Saturday, December 5, 2009


Valerie, my kids, and I went to Compônere, a small gallery in University City, last night. Our friend Mark Hurd had a show that was opening and we never pass up free wine and snacks.

I’ve always thought galleries, where you can be a little too loud and even heckle the artist if you want, was a better environment for art than a cold, uptight museum where art goes to die.

When it’s warm out we like to go to art fairs and it seems like Mark is always there. Lately he’s been doing prints of iconic St. Louis places. My kids love them because they recognize all of them.

There were a few other artists there I really enjoyed. My favorites were Stephanie J. Witte and Bill Reid, both of whom are sculptors.

Stephanie works with painted gourds and tiny pieces of watch machinery. She said she has to get her gourds from California. The local ones are too thin. Her pieces remind me of Jules Verne or maybe The Wild, Wild West. I was trying to identify some of the materials she used and she told me she found them inside a hard drive.

She also does furniture with full sized characters seated in them. I asked if her home was crowded with them. She said her husband was a left brained computer programmer who was incredibly tolerant. They have a perfect yin and yang relationship, and yes her home was filled with it.

The other artist I really liked was Bill Reid. He worked with painted, welded metals. They all had great titles. My favorite was a complex contraption that appeared to have a bird feeder at one end and dragster slicks on the other. It was titled A Perfectly Safe Birdfeeder.

I’m posting John’s painting of the Eat-Rite diner because I have a very personal history with the place. My friend Judy Northington was murdered there.

I asked about his printing process and was given an extremely lengthy explanation. I noticed a large printer in the corner of the gallery and asked if it was ink jet. I was told it actually used acrylic paint.

I wish I was in a position to patronize artists I really like. I did my best to steer people who seemed to have money toward my favorites.

The prints were numbered in series so I asked John’s girlfriend how this worked. “It’s not like you can destroy the original template,” I said. They were stored on a computer. She told me it was the honor system and John was totally trustworthy.

This brings me to the real point of this post, art speculation.

When I was in my twenties I idolized Salvador Dali. I was well aware of his standing in the art community. It had been years since Andre Breton (founder of the surrealist’s movement) rearranged the letters of his name to spell Avida Dollars. I threw myself into both Dada and the Surrealist movements. It didn’t stop there either.

The allure of the subconscious, science and a lot of drugs on my part were just too tempting. Dali was painting intense equestrian war battles based on DNA models. I have a poster of a group of live nude ballet dancers he formed into a giant skull. To me it represented the specter of death lurking behind youth and beauty.

Dali was as big as John Lennon to me.

I was living with Stephen Martin on Oregon. We shared an audio studio with bedrooms on either end. I got a direct mail post card with a drawing for a Dali print as a prize. I was still naive to the ways of the commercial world and entered the contest.

A few weeks later I got a call from an art broker in Arizona. He told me a really fascinating story.

It seems Dali was commissioned to paint a series of tarot cards. He whipped them out without any enthusiasm and his clients wanted their money back. Dali wouldn’t give the money back and it ended up in court. The judge agreed the paintings were garbage but said Dali had lived up to his end of the bargain. He did make Dali sign 1000 blank sheets of paper that the clients could put prints on to sell for whatever they could get.

Well this was the closest I figured I’d ever come to owning a Dali. I bought a litho and an etching. I put $5,000.00 on a credit card. I figured it would never go down in value.

Somehow my ex girlfriend Pam and I were still in communication with each other. She thought it might be a good investment too. Unlike me she did a little research. The original 1000 sheets of paper turned into 10,000.

The broker ended up doing five years in prison and I lost my money. The weird thing is the forgeries were lithos. One of mine was an etching and the signature looks totally different. Who knows?

I figure I have $5,000.00 worth of posters.


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