For three years from the fall of '74 to the fall of '77. "Joseph in the Pit" and "Jacob in Mourning" hung at the Public Theatre. Funny but I don't believe I gave it a thought that one of the painting's had Joe's name.
But before that happened there were two occasions soon after that memorable dinner that left their mark on me. The first was from out of left field when at a family dinner unattended by other guests, Si made a remark directly to me from across the table in which he spoke of how some people in "Society" whom he knew and because of their influence on some galleries, sponsored their protégées for exhibitions. He continued that they almost always never last beyond a season or two. He was pointedly addressing me not to expect any mistake like that from him.
If it were now, I would have simply said to Si: “Give me the chance. You might be surprised!” But I was still so shy in those kind of situations. Then again, imagine if Si would have invited me to go along with him on his Saturday rounds of the galleries with no other promise than a casual introduction to the dealers who you know would be running to greet him. If he would have said: “Stick with me and relax.” That’s all he would have had to do. But he didn’t.
I remained an outsider, and the development of my painting went invisible. I wasn’t even on the screen. It was like I was without papers – a displaced person. I didn’t exist!
Then a few weeks later he had me come up to where my painting hung to have a little talk. He acknowledged that the painting was powerful. However, he was uncomfortable with the knowledge that an abstract painting began with an anthropomorphic motif. It seemed irreconcilable to him.
By chance I had brought along a photographic detail of the first state of "Joseph Accused" which was the mate to the other two paintings that would hang at The Public Theatre. Clearly Si was impressed for his eyes opened wide in surprise, and his head actually jutted forward with mouth open. He said that direction showed much more promise than following the beaten path of abstract expressionism.
The photographic detail was of me as Joseph in very strong chiaroscuro of cadmium red from which the light figure emerges through the grattage erasure. My arms are straight down in front of me with the palms of the hands opened in a sign of innocence and supplication – the image of the consciousness of being an outsider in an unfriendly world.
Twenty years later, during the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of France that coincided with my own fiftieth birthday, I would once again paint myself as the Jew on the tightrope in “The Performer” as a counterpoint to the “German Girl” paintings done simultaneously.
But back in 1974 Si Newhouse was surprised with “Joseph Accused.” The look of astonishment said it all. We are not talking about potential; a great painting had been achieved. Yet, Si Newhouse made no move to help the author of that painting.
Herbert Simon would remark to me that the man in power will not risk using it except for the most important occasions. For if he should fail to meet his target, his prestige would be threatened.
I had seen how Si disavowed his own eyes and wash his hands of me. And I said to myself: “Here’s a man who does not trust himself!” On coming back downstairs to the main salon and looking around at the paintings I saw how hollow this pretentious display really was. I didn’t want to visit there anymore. I would tell Pam that later when we left the house.
I remember Si once giving Pam a lecture on not being too generous with her "protégées" after she had given a $400 music box to Richard Magpion. Obviously, generosity was something to be guarded. It had become too emotionally exhausting for the artist in me to be confronted with such spiritual disregard. One cannot be surrounded by people who do not believe in one's worth. It's a poisonous situation. A week later I sent Si and Victoria a note thanking them for hanging my painting, but I thought it time to take the painting back as they might need their wall space.