three of us became very close. We were innocents in Brooklyn. Anything dark was unseen and unspoken so Sy and me held and hid our sexual tendencies. Every so often the three of us would spend the night at Sy’s house where we would stay up most of the night gossiping like teenage girls and smoking one cigarette after another. I mean didn’t Mike think it odd that we would have sleepovers. Didn’t Sy’s parents think it strange that 3 teenage boys would spend the night together talking and laughing for hours. I guess not. I look back on these nights as sweet and safe. Once during the night I felt Sy’s hand on my leg, but I made believe I was tossing and turning and pushed it away. I didn’t want Sy’s hand on me, I wanted Mike’s. Now here I stood in my parent’s new kitchen that was Mike’s old kitchen. An odd patch of silence fell over the two of us, and finally Mike said he had better get back up to his aunt’s apartment.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Notebook drawings 1972

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Art Links Update with "Untitled Drawing" from 1974 & "Green and Black" Painting. 1994

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blow Out The Candles

During the summer of 1982 as I got ready to leave for my 3 month teaching gig in California, my parents decided to move from the apartment that they had lived in for almost 30 years. I was of course against this move as their apartment was big (6 rooms) and the rent was very low. This was the apartment that I had grown up in and lived there until Oct 1967 when I moved into “the city” at the age of 19. The house as we called it was conveniently located near the major shopping district and was only a block from the el subway. But of course once my father made up his mind to do something there was no turning back. I think as usual he bullied my mother into agreeing with this move. I just didn’t see her wanting to pick up after all those years, but she was no match when it came to my father’s way. I guess change is good, although I have never welcomed it myself, and have always had it thrust on me kicking and screaming. I know this attitude can make life somewhat difficult at times.

They found a new place very fast. The new apartment was from what I could gather much smaller than the old place, only 1 bedroom, but my mother gushed that “your father liked the back yard.” Oh well fine I thought, it was their life. They started to throw out lots of stuff without regard to value, especially emotional value, but my mother did put aside some things that she thought I might like.

I wasn’t sure about this move, but kept my mouth shut, and gave them a day or so of my time to help them move some stuff to their new place. The minute I got out of the car I felt strange, like I had been to this place before. The building looked so familiar to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. This area of Borough Park that they were moving to, was not unknown to me, as I had several friends during my teens who lived around there and my junior high school where I spent 3 years was right across the street. As I helped bring things inside I really thought I knew this apartment, and then it hit me. This was the house that my close friend Mike Selden lived in with his family. And sure enough the young man that was now entering the darken hallway was Mike’s younger brother now fully grown but with his 12 year old face attached to his adult body.

Then when Mike’s mother appeared still dazed and disheveled as I remembered her I knew for sure that my parents were moving into Mike’s old apartment, a place that I had visited so many times when I was 15 and 16 years old. I have a photo of me blowing out the candles on my surprise 15th birthday cake that Mike and my other friends had for me after a costume party that was held in Mike’s basement. There I am in my cop costume in the kitchen that was Mike’s but was now my parent’s. What was going on. The place seemed smaller and in fact it was. Mike’s mother had broken the apartment in half and was renting it out to two families. No sooner did it hit me what was happening, when there was a knock on the door and there stood Mike the first boy I ever loved.

To be continued….

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Forest For The Trees. 1996. Wood. 7 1/2" x 5" x 6 4/8"

Sunday, November 12, 2006

DMQ Review

This was a real thrill for me to see the latest issue of DMQ as they used my drawings through the whole issue including the cover. They really did a beautiful job and you can see for yourself what I mean by clicking on the link below.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

"Childhood" 1998 Mixed Media

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Painter

In the mid 1980’s I kind of became friends with a painter who lived across the street from me. Before I knew Brad I would see him moving about his spacious loft at night getting ready for one of his candlelight dinner parties. His large front windows were curtain less and so were mine and I would watch in the dark smoking a cigarette as he and one or two of his acolytes scurried around putting the final touches on his evening. From my window I could see Brad unfold the very white table cloth which he would flutter in the air and softly lay over the large piece of plywood that rested on two saw horses that served as his dinner table. The candles would be lit and the plates and silverware I would later learn were old family heirlooms that he had shipped from his family home in Wisconsin were placed on the table. The silverware when I finally held one in my hands were heavy and decorative. Nothing like anything I had ever used in my childhood. He threw these dinners quite often for his many friends and acquaintances, many of who were well off and mostly gay. Brad would ply them with his food, wine and happy chatter with the hopes that they would either buy one of his canvases of beautiful Arian looking nude young men and sexy athletes, or commission him to have their portraits (fully clothed) painted. Brad was big and muscular from his 3 day a week workout at the gym and was good-looking in a goofy Midwestern sort of way. He was tall and when I met him he sported a small neat closely trimmed beard. I would see him around in the neighborhood and I always found him very sexy and attractive but was much too shy ever to say hello or even nod to him. I would also see him at the Chelsea Gym where I worked out and finally I spoke to him. He knew that I was also an artist and in fact had seen some of my exhibitions, but had no idea that I lived directly across the street from him, and had in fact been spying on him for many months. He invited me to dinner soon after and I finally found myself in the interior that I had seen only from my front windows. It was an odd feeling to finally be in the entire space that I had only seen parts of from my window all those months and I felt that I had been in it before. It was a few days later when I realized that I had indeed seen his loft before I ever entered it. It was used as a set for a young independent filmmaker’s first film, which I had seen on video a few weeks before. At dinner that night there was the table with the white white table cloth and his family silverware and plates all beautifully and perfectly set. The loft itself was rather sparse and not as large as I had thought. The guests were fun, some naughty handsome young gay men and several actors and actresses from one of the off Broadway troupes that Brad sometimes did the sets and costumes for. It was a nice evening full of wine and pot and the food wasn’t bad either. I had the feeling that Brad had a few set menus, which he always served as it was easier and he didn’t have to fuss and take time away from his painting. I was the opposite in the sense that I would fuss and worry over what I would make for my dinner parties which thankfully were far and few between since me and M had gone our own ways. M was the cook in the family, and I was the dishwasher but now I had to do both tasks and would have friends over for dinner very rarely. But Brad was the perfect if well rehearsed host and it was nice just to fall out of his loft into my own when I had enough of gay gossip and chatter. Brad’s paintings were well done, and he certainly knew his stuff in terms of technique, but they were cold, dead and very homosexual so his work would never be accepted by the mainstream New York Art World. There would be no Whitney Biennials for him. He and his work filled a certain nitch and I suppose he was content that he was a darling of a segment of the gay New York art and social scene even if it was at best peripheral. . It was of course possible to be gay and be accepted in the mainstream, in fact some of the most important post war artists were gay, and many contemporary artists were also gay, successful and accepted. But Brad’s work was not political, angry or aware in the sense that a Wojnarowicz was, nor was it as shocking and in your face as Mapplethorpe’s, it was just homosexual. His models were mostly hustlers and porn stars that he would paint with their best foot so to speak forward. It was said that when his well to do conservative parents found out that their youngest son was a fairy they told him he would have to leave. They would support him by sending him a handsome check each month but he was on his own, and they did not want to see him again. Harsh stuff, but Brad I guess took it well enough as he happily left the cold winter atmosphere of Wisconsin and headed on down to New York City. He enrolled at the Art Students League and supplemented his monthly family stipend by hustling. He of course was no midnight cowboy having a rather exclusive, small and regular cliental that included some mighty famous homos including a very famous playwright who was sadly pretty much finished in the American Theatre since his last few plays were minor flops, and he had developed a major writer’s block. He liked Brad because he was gentle and kind to him and Brad would show off to his friends the original manuscripts that he said the playwright had given him for the many happy hours he had supplied. There were some that said that Brad simply lifted the manuscripts. I didn’t know or really care which story was true. Brad’s lovers were generally of the working class, waiters & construction workers, cute silent and usually dumb, happy just to be around the artist and his many fascinating and attractive friends. But of late he had taken up with a young internist who quickly moved in with him and was only too happy to support him in the many ways that a person like Brad needed. Personally I found Tim to be very obnoxious and difficult to be around. Actually I couldn’t stand him. He was way too opinioned in areas that he nothing about was politically conservative and was argumentative on top of it all. I was not alone in my dislike of him. Every year Brad would throw two big holiday bashes one at Thanksgiving he which he would invite all his “orphans” and his Christmas party. One year I went to both, feeling totally out of place and uncomfortable. At Thanksgiving he would have two or three big fat Turkey’s with all the trimmings loaded down on the big plywood table. His loft was packed with gay men of all types in their flannel shirts and tight dungarees eating buffet style. For his Christmas bash you would have to bring a hand made decoration to be hung on his very large tree that took center stage in the loft. He would not use any lights on the damn thing, so you couldn’t really make out any of the ornaments that his friends had made and now hung there mostly unnoticed. My problems with Brad began when he started to incorporate swastikas into the decorative borders surrounding some of his paintings. His work was already Germanic and Arian in nature (these were works that Hitler would have had no problem in liking) and this new additional touch was downright shocking. I didn’t know what to think, Was he making a political statement, was he being funny. In any case I sat him down one day in his studio and tried to explain to him that as a Jew I found this new addition to his work very upsetting. “Brad there is not one Jewish person who would not be upset by seeing the swastika, and here you are using it in your paintings what the fuck are you doing”? He had no answer and only said I was being too sensitive. Others were reacting in the same way I was. Then as if to get back at me he would tease me about being Jewish and make anti-semitic jokes and statements. Of course I would freak and get into ugly scenes with him and his horrorible boyfriend. I didn’t understand why he was doing this. Was he joking? Did he think he was being funny. The last time he pulled this was at a mutual friend’s house over dinner and I just told him to go fuck himself and left the table and the dinner and went home. That was at least 10 years ago and I haven’t seen or spoken to him since. I sometimes see him in Chelsea on the way to the gym, but I look the other way.

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