Glamour of the Art World / Dark Side of the Moon / A Young David Gilmour

The art world, glamorous? You bet. I spent the day working out a three-budget option for one of my clients: crunching numbers, rearrranging installations, offering small works, large works, moderate-sized works. All this on paper. Then I checked invoicing for another. Then drew up a proposal for a third. Bored me to tears. The trade-off? I’m self-employed in the wealthiest country in the world. Not a day goes by that I don’t ponder the wonder of that, and try to give back as a consequence.

I don’t know nothin about glamour, but the fun comes later, when we install the pieces and the client just goes nuts. It’s good to exceed their expectations.

Went home early this evening to work out with my youngest son. He’s almost 16, and wants to change his physique. So we started the process in November, and he’s making good progress. Could already tell the diff in our last football game, the way he broke tackles. I’m kind of his personal trainer. Do we take it seriously? Nah. Mostly we have fun, and always we listen to rock n roll. Tonight, Dark Side of the Moon. Hadn’t heard the whole album since the Seventies. Some trip.

I remember a concert in ’73 where all these acid heads were tripping away, and Floyd set off a sky rocket on a guy wire that came flying in from the back of Memorial Hall, then smashed into this enormous gong. As a buddy of mine said at the time, “Man, they were carrying dudes out that freaking show.” Only he didn’t say freaking.

I told my son the story between excercises. We both laughed.

Swear to God, he plays like a young David Gilmour. Skilled beyond his years. Wonder where it will lead. Somewhere worthwhile, I think. I’ll ride a quiet sort of shotgun to make sure.

Grizzly Man / Miguel Rodriguez / Vegas

My family and I watched Grizzly Man last night. This is the brilliantly understated Werner Herzog documentary about Timothy Treadwell, self-proclaimed protector of Alaskan grizzlies, later mauled to death by same. His girlfriend died with him. Both were killed in the fall of 2003. Grizzly Man

There’s not much you can say about that. This guy had an obsession with bears that constantly put him and his girlfriend at risk, and that reflected a certain instability. And yet you could see that some of the bears trusted Treadwell, and that he genuinely loved them. Then the way he befriended wild foxes–astounding. Whole story is tragic all the way around: two terrible deaths, then the bear was later shot as well–apparently one that had not known Treadwell, nor learned to trust him. The only place where Herzog oversteps his bounds is when he asserts his opinions about what he feels governs the natural world. I’m pretty sure none of us really know what governs it, except perhaps native cultures, but hey it’s his film.

When I worked in Alaska, I knew one thing about grizzlies: never let one get closer than 100 yards to you. That was one rule I never broke.

Miguel Rodriguez graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in the late 90s. Very gifted ceramist, and figurative sculptor. The piece above is in the OPCC collection. Miguel lives in Las Vegas now, where he did graduate work. He’s thinking about moving back to KC, claiming that Vegas is beginning to seem a bit unreal. I know how that is. Passed a night there once in ’77, some road trip to LA and back, a buddy and me in my old Roadrunner. We stayed out all night drinking and gambling. Woke up 200 bucks to the good. Now in Vegas, that’s unreal.

Anyway Miguel loves lipstick on his wife, hence this self-portrait. I thought that was a pretty good explanation of the piece.

Bob Bigelow / Carol Peacock / Hot Rod Civic

I learned recently that Bob Bigelow, another major figure in the Children’s Sports Reform movement, is going to endorse my book Everybody’s Game. Bob is a retired NBA player, and wrote a great book a few years ago titled Just Let The Kids Play. He’s been on a lot of talk shows, and is a very popular public speaker. Having his endorsement is a great honor.

Picked up a new artist recently, Carol Peacock. That’s one of her oils at the top. Speaks for itself. Lives in Eureka Springs, AR. Think she’ll do just fine.

Have started the process of modifying my oldest son’s Civic. He complained last month that it was a dog. I said ok, then ordered a new exhaust system, intake system, ignition system, performance shocks, and mags. He pays for it; I’m the mechanic. We installed the hotter ignition today, wheels tomorrow, exhaust and intake next week. Hey man, he’s a senior. I want him to have a hot ride. This time in life only comes once. Damn thing’s going to be a little on the loud side, but so was my Roadrunner–and this gets far better gas mileage.

Took my wife to dinner last night at Lulu’s Noodles down on the Boulevard. Lord I love that part of town. Drinks and quiet conversation afterward at Hooper’s. Home at midnight, but didn’t get to sleep ’til 2:00. That’s a different, unquiet sort of conversation. My favorite kind.

Brejcha Installation / Doug Abrams / Children’s Sports Reform / Sidestepping The Machine

We finished an installation for the glass artist Vernon Brejcha this week. This piece is for a private collector, 7′ x 3.5′, 150 pieces of glass. In the top photo my oldest son is assisting Erin Holliday, a free-lance installer who worked out the design on how the piece would hang, and fabricated the armature. My son’s a pretty good installer too. Who knows? He may be assistant director someday.

This afternoon I have to install one of Kim Casebeer’s oils–30 x 40–for a private collector. Prior to that, I’ll have coffee with Doug Abrams. He’s one of the top figures in the Children’s Sports Reform Movement, is excited about my book Everybody’s Game, and wants to discuss it.

What’s going on with the book? Can’t tell if one of the big houses in NY is going to take it yet or not, but I can tell you that if they don’t do something soon, I will. Just as with Living the Artist’s Life, I’m not about to let the bureaucracy of The Machine prevent me from placing a work with the public–especially one that is so badly needed for reforms that are so badly needed. I know I can make a difference, and fully intend to. If I have to go around The Machine again, I will. And I’ll make it fly.

God I do love it. There are few things in life that have more bite than doing good work, and then getting that work launched.

Paternal / STRETCH

I got an email Sunday from a boy, now 15, who I helped raise for a couple of years. His dad had boogied on the family, and the mom was left on her own with three kids. This boy lived with us off and on for quite awhile, being close to one of my sons. In time he and I grew quite close: he needed a father figure, and I never tire of extending that to any kid. Canoe trips, camping trips, furtive climbs into Plaza bell towers when the Christmas lights are up, rock concerts, dinners together, endless practical jokes, endless water fights, baseball games at the corner lot, and the occasional lunch at Kin Lin. Talks about sex, unwanted pregnancy, and all the kids who will try to get him high–on pot, oxycontin, ecstasy, you name it. We talked a lot. I love this kid very deeply. When he and his family had to move away, it left a gaping hole in my life; I was concerned over whether he would get the guidance he needed. But as with many situations in life, you sometimes have to let things shape themselves. Besides, he’s only three hours distant. I still see him a few times a year. We have a camping trip planned for spring. Lord he’s so bright, full of such potential. I hope I helped him tap into some of it.

Will I always be there for this boy? Like any devoted teacher, I’ll always be there for any kid I ever coached, taught, or loved. It’s merely a privilege.

If you live in Kansas City, and you know anything about the Crossroads, or Grinders, or rusting steel, then you know about Stretch. I can’t decide which is of greater character: he, or his sculpture. Anyway that’s one of his pieces above. We placed a similar work, though not this one, at the OP Convention Center. Why? Because its raw beauty, and raw passion, were a perfect contrast to some the more polished works there. I’m a pretty big believer in contrast–with both art and kids.

This piece is at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center. No other gallery like it in town. You can also see Stretch’s work at

Booksense / Equine Sculpture Begins

I learned today that Booksense asked to be added to the link on the book’s website, along with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Very nice of them. Heck, I prefer speaking at independent bookstores anyway. All the stores have been good to me, but I feel a particular affinity for the independents, knowing what they’re up against.

Closed the deal today on the equine sculpture by Erik Beier that I’ve referred to before. Rendering of proposal above. This is for the Winbury Group. Corten steel, 1/2″ plate, 1.25 lifesize, beautifully sculpted. It fits the development, and while Erik prefers sculpting contemporary pieces, this type of work pays the bills, and he enjoys it as well. Most artists have had to do the same: Gordon Parks shooting fashion models while still his doing serious work on the side, Edward Steichen same.

These projects also allow me to continue to promote my more contemporary, and often less popular, artists. How much did I close the deal for? Ah, that’s a secret.

20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago this month I returned home from my years in Connecticut and New York. My friends east of the Hudson all warned me against coming back here, and the “cultural wasteland” to which I was consigning myself. They all said I would regret it. They meant well, but I’m still waiting for the regret to set in.

The most significant thing that happened in January of 1986? I went to a kegger at a friend’s house–good old Johnny Butler–and there in the kitchen I met the woman who I knew, almost instantly, that I had a future with. Her eyes were, and are, of darkest brown, her skin ivory, her kindness and intelligence consummate. Me? I was broke, unsure of myself, but determined to write worthwhile novels, and eventually immerse myself in the art world–meaning the art world west of the Hudson. I was brimming with passion and insecurity, and had NO intention of staying in KC.

But I met her and stayed–at least as much as I ever stay in one place. Eventually she accepted my proposal of marriage. I’ve been grateful ever since. Friend, lover, confidante, wife. Also a wrangler of endless toil, like me. There is no way I can thank her enough, or love her more. She drove away my loneliness, helped me raise two fine sons, and taught me much over the years. She’s also been incredibly open-minded, has understood my need for freedom, and how trying to own me only backfires. At the same I’ve always tried to understand her, and to give the things that she needs. My journey would have been so much tougher without her, and certainly far less worthwhile.

What did I do to deserve all this? That’s what I’m still trying to figure out.

Arlie and Dave Regier Placement / Never Too Old To Create / HOK’s New Building / Allan Chow Commission

The piece we sold for Arlie and Dave Regier Saturday is in the same vein as the one above, which was placed at a Westin Hotel in Orlando, but of course the one we sold is different. Why don’t I have a picture of it? Lazy. Will get one soon. At any rate it was nice to place a significant piece just a few hours after getting off the plane. Needless to say, the seeds for that sale were planted months ago.

Arlie is 74, quiet, considerate, and flat-out crazy about sculpting in stainless. This is probably the greatest passion in his life. And bear in mind, his career didn’t take off until he was 60, when our paths crossed. My point? For all you artists who think you’re over the hill because your career hasn’t clicked yet at 35, 45, or 55–don’t. You’re never done unless YOU personally decide you are. Otherwise a career can click at any time, since art-creation is the province of eternal youth, meaning creative passion never really gets old. In fact the older you get, the more the chips are in your favor, assuming you’ve put in the time.

Consulted this evening on my way home for a law firm in the River Market. They have offices in the new HOK building, HOK being an internationally successful architectural firm. The partners at the law firm love Allan Chow’s work, and already own one of his pieces. They want two more. So I rearranged a few existing works, opened up the walls a bit, then we decided on some potential themes and sizes. Sure I could’ve recommended enormous works for bigger money, but that wasn’t what was needed. Instead I recommended average sizes, since I didn’t see the point in blowing the client’s dough. They appreciated that. Allan will do the preliminary sketches next week.

Nice way to end a Monday.

CSI Miami / Fort Lauderdale Beatings / Home

I’ve only seen CSI Miami a couple of times, not being much given to watching TV. Curious though, the times I’ve seen it, that the people doing all the killing and dying seen to be wealthy, the female detictives all have plunging necklines, nary a slum is shown (and in Miami there is an abundance of slums), each crime is neatly wrapped up within 60 minutes, and the stars all drive these amazing cars that real detectives could never afford. Oh yeah, funny point, a detective who got killed on the show last year was also one of the long-haired potheads in Dazed And Confused. Hilarious flick. I hope his career goes well.

Those teenagers who allegedly carried out the beatings of the homeless men in Fort Lauderdale? A lot of people have been claiming that that sort of stuff could only happen in Florida or California, but the truth is it could happen anywhere. I knew a couple of wastrels back in the 70s who not only were capable of it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they carried it out. And these guys grew up in Leawood, a posh little suburb on the south side of KC. Yeah they were bored, raised in rather bizarre but very strict, loveless families, and quite violent. Several homeless men were murdered downtown in those days, near the River Market, and clues led to suburban white boys. It’s always made me wonder… Those two guys now? One of them is dead, and the other one may as well be. Karma always collects.

The photo above is of downtown KC, showing old Union Station, the modest skyline, and The Crossroads gallery district in mid-field. No this place ain’t NY, Miami or LA, but it’s home to me. I think I dig Florence a little more though.

Last FL Signing / What I Miss About Florida / What I Don’t / Home

Had a great crowd in Fort Lauderdale last night, but then I’m fortunate, as I’ve never had a bad one. To be honest I’m not sure they exist–not for the sort of thing I do anyway.

I love helping to create a sense of cameraderie with groups of artists who, upon showing up, are strangers to each other. At first there’s that initial discomfort that you get with any gathering, then you begin to ask questions and crack jokes, then to draw them in, then the next thing you know they realize they’re all facing the same adversities, they all have much in common, and they all want to learn. Once you establish that vibe, the unity forms, the energy level shoots up, and baby that’s when you can really teach. God I do love it.

I’m done with Florida for now. Ten days there, new friends all over the joint, temptations avoided, returning home with honor intact. Yeah I know you’re not supposed to discuss that stuff, which is why I do. Sure there’s temptation; certain situations arising at certain signings, where things could so easily click. But you gotta think about what matters in the long run, and taking proper care of everyone, no matter how hard that might be. Uh, wrong choice of word: I mean difficult.

What will I miss about Florida? The variety of races, the insanely beautiful weather, the sight of a palm at sunset, the smell of brine, the roar of Miami night life, the quiet of the Everglades, the drawbridges, and the kindness of so many natives (even if many of them do have New York accents). What will I not miss about it? The freaking traffic, the unbalanced obsession with appearance in certain quarters, the thoughtless sprawl of certain parts of certain cities, the over-development of of nearly every inch of land anywhere near the sea, and the plethora of SUVs.

I caught a plane at 8:00 a.m., landed in KC at 12:00. Grey January weather, a little snow, sight of my breath in the cold air. Fine by me. Went straight to the gallery. Stack of mail, stack of messages, had to consult on a large stainless steel sculpture (client purchased), and arrange installation for a huge work in blown glass. After that, home at last: the enormous love of my family, a German Shepherd going nuts, a quick workout, a quiet bath while reading Smithsonian, and by God a bourbon.

Tonight? My wife and I on the town. La Bodega down on the Boulevard; Spanish joint, it’s my favorite restaurant. Calamari in a saffron sauce.

Later? Oh, my wife and I have a lot of catching up to do. No hurry in that though; it’ll be a late night. Damn, how I do love life! These times are so good, it makes me wonder when I’ll face rough times again. Sooner or later we all do. No one gets away without it.