Portraits & Passages

Chapter 11

Page from "Art in America", May 1982 issue - White Madonna

Every painting lives a life of its own which we watch from the sidelines. - RR 

“White Madonna” - Treasure Abandoned in a Closet, 1982

It's been over two years, and I haven't heard a word from my godson Joey since I asked his grandmother to wish him happy birthday for me and mention the painting  I left for him in one of her closets twenty-one years before. I don't expect a reply, but one afternoon back then he lay peacefully against my chest and right then there  Pam decided to make me his godfather: "He'll take care of you in your old age."

So that spring of 1982 I took "White Madonna" rolled up to Park Avenue. Except to show it once to Pam's mother, it has remained rolled all these years, a buried  treasure in my mind. I thought it a good present for Joey as it reminded me of his mother. Two months before Pam was sitting in the skylight studio of John Bennett  in the West Village. I had just done him a big favor. Consequently he had decided to loan me the ground floor space of his three-story carriage house, I was  completing my fifth issue of "Art in America" with a photo of "White Madonna" shot in his studio.

John reasoned that with the exposure of fifteen pages I needed to make the work available for viewing. There was only another couple along with John's wife, Karen  Grant, who was associate art director at "House and Garden" then. You can imagine she was a little astonished that I knew her boss's daughter. So were the  other two. He was or pretended to be a high official in the Rockefeller Foundation. There was a subtle shift in their treatment of me. Their normal polite, but slight  condescension disappeared like magic, and not being unintelligent, they were congenial enough.

But Pam had seen all this before, and soon excused herself. That would be the last time she would ever come to see one of my exhibitions. Forget about just avoiding  openings. No, from that moment on she would never see or be seen at my shows. God forbid that her presence might allow me some small portion of respect without  which few doors open on their own. That's the way of the world. But Pam was not interested in going to bat for me. The idea of it offended her. To be used was just unthinkable.

Ok I can understand, but to stop going to see my exhibitions from then on is pointedly obvious. Especially when every birthday she called for sure, but if I were  to mention my painting a dead silence would enter the conversation. One cannot separate me from my painting. Even if I were to stop painting, I would not stop  being passionate about my paintings or painting in general. Any friend who downgrades another's passion is not a friend. So I said let's not call each other up every birthday. It's too predictable it becomes stale.

Self Portrait (detail) 1962

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