A Secret Grave 57: Caught Off Guard


Just to bring you up to date, Alicia, whom I haven’t written about in awhile, has taken three of my portraits to Art Basel Miami. This is a major big deal and I know I should be happy and not complain, but since I’ve made it a point to be candid on this site I have to say that art fairs (particularly Basel, Miami) have historically rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly because – in the name of art – there is so much crap. Piles of twigs on the floor, rusted car parts, sequined toilets. One sees the same sorts of photos, prints, empty canvases repeated mercilessly throughout the entire sprawl of the fair and eventually the brain goes dead, inured to junk. And the people! Staring at this stuff as if they were at the Louvre gazing at masterpieces.

Okay, I’m being a little unfair (excuse the pun). If you look hard enough and know where to go, you will find some fantastic things. I hadn’t, for instance, become familiar with Margaret Bowland’s work until I came across it, exhibited with the Driscoll Babcock Gallery at Miami Basel, a few years ago.



Detail of Margaret Bowland’s “Cotton, Oil, and Diamonds” (2012), (© Margaret Bowland/Driscoll Babcock Galleries)


So that was a boon since not only is Margaret a fabulous painter, but she has become a friend whose opinions and droll sense of humor I truly enjoy. I guess what I’m trying to say here is art fairs are hard work for the serious viewer: crowded and repetitive, great for people watching, but not enough fine material for someone like me to go OMG! and feel a symphony go off in her head. Put another way, it’s kind of like going to the supermarket to buy art and that ain’t sexy.

The three portraits of mine that Alicia chose are:



Storm Rolling In


Caught Off Guard



She’s also taken my before-and-after portraits of Hillary though we had an argument about that since A): I did the paintings as a lark and didn’t think they were good enough, and B): Hillz lost the election and people might not be too keen on having her likeness staring down at them from their living room walls.


Hillary – before Victor’s treatment


Hillary – after Victor’s treatment

On the other hand, they are definitely a conversation piece and perhaps she can sell them. I wish she had taken my 2013 portrait of local Austin personality, Lytle Pressley, instead …



What These Eyes Have Seen, 2012


… as it’s a painting that’s been admired and exhibited and needs to be sold.

Here’s a NEWSFLASH: because my painting of Betsy Shapiro was so goddamn visible at the fair, someone saw it, recognized her and sent me the following message via my website:

“I don’t know what Betsy in your portrait “Caught Off Guard” has told you about herself but you can be sure most of it is lies. She is not who she says she is. I’m her sister, so I should know.”

She signed it Janet K. Johnson, Betsy’s maiden name.


To be continued…


Cover photo ~ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/552957660480640840/



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