Friday, December 9, 2011

Lost and Found

Today I went down into the one of the most cobweb-laden rooms of the basement, in order to read the water meter. (Strangely enough, this is something that is still done, at least here in Norway; I imagine it to be one of those old-fashioned tasks that will soon be destroyed by the strong grip of Mr. Computer, bent as he is on eternal progress and the redundancy of human activity.) By the pleasantly slow-moving, analog dials of the  water meter lay a box of 35mm slides, once a very important part of my life as an artist, who needed them developed constantly, as a means of recording my art. I hadn't looked at them in quite a while, so I brought the box up.

I rigged up a means of back-lighting them, so as to take digital pictures. Here is one of a painting of William Burroughs, which I painted from a drawing in the late 80s. At the time I was living in Portland, Oregon. Burroughs was active at that time, giving readings and signing books. I was able to draw him in the large coffee bar of Powell's books (at that time the coffee bar concept in bookstores was new if not unique.) I drew a number of sketches of him as he signed books, and even gave him one.

I wonder what ever happened to this painting. As I look through the slides I note that many works are "lost." That distinction is always interesting to read in art history books, for example. Location: "lost." One imagines works hidden in a crypt in Eastern Europe, spoils of war to generals have died long ago, taking their secrets with them. Or, more probably, lost in an inferno or a bombing raid. Many of my early paintings have vanished in fires, but that can be subject for another posting.

Back to Burroughs:
For nearly a decade after I painted this, the elder Beat lived on, always part of the culture, despite his age. His longevity seemed very powerful, owing to his mummified looks. When he finally died in 1997 he seemed a good 10 or 20 years older than he actually was (83.) In Beat years, you might say he lived to 160 years old (if you measure him alongside the quick-burning likes of Neal Cassady.) Around 1999 I went back to Powells Books and sold a book signed by him that day I did the drawing for this painting.


  1. Fascinating. ANy idea where it might be?

  2. I stored it at my parents', who burned a lot of paintings on a trash pile before they moved, so it is unlikely it still exists. But there is an off chance that someone rescued it--I heard that my dad did give some away.
    Oddly, a lot of my later, NY paintings also vanished in a fire, in a collector's house!

  3. I saw Burroughs with Paul Meinel in Fort Worth in the early 80s. I actually didn't know anything about him, or the beats at the time. That crowd was like being in a room full of necrophiliacs i remember.

    got this piece from Ebay when i had money in my paws,