Richard Raney

Last night, a burning summer evening where it was 90 degrees even after dark, my wife and I went to Richard Raney’s studio. He’s preparing for a show, and I wanted to discuss it with him. His studio’s on the 5th floor of one of those old loft buildings in the West Bottoms. No a/c, cats darting back and forth, very hot. And the work was very good: some incredible figures of black women and men, some surreal figures from his illustration work, and a cityscape or two. God I loved going through it all; such a brilliant talent so young (27).

Afterward my wife and I took the stairs back down, and walked the humid streets: studios here and there, bums asleep under bridges, the occasional freight rumbling through. Eventually we went to Westport for a gin and tonic, and to talk about nothing. A very good night.

Ad Reinhardt

A friend, Larry Meeker, asked me to meet him at the Nelson Museum yesterday. He wanted to show me the painting by Ad Reinhardt that changed his visual life. He was 16 in 1962 when he went to the World’s Fair in Seattle, and wandered into the Fine Arts Building. He came across the Reinhardt–a tall, minimalist piece done in different shades of black–and his life was never the same, this kid from the wheat country of Western Kansas. All these years later the piece wound up in the Nelson, not far from Larry’s home and his contemporary collection. Nice irony.

The sad part is Reinhardt took his life just a few years after the fair. All too common in the arts. That’s why I discuss depression and suicide in the book, since I believe–or at least hope–that openness is a form of prevention.

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Blown Tranny

The transmission in my car blew last week, when each day the temperature was near 100. I could have gotten a rental while repairs were being made, but it seemed more interesting to bicycle to the gallery–as most of the world bicycles to work. It’s only six miles, and the heat’s not really an issue. The car’s since been fixed. Will I keep up with the bicycling? Actually yes, on certain days. Seems more civilized than the car, except there’s no place to put my coffee.

Liam Daly, and Irish Painters

There’s a fine painter–Liam Daly–who moved to Kansas City from Dublin several years ago, I think by taking a wrong turn at Minneapolis. Anyway he’s here now, and mostly paints images of Ireland rather than of the Midwest–which is as it should be. The works are quite bold in palette and execution. I’ll be helping him hang a show next week, not in my gallery but at a space in The Crossroads District. Already I can sense that the show will be grand.

Submissions to New York

4th draft of new book is finished. While I’m catching my breath before the 5th and final draft (that’s the one where your critics rake you over the coals, you digest, then polish again), I figured I may as well start the submission process.

I’ve been offered introductions to some influential agents, owing to the reception for Living the Artist’s Life. Since I’d left my former agent, I said Sure. Queries are en route now. Should be an interesting fall. Feels right anyhow. After two million words and 25 years of writing, I suppose it ought to.

Sculpture, Architects and Coffee

Had cappuccino this morning with one of the principals from HOK. They’re a major architectural firm that builds stadiums all over the freaking world. This fellow’s a client, and we got together so I could show him our sculpture design for one of the NASCAR tracks (with whom HOK works). All he could say was “Wow! Wow! Wow!” Translated, this meant he approved.

I can’t take credit for the piece though, since the design is by Matt Kirby. All I do is faciliate, and write books (preferably the latter). Nice to have accolades from a firm such as this though.

Ozarkian Road Trip

Took my teenage sons, and two of their friends, on a canoe trip in the Arkansas Ozarks, near Eureka Springs. Burning hot weekend; 100-degree days. Rivers too low for canoeing, so we went to a lake cove with 30-foot cliffs (Hogscald Hollow), and spent Saturday afternoon diving from the heights. They loved it. So did I. Passed my mornings working on the new book. Done in August. Very pleased with how it flows.

Cruised the galleries in Eureka. Fine work, especially the blown glass. This has been one of my favorite towns for 30 years; I think it always will be.

Artist’s Ball Game

Several years ago I formed a ball team of kids who were largely artists, writers, musicians, and so forth. They came to me believing they would never learn to play well, and barely believing in themselves athletically, mostly because of how they’d been treated in school. Well they DID become good ball players, they did outgrow the label of “geek,” and over the years I helped them establish a self-esteem and confidence that I think they’d only dreamt of before.

Last night we had a reunion ball game in the 95-degree heat. They’re all 15-17 now, moving on toward adulthood, but how beautiful to watch them play with such confidence and humor, knowing how that’s spilled into the other areas of their lives–including art creation. By god that was why I coached them.

Hold it…that sounds like an idea for a book.

Sculpture Installation

Spent the morning installing a 500 lb. work in stainless steel by Arlie Regier. My sons, both teenagers now, assisted. Punks, it does them good to be rousted early on a summer morning, and learn how to rig a heavy into place while the client beams. All went well; no crushed fingers or toes. Why do I still assist with these things after all these years? Beats sitting behind a desk.

One Year Later

Well, it’s been a year or so since Living the Artist’s Life first appeared. What has happened since then? Oh, about 60 signings, covering roughly 25,000 miles, meeting I-don’t-know-how-many thousands of people, eating meals good and bad. Consequence: little free time, and less time with the family. Has it been worth it? Every bit, except for opportunities missed with child-teasing, and of course teasing my wife. Must make up for that later. I will. In the meantime, more artists to meet…

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