Kansas Board of Education and Intelligent Design


Well, roughly a year after voting that kids should question Evolutionary Theory in my state, the Board of Education has removed several creationists from its ranks, and tossed out the forced study of Intelligent Design.  Perhaps this means we’ll inch back toward a separation of church and state–just as those dudes in the powdered wigs intended back in 1776.

My East Coast friends often ask whether it’s embarrassing to live in a state where this is even an issue.  I always tell them, “No, it’s amusing.”  Besides, the zealots really are small in number.  Everyone here knows that.

What I don’t get is why fundamentalists think that Evolutionary Theory questions the existence of God in the first place.  The two are perfectly capable of walking hand-in-hand–at least until the creationists get on the Board again.

Jane Booth / Consultation

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White Bridge, Oil, Jane Booth

Am consulting for a private collector on completing their collection: blown glass, a nude in pastel, a landscape, a wall sculpture, and likely an abstraction by Jane Booth–not unlike the one above.
Do I land deals like this overnight? Nay; this one took two years. Some take five. Others occur spontaneously. But as a deceased friend of mine used to say: It’s all good. Actually I think he says it still.

Eldridge House / Quantrill / Gay Mentors

Dinner tonight with friends in Lawrence at the Eldridge House, the original of which Quantrill burned during his 1863 raid. It was rebuilt, many times. That border war between KS and MO has been much forgotten, but it was one bloody mother during the Civil War. That hatred lingered for a century. I remember it as a kid. Man, the stupidity of American violence.

Anyway we ate with the Dickeys. Steve teaches Slavic languages at KU; Janna, who is from Croatia, works as a translator. He and I met in college. Had the same mentor: an old gay dude we met in the sauna, who spoke 5 languages, and kicked our asses over several of them until we almost became as disciplined as he. Everyone should be so fortunate. Sam Anderson. Died in ’94. Steve and I still miss him. No, we were never his lovers, though he often wished as much. But half of life is made up of wishes unfulfilled–often for good reasons.

Restaurant filled with devotees of Jayhawk basketball–the very sort that Sam despised. He felt that the over-funded, and excessively emphasized, athletic programs were ruining higher education. I didn’t disagree then; I still don’t now.

Two New Jobs


This photo shows a site where one of our upcoming installations will go.  I suppose I could discuss design, medium, and scale, but it’s more fun to let those things out gradually.  Well, I can discuss scale: it’ll be freaking huge.


This photo shows good old Mikel Burkes framing the catacombs in the new gallery–and this is just one room out of six.  He, Stive and the crew will begin work upstairs next week.  Do I still work with them on occasion?  You bet.  I love pounding nails and cussing; I always will.  It’s how I started.

Friday Tips: The Fire

This story is lifted from Living the Artist’s Life.  It happened ten years ago now, a good time to review past disasters, and recoveries:

    It was in March of 1997 that the manager of the Hotel Savoy, where my first gallery was housed, called me one Sunday night.  He asked if I was watching TV.
    I told him I wasn’t.
    He told me that was good.
    I asked him why?
    He said because my gallery was on fire.
    I let the words sink in to be sure I understood them, but of course I didn’t really understand them, so he said it again.  He paused, and as he did I could hear men shouting in the background, the sound of gushing water.  Then he said that I should probably come downtown.
    I told him I’d be there in thirty minutes.  I made it in twenty.
    I parked down the street from the hotel, beyond the yellow-taped cordon, and walked up among the fire engines, firemen and cops.  Smoke was billowing out the gallery door and water was pouring down the steps.  When everyone realized that I was the owner, there was quiet commotion and words of condolence.  Then a platinum blonde with thick makeup, a microphone in her hand, and a cameraman at her side walked up.  She asked if I wanted to be interviewed.  I looked at her tense, career-driven face and told her, no, I did not want to be interviewed.  Then I went inside to look at the gallery, or what was left of it.
    The fire had started in the storage room behind my space, caused by a carelessly left cigarette.  It destroyed the storage room, the room above it, and half of my gallery.  Most of the paintings and sculpture, thankfully, had all been moved out by the firemen and hotel staff.  Though smoke-damaged, those works had mostly been saved.  Everything else—furniture, files, my computer—was ruined.  I looked around at the mess as one of the fire captains came up.
    He expressed his sympathies.  I thanked him, and thanked him also for having moved out so many of the paintings; he acted like it was nothing.  Primarily he was concerned about the damage to the gallery; he told me that he sure hoped I had good insurance.
    My insurance policy had lapsed three weeks earlier, since I’d opted to pay the phone bill, an overdue advertising bill, and two months of back-rent instead of the policy.  I had been planning to catch up on the policy in another week.
 I told him, you bet, I had real good insurance.
    When I got home my wife asked if everything was okay.  She was sitting up in bed looking nervous and worried, certain we’d been ruined.  I told her about the damage, and the extent of it.
    She asked if the insurance would cover everything.
   I told her sure it would: that it would pay off the debt, allow me to open a new gallery, and that everything would be just fine.
    She kept watching me, as if trying to make certain that what I said was real.  My expression betrayed nothing.
    Finally she smiled, and said she was glad that everything was all right.  Just watching the relief on her face was worth the price of the lie.
    Later she went to sleep and slept very soundly.  I got to sleep at maybe four, getting up at six to go downtown and face the mess I’d gotten us into.

    The damage came to $40,000, more than enough to square my debt and set me up in a new space—had I only been insured.  My gut wrenched in triple knots when I thought about it, but there was no point in thinking about it.  What was done was done. 
    I set about cleaning what remained of the gallery, trying to figure a way out once more.  While I was cleaning it, most of the other gallery owners in the city called to see if I was okay.  I thanked them, and told them I was.  Friends called, artists called, then one of my sisters called.  A skilled businesswoman, this sister is always boiling with ideas.  As we talked, she told me the fire had been necessary.
    I asked her to explain.
    She said it was simple, that my fate was trying to tell me it was time to move on and start over.  She said I wasn’t making it where I was, and that the fire would force me to move someplace else, and continue growing—if I interpreted it that way.
    I told her I could always grow, but that I needed to be able to feed my family in the process.
    She said that was no problem, that all I had to do was have a fire sale: clean all the paintings, discount everything twenty percent, sell the inventory, and move on.  She was certain it would be a snap. 
    It wasn’t exactly a snap, but I did take her advice.  With the help of some relatives and friends, I cleaned the paintings, and repainted and reopened the gallery.  Then I called in the press, including the platinum blonde with the microphone.  By the time they all came to interview me I was upbeat again, and gave each of them a story on how you can always rebound, you just have to decide that you want to.  I told them that this is America, and that you can do anything here—which to me is true.
    They loved it.  I got coverage in all the papers and on all the TV stations.  The sale was a relative success, and with the $12,000 I netted from it I was able to rent a space in a better location.  The new space needed a lot of work, so I spent my days running the old gallery, and my nights renovating the new one.  My days had never been longer, but I didn’t care.  I could sense that my life was turning a corner, and was anxious to continue the journey.  Sure, I was facing $90,000 of debt now, but I could sense that bigger things were coming, if I could just hold on.  Somehow, I managed to. 

    The odd thing is, the combination of these experiences—and several others—made me a better writer.  Those difficulties reawakened a hunger in me, and a lust for life, that the business world had sent sleeping.  They made me savagely determined to succeed as an art dealer, and writer.  I didn’t want those things for purposes of fame; I’d been too humbled by life to even care about fame anymore.  I just wanted the success for my family, my artists, and especially because I felt I had something to contribute.  I had made so many mistakes.  I wanted to learn from those mistakes, and finish the job I’d started.  Perhaps now I could.

Board Room Meeting / Blown Glass


Here’s a shot of a board room after I finished a presentation to a group of executives and architects for a major corp.

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Here’s a shot of the initial design that I presented.  Yeah I know, this looks a bit like a cartoon, but all they wanted was a sense of the direction I’d go in, the scale, etc.  I covered all the details, from engineering to aesthetics.  The medium will be blown glass.  The height of the piece: 20′.  Weight: 3000 lbs.

Did we get the commission, and if so, where will it go?  I can’t answer either question just yet, but it’s starting to look like fun.  And lest I forget, I had design assistance from the able Sharon Gottula. 

Interview with Alyson Stanfield

Conducted a teleseminar/interview with Alyson Stanfield last night.  Great woman out of Denver who is an art business coach. 

While I’m accustomed to radio interviews, this is rather different, as subscribers simply listen to the interview over their phones.  It’s a bit of a trip, as at one point she had everyone say hello (imagine a couple of hundred voices doing this at once), then she mutes that aspect, and the interview begins.  And although you can’t hear the listeners, you can sense them–if you know what I mean.  This is a great energy to work with, and kind of amusing at the same time. 

We spoke for an hour, covered a plethora of topics, then she had everyone say goodbye (one or two with Aussie accents).  If it’s of interest, the interview’s online at the above site.

Installations at the Economic Development Council / Harry Truman and Haberdashers


Photos by Mike McMullen and Jon Bidwell


Pastel by Dean Kube

The EDC has opened new offices in One Kansas City Place, 17th Floor, 12th & Main.  This is right down the street from where Harry Truman opened as a haberdasher in 1920, then closed a year later, bankrupt and in debt for what would be about $250,000 in today’s currency.  That’s got nothing to do with the EDC, I just like telling the story.  And anyway Harry paid back all the jack–even though it took him 15 years.  But I digress…

Leopold was chosen as art consultant for the EDC; a very nice honor.  These shots show some of the works we installed.  We’re also planning an exhibition for high school artists from University Academy, the same kids I took on the field trip last week (photos below).

The exhibition will take place on 3/8, during the grand opening.  I expect the gig to be a mob scene.  I’ll be there.  I understand the bourbon will be free.

Chris Cooper / Breach

Saw Breach with my wife last night, at the newly renovated Ranch Mart Theater.  This is where I saw Saturday matinees as a kid for fifty cents.  I mean we must have seen Bullitt 50 times there.  And when we didn’t have the dough for a flick, we’d drop a string of firecrackers down the Exit stairwell.  Man you shoulda seen the ushers come flying out looking to kick some ass.  We outran them every time, laughing.

Chris Cooper is flawless is this role.  For maybe the second time in his career, he was allowed to step outside of typecasting, as in Adaptation, and do something truly great.  Kansas City can be proud of this dude.  Laura Linney also is flawless.  Ryan Phillippe?  He’s still young, and has an unremarkable style.  But he can improve with time.  Remember, they all used to laugh at Eastwood.  Either way, the Robert Hansson story is appropriately bizarre.  The bad part?  I’ve known guys like this.

Some gin joint in downtown O.P. after.  Left at 11:00.  Up till 2:00 after.  Yeah, I dig Saturday night.  But who don’t?