Art for Inauguration

Scheit Zeppelin with tether tower and action figures  approx- 5 tall  $3,500.jpg

Scheit Zeppelin

One of my current projects is to serve as art consultant for the inauguration of Governor Sebelius.  This will be her 2nd term as a Democratic governor in a largely Red state–Kansas.  I’m a native, love my state (with the occasional stint in Santa Cruz), and am honored to serve someone so enlightened.  My goal?  Help put a new face on the Kansas art scene, and see to it that it’s more reflective of what’s actually going on here.  No small task, but I think we’ll put a pretty good dent in it.

That means works like this one, by Randy Regier, represented by the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan.  Scheit Zeppelin.  Some title.  Earlier this year he won the Jack Kemp Award.  I’d say he deserved it.

Rock for Darfur


Well, my 16-year-old and his band played their first gig.  I still can’t believe how well they played, and how passionately the crowd–about 150 teenagers–responded.  The boys only played one cover, something by Oasis.  All the other songs were theirs, and the crowd just ate it up.  The bands’ talent was acknowledged by their peers–always a cool thing, but not to be overrated, as I’ve told them all. 

The gig was fund-raiser for a refugee camp in Darfur.  In fact a brief film on the disaster of Darfur was shown between acts; very sobering.  This was something that all kids could stand knowing more about, since the world has let those people down even more than we did the Bosnians. 

All told it was a very good night.  But at least these kids got to go back to their homes–rather nice ones in the suburbs.  The kids from Darfur never had that option, even before the war started.

Jane Booth for Book / Screenplay for Whatever


“Deep,” by Jane Booth.

As I mentioned last week, I’m helping with a book about exceptional talent from this region.  It comes out next month.  Needless to say, several visual artists are going in.  Jane Booth is one.  She’s with the Strecker-Nelson Gallery.  The piece above is in acrylic.  I dig the title as much as I do the work, and I really dig the work.  It’s nice to finally see regional artists get their due.

People keep asking me what’s going on with the screenplay?  A lot.  In fact something new each week.  But I’d rather not discuss those things until all is in place–and all does seem to be falling in place.  Well, that’s nice.

Friday Tips: Working with Architects and Interior Designers

I’ve had scores of interior designers filter through my gallery over the years. Out of all these, there are only a handful that I work with. For the most part, the others are always trying to match paintings with the colors of carpets and fabrics. They don’t seem to understand that a painting is a window into another world, and that you don’t try to match a window with anything.

I’ve made dozens of presentations to interior designers, I’ve addressed them in groups, I’ve addressed them individually, and still little has come of it. For whatever reason, many of those I’ve encountered don’t seem to speak the language of art so much as the language of decoration. Nor do they seem to understand how difficult the artist’s life is. As a reflection of this, I’ve often had interior designers borrow paintings to show their clients, then fail to return the works when the sale fell through. Worse yet, a decorator once asked one of my sculptors to design a piece for a foyer, then changed his mind about the whole thing without bothering to tell us, resulting in much wasted time on our part. You should have seen the letter I wrote him.

Due to these experiences, I don’t bother with interior designers much, except for the handful that I alluded to earlier. As for those golden individuals, do they understand art? Very well. Do I give them a discount? Every time. Do I enjoy working with them? Enormously. These designers are competent, hardworking people who love what my artists do, and love introducing them to their clients. How could I find fault with that?

Similarly, no matter where you live, there is bound to be a group of designers who do have a passion for art, a firm understanding of it, and great respect for the hardships that artists endure. These designers are very much worth working with. I urge you to find them, get to know them, and, if possible, make fans of them. You’ll benefit from the association, and so will they.

My experience with architects has been quite different from that of designers. After all, it was architects who hired me as art consultant for the National D-Day Memorial, as well for a convention center in Kansas City, as well as for a project at the Mayo Clinic. Those projects were significant, but when you consider all the hundreds of mailings I’ve sent to architectural firms, and the dozens of PowerPoint presentations I’ve made to them, the return seems rather small.

There’s a reason for this. Architects, for the most part, are artists; their projects are their art. As a consequence, they tend to leave the installation of art up to the client, or the client’s interior designer (God help us). Even so, most major architectural firms do have a designer whose job it is to select art for projects where there is a call for it. These people can be very helpful in assisting you with placing your work. As with designers, make sure you get to know them, and that your galleries do the same. One good architectural contact can, over time, bring you more work than you can easily handle–an enviable dilemma by most standards.

Taking Time–Again


Yesterday I took this group of young artists, from Paseo Academy, to STRETCH’S studio, where he harrangued them for an hour about sculpting in metal, what it takes, what he puts into it, what he gets back.  I think one or two will serve apprenticeships with him. 

Afterward, I took them to lunch at the Rozelle Court at the Nelson-Atkins.  Man, can they pack the food away.  Punks ate everything they could get their hands on.  Well, that’s why I took them.

After lunch we went up on the balcony to look at the smaller Moores, and throw coins in the fountain below.  Two of the kids hit some art ladies in the head with their coins, but I considered that performance art, so it was fine by me.

Margie Kuhn

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“American Sublime”

This piece is by Margie Kuhn, who is represented by the Byron Cohen Gallery.  It’s going into a book that I’m assisting with.  The book covers exceptional talent from my region in a variety of areas, not just visual art.  What’s exceptional about this piece?  It’s in watercolor, and every bit of it is painted–including the faded, worn, and curled masking tape.  I was sure blown away.

Book comes out next month, coinciding with an inauguration I’m assisting with.  No I’m not going into politics–although dealing in art sure as hell is political.  Rather I’m just doing my job: trying to give artists a leg up, both the well known and the unsung.

Matt Kirby’s “Jack Kilby”


Jack Kilby is the cat who invented the microchip.  An elaborate outdoor mall here called The Legends was recently constructed.  Within it are various interpretive sculptures honoring various “legends” from our region.  Matt did three of the pieces; I thought this one was incredible. 

The photo sucks, but the piece is made of heavy cast glass and stainless steel, and basically shows a portrait of Kilby imbedded in a chip, grasped by tweezers.

Sure Matt’s a genius; just don’t tell him I admitted it.



My wife and I went to see Bobby last night.  We’d been arguing–something we rarely do–so seeing a flick seemed an easy way to spend time together without speaking.  Worked fine; made peace today.

I loved how this movie is character-driven, following the lives of several people in one massive hotel during the course of one tragic day, not unlike Grand Hotel.  And yet it also has its comic moments (the two interns doing acid, for one).  Films of this sort are all too rare, since Hollywood still has an addiction for blowing up 30 cars in the first 30 seconds of most flicks, under the mistaken notion that 18-year-old males call the shots in ticket sales.  Estevez had real guts taking on this project, and is to be lauded.  Sure the movie does seem a bit uneven, but I can easily overlook that for the sweep of it.

As for the loss of Bobby Kennedy, that happened at a time in my boyhood when one of my brothers was in Vietnam (soon to be badly wounded), DC was under siege, and all our best leaders seemed destined to be shot.  It was a strange way to grow up, but a whole generation did.

Now a different generation is growing up with a different war–one that is no less crazy, and probably more so.  I wonder what the long-term ramifications will be.  Either way, it’s hell on the poor infantry who are forced to serve for political/corporate greed.  I’m not sure that Lincoln, or Washington, would have approved.


Friday Tips: Old Blackie


When I used to work in Alaska, on a hard-luck fishing schooner called The Constitution, one of my fo’c’sle mates was named Blackie. He had grey hair and a grey beard, a face weathered like a topographical map, and a back bent from years of gutting halibut. Fishing was all he knew. Me? I was a young writer passing through for one season; I knew I was destined for a life in the arts, he knew he would stay.

Blackie had been torpedoed in the Atlantic during World War II, stabbed in a barfight in Juneau, storm-wrecked on the Gulf of Alaska, and abandoned by three wives in steady succession–or perhaps he abandoned them. He had little savings, no house, and virtually no friends except those he met in bars and on the boat. Yet he laughed through everything, complimented everyone, never once complained about the hardships or cold, and always had one enduring piece of advice over the six months I knew him: “Don’t never bitch, boy. Just be grateful you’re alive.”

He went on saying that even after we wrecked.

This isn’t exactly a Friday Tip, but then it’s not not one either. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish attending to an opening. Gallery full of people tonight.