Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dennis is Dead

Dennis Hopper died yesterday. Bummer, man--as he might say. But yo ... whatta life!

Do you remember Brad Pitt's much praised freak-out performance in, I think, 12 Monkeys? Stolen straight from Dennis Hopper's crazed combat photographer in Apocalypse Now.
(Brief parenthetical aside: top five best movies ever are, in random order: Godfather 2, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, My Man Godfrey, Last of the Mohicans (just for the scenery and the score), and Apocalypse Now.)
The miracle of this scene is that, as everybody, I suppose, knows, Brando was to be paid a million dollars for a week's shooting in a specified time-frame. When the shit hit the fan during the production of Apocalypse, Brando was asked to shift back his week. He refused.

So when he arrived, there was no script (Coppola liked to make it up as he went, to a degree, and the movie had already veered quite a distance away from its original path). He just showed up for a week and everything was, more or less, improvised.

That's the miracle of it all, dear reader.

This is Hopper from a little bit of Brando's week:

(Brief parenthetical aside #2: I look quite a bit like Brando here, with my new haircut.)
This made me smile too:

(Brief political aside: Martin Sheen would survive his stint in Vietnam and go on to be America's greatest president. Amazing.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Republic of Dunces

Here is my portrait of Chris Dodd near the end of Day One of annotation.

Which, by and large, is all good. But there comes the occasion, dear reader, when even a man as patient as I, feels the need to speak up.

Consider this:

Every person I handed a marker to yesterday--EVERY ONE--got the same instructions: Write anything you like but stay off the face and hair. So how big a fucking idiot do you have to be to start writing all over the hair? My comment, which begins "Note from the artist..." serves two purposes: First, to vent my annoyance; second, to redefine the outer rim of the hair for aesthetic purposes. But really, it was Purpose One that motivated me.

If my general interaction with the public has told me anything, it's that while you and I, dear reader, are sentient beings, we live amongst a herd of complete fucking idiots. Really. And I'm not talking about the number of people of who don't know who Chris Dodd is. That, to my mind, is perfectly understandable. But the people who look you in the eye, listen to your instructions, take the marker, and write something where they have been specifically instructed not to--these are the people I'm talking about.

As Ben Franklin left Independence Hall after signing the United States Constitution he was approached by a woman. “What kind of government did you give us?" he was asked. "A monarchy or a republic?” Franklin, as the story goes, responded “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it!”

I fear for the Republic.

Father's Day is coming

This is important for two reasons:

First, traditionally, the Peter McManus Stickball Tournament is held one week after Father's Day. Although these days, with the explosion of Chelsea, the crowd is oppressively big. Like Easter (in so many ways), people come to McManus for the Stickball scene, not as a regular thing. These individuals are to be sneered at.

Second, I've requested from my children--good people but, I am here to tell you, dear reader, horribly undependable in matters such as these (I'm still waiting for the flexible spatulas I asked for for Christmas)--the deluxe version of the reissued version of "Exile on Mainstreet."

I was reading a fascinating article about it in The Mothership and said to myself something along the lines of "Is it possible I don't have Exile on Mainstreet on my iTunes library?" Because I have a lot of Rolling Stones on there, I can assure you.

And the answer was no. I didn't. And rather than just click the button (in which case, I could be listening to it now), I thought something along the lines of "This would be a great thing to tell my children I want for Father's Day." As I may have mentioned, my children are good people but horribly undependable in matters such as these.

So I wait. Like Buddha. Serene in my expectation of good things; emotionally compartmentalized enough to withstand the bad. Which is as we should all be.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs from the Times piece, written by Ben Ratliff:
A LESSER-KNOWN version of the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup,” found on the bonus disc of the new reissue of the band’s 1972 album, “Exile on Main St.,” seems to me the best thing the Stones ever did.

It’s country gospel gone lurid, and it seems to rise up out of a nap. Nicky Hopkins’s piano chords circle around a G at slow tempo in an echoey room. Charlie Watts starts pumping a bass drum at the third beat of the second bar; he’s either late or early, but finding his way. Piano and drums roll up to the D chord at the beginning of the first verse, and Mick Taylor bends two guitar strings under Mick Jagger’s opening line: “I’m the man on the mountain — yes, come on up.” Onward, Mr. Watts weaves around the beat, smashing down on his high-hat, forming weird and clattering snare-drum fills. He both shapes and follows the group’s euphoria and the music’s subtle acceleration. The Stones gather around the song like pickpockets, jostling and interfering with it. Keith Richards, playing rhythm guitar and singing backup, quits harmonizing and starts to shout.

This performance represents to me the sound of “Exile” in idealized form: a dark, dense, loosely played, semiconscious tour through American blues, gospel and country music, recorded in a basement in France. “Exile” was made around the Stones’ creative peak and in unusual circumstances: they were tax exiles, forced to live away from home.

I can't wait.

That said, I'd like to call attention to one aspect of the NYT that annoys me. That being their apparently completely random decisions regarding to what particular terms they should offer the reader a hyperlink. I'm ok with the main Stones link, but if Mick gets a link I can't understand why Keith doesn't. And Mick Taylor offers probably the most interesting stuff (on some level) and he gets nothing either.

It should additionally be noted that the hyperlinks The Times offers are to related articles within The Times' archives, not to the web itself. As an experiment, I typed Keith Richards into the archives' search box. And of course there is a ton of stuff. Of course there is--he's Keith Richards.

Then I typed in Mick Taylor. About whom, actually, there was very little.

Anyway, Father's Day is coming.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Matthew 19:24

Which reads, as per the King James bible:
"And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
And would sure as hell make for a great name for a painting like St. Christopher.

Nobody likes a bit of religious mumbojumbo more than me, dear reader. As you well know.

I mean, hell, I've got a whole series of Saints I was painting before I came upon the mana from heaven otherwise known as the Titans of Wall Street--my current artistic preoccupation.

On an only tangentially related note, if Phil Jackson were to actually take the Nets job, the odds, as I see them, become better than 50/50 that King James, the modern version, comes and plays in Jersey.

And behold ... something-something-something-something.

(you fill in the blank)

Things are heating up a bit

So, here's the answer to the halo question:

And the rest of the answer to the halo question is that I'm gonna call it "The Annotated D0dd"--as opposed to "St. Christopher".

We'll have a contest: whoever writes the words St. Christopher on the painting first gets 40% off an original commissioned work.

Left to be done? Inscribe the title; sign and date the thing. I maintain my option to continue to screw around with it, but I think it's done. Then take a decent picture.

The Briefest Taste of Chris Dodd

Just a quick look...

There. That's all you get.

Jury still out on halo.

I kind of like how the mouth, without really doing anything to it, has gone from my least favorite part to my favorite part. It's like he's screaming at somebody.

And the hair! The hair is the reason why the jury's out on the halo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

St. Christopher/Your Assignment for Today

Chris Dodd. Work in progress...

My daughter, who should know better, said the cutest thing to me yesterday. She was looking at my incipient painting and asked, "Is it finished?"

Clearly no. It's barely started, in fact (although this image is a couple of layers behind where the painting stands now). I only flash it across the screen for one purpose. And that would be to call your attention to this:

Now THAT's a painting!

Actually it makes my eyes to bleed, just to look at it. But it eventually got annotated; first just the white area and then later, when I decided I didn't like the halo blank-yellow, in there as well.

Nonetheless, I always did like the idea of melding what I do with religious iconography. And although St. Timothy is a flawed work (but aren't we ALL flawed, dear reader?), it has it's charms.

And St. Timothy might be more interesting (although I think what I'm about to propose is preposterous on one hand and artistically corrupt in the worst sense of the phrase on the other), if it were part of a series, so to speak.

So now, finally at the point of the post, I'm thinking of putting a halo around Dodd's head and calling him St. Christopher.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Live-blogging the Mets, Volume 2

As if!

Actually, I watched the Mets/Yankees game last night virtually live. Started on time, but then paused and painted during the commercials. Eventually I got far enough ahead to control my own destiny.

Fun game. Less fun at the end. But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

I'm here to talk about Derek Jeter ... and the aging of same.

Me? I'm a huge Derek Jeter fan, so don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way. But watching him last night made me wonder if we weren't watching Father Time slide the rug out from under the guy. Sure it's just one game, but he looked like hell.

We'll get to this in a minute, but this is a de Kooning ribbon painting from the very end of his life.

I love that little hint of a breast in the white panel on the right side. Good to know the old bird was still thinking about women.

Back to Jeter. He's 36 years old, just for the record. Which is old for a shortstop, let me tell you. And watching the Mets' ground balls carom off the tip of his glove over and over again last night reminded me of watching Kareem Abdul Jabbar's final season. It was as if he was aging right in front of our eyes ... and it was a painful thing to see, dear reader.

There's a part of me that's thinking all this talk about a contract extension for the guy may be a bit premature.

Anyway, when de Kooning was dying of Alzheimer's Disease, there was a lot of talk about how his late work was somehow invalid (as in NOT valid). I always thought this was a bunch of guff.

Here's another late-stage work:

And here's one of the de Kooning Motherships (Woman V, it's called--the kind of stuff he was painting when he was dating the then-deceased Jackson Pollock's former girlfriend, Ruth Kligman) :

All of which brings me to the story about how I almost burned up my kitchen the other day, but I'm not really in the mood to talk about it right now, other than to say that the beauty of being a painter is that the whole thing is staring right at you. It's not like being, say, a novelist. Where you have to hold plot strands in your head and remember what you wrote in Chapter Four as you craft Chapter Eleven.

No, dear reader. It's all right in front of you.

Isn't it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Behold the un--stretching of John McCain ... while Geithner looks on. My painting of McCain, annotated during the Republican Convention of whenever it was, has graced the walls of my living room for quite a while now. But enough's enough. And besides, I need the wood to paint this:

And I'm sick of him, anyway. McCain ... not Dodd. That whole wall thing bugs me. I hope he gets his ass handed to him in November.

Let me ask you this: Do you have a will? Let's assume the answer is yes. And, if you do, that means you also have an executor. A person who you believe is responsible enough to carry out your last intentions in a competent manner. Because, after all, in most cases this is the well-being of your family we are talking about.

Now imagine this: Imagine that you are an extremely successful businessperson with a far-flung empire. You would want to pick somebody of extreme competence to run the show if you die. Wouldn't you?

Now consider the notion that the Vice President of the United States is, in effect, the executor of the President's will. Someone who will run the show if he dies. A task often said to be the most difficult job in the world.

Metaphor in hand, there can be no forgiveness for picking Sarah Palin (a woman the best thing about whom can be said being that she's a charismatic nitwit) for the job. None. I hope he gets his ass handed to him in November.

There's No Crying in Baseball

There's no crying in painting, either. But that's not the point.

Although Evelyn was my favorite character in "A League of Their Own", it is with some sadness that I report the death of Dorothy Kamenshek, the real-life basis for Geena Davis' Dottie Hinson.

This would, of course, be her:

She batted .316 in 1946--just for the record--and followed it with .306 the next year.

And these are the Peaches.

Jimmy also said something else that stuck with me.
It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great.
You can find it at the very end of this:

You have to love those saddle-shoes.

Anyway, all of this brings me to tell you, dear reader, that we are almost six weeks away from the Third of July, which marks the end of Season Four of The Year of Magical Painting. Season Five will commence on July 4th. With fireworks.

I'm not one to clap myself on the back--at least not in a habitual way--but four years! That, my friends, is something. And let me tell you ... it's been hard.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Annotated Dodd

Now, if ever, is the time to paint Chris Dodd.

It is a toss-up between this image...

And this one...

I'm gonna call it either "The Annotated Dodd" or "My Double-Chin is Too Big to Fail". Both have merit, certainly.

On a more serious note: I like the top one best (that mouth!), but I'm also tangentially in love with the overall whiteness of Image 2. Chris Dodd is about the whitest guy this side of ... I don't know who.
Rand Paul?
Excellent choice.
Isn't it?
Talk about a guy who deserves to be painted! Paul's whiteness is so pervasive ... so beyond the pale (honk!) ... so metaphorically troubling (what with him not only being the whitest dude in Kentucky but, I'm thinking--one man's opinion--also the biggest racist in the state) ... I mean, the mind reels!

It will be interesting to see how he does in the fall. Libertarians are interesting in theory, but, bye and large, problematic in practice.
Note to self: Lets reduce the size of government by allowing the petroleum industry to monitor its own excellent self. I'm sure they will do fine.
You don't think that's a bit of an opportunistically cheap shot?
Yes and no. I mean, it certainly is ... but sometimes the great truths are best illustrated by gratuitous shots.
Plus, there's the overriding irony of the phrase 'gratuitous shot' with a candidate like this.
Is that a gun-control joke?
Yes it is.
People mumble about what Elena Kagan might or might not do on the bench of the Supreme Court. One has to wonder what Rand Paul's gonna do once he hits the Senate floor.
Thank God I'm not in a wheelchair.
I hear you.
Anyway, Dodd, with his whiteness, makes for an interesting painterly challenge. Somebody once told me he liked my portrait of Jimmy Cayne best of all my Wall Street images. And that one was, in fact, an exercise in light pinks and off whites.

At the same time, I love the weirdly asymmetrical hair on Image 1. Speaks on some level to a hair-based kinship with my boy Tim Geithner--another powerful man with strange hair.
You think Rand Paul is the biggest racist in Kentucky?
Naaaah. It was just my mind wandering. Poetic license. But he is a nut-job.
No question about that.
No. None.
Do you know what I like about poetic license in Kentucky?
No. What?
There's no waiting period before you can start hurling the gratuitous shots.
Is that a gun-control joke?
Yes it is.

Live-blogging the Mets


Of course I'm not live-blogging the Mets. It's way too painful to watch. It's like watching a loved one be electrocuted. I mean, what's the up-side to that?

The best way to watch the Mets is to tape the show, go to bed and then read the newspaper the next day. If they won, you then go back, during breaks between layers of paint, and watch the game. If they lost? Erase the tape.

Of course the word 'tape' is a archaism, if that's even a word. Meaning something that's archaic.

I happen to know they are down 2-0 in the 8th. My guess is I'm gonna have to find something else to watch tomorrow.

Doing my part in these difficult times

If you see either of these paintings ...

in the house, say, of an acquaintance who strikes you as a bit dodgy...

or wrapped in burlap in the back of a pick-up truck... please contact me. They were recently stolen from Frances version of MoMA--le Musee d'Art Moderne. I'm probably missing a letter or two, plus one of those squiggles that goes atop an E, but you get the idea.

There's also an early Braque (when he was a sort of Fauvist), a Matisse and a Leger floating around too.

The Modigliani (I'll let you guess which of the two is Big Mo's), titled Woman with a Fan, is my favorite of the bunch. But the Picasso gets the award for best title: Dove with Green Peas.

Now THAT, dear reader, is a title!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Love Affair with The Times

Note to self: Let's try to piece together three or four--maybe more--posts without mentioning, in any way, shape or form, The New York Times.

Because it must be getting tiresome.

The 15th Principle

Consider for a moment the climactic scene in The 5th Element when Milla Jovovich rears her head back, opens her mouth and emits a stream of galactic energy straight into the cosmos. I'm sure it had significant ramifications, but I can't actually remember the movie well enough to tell you what they were.

This would, of course, be her:

Besides, she is so much cooler in Ultraviolet, one of the most interesting looking movies of all time--and not just because she's in it (although I do find her compelling on a number of levels).

This would, of course, be her again:


All of which, of course, leads us inexorably to Fabrice Tourre (the hapless French VP at Goldman who has, some would say, been selected as the lamb whose sacrifice will atone for the sins of Wall Street) and the 15th Principle.

Although no Jovovich, he's a nice looking man. This would, of course, be him:

There was a fun article in The Times the other day about Goldman. It mentions the 14 published principles under which the firm operates. Virtually everybody knows them already, but for you laggards, they are published, cut and pasted directly from the GS web site, here:
Our clients' interests always come first.

Our assets are our people, capital and reputation.

Our goal is to provide superior returns to our shareholders.

We take great pride in the professional quality of our work.

We stress creativity and imagination in everything we do.

We make an unusual effort to identify and recruit the very best person for every job.

We offer our people the opportunity to move ahead more rapidly than is possible at most other places.

We stress teamwork in everything we do.

The dedication of our people to the firm and the intense effort they give their jobs are greater than one finds in most other organizations.

We consider our size an asset that we try hard to preserve.

We constantly strive to anticipate the rapidly changing needs of our clients and to develop new services to meet those needs.

We regularly receive confidential information as part of our normal client relationships.

Our business is highly competitive, and we aggressively seek to expand our client relationships.

Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business.
And before we go any farther, allow me the briefest of asides--one man's opinion, if you will: First, I can imagine, in a parallel universe, being the guy charged with generating this copy. As pablum it is no more nor less benignly meaningless than what I'm sure JP Morgan has on it's web site. It's just stuff. Window dressing. Accurate to the degree it needs to be.

And truth be told, it's far less offensive than the complete load of shit that is Johnson & Johnson's revered credo. Which goes, if I remember it correctly, something like this:

We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality.

We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices.
Customers’ orders must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

We are responsible to our employees, the men and women who work with us throughout the world. Everyone must be considered as an individual. We must respect their dignity and recognize their merit. They must have a sense of security in their jobs.

Compensation must be fair and adequate, and working conditions clean, orderly and safe. We must be mindful of ways to help our employees fulfill their family responsibilities.

Employees must feel free to make suggestions and complaints. There must be equal opportunity for employment, development and advancement for those qualified.

We must provide competent management, and their actions must be just and ethical.

We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well. We must be good citizens – support good works and charities and bear our fair share of taxes. We must encourage civic improvements and better health and education.

We must maintain in good order the property we are privileged to use, protecting the environment and natural resources.

Our final responsibility is to our stockholders. Business must make a sound profit. We must experiment with new ideas. Research must be carried on, innovative programs developed and mistakes paid for.

New equipment must be purchased, new facilities provided and new products launched. Reserves must be created to provide for adverse times. When we operate according to these principles, the stockholders should realize a fair return.

The flush-right formatting is what you call typographical irony.

I spent years inside the DarkStar and I can tell you this is all well and good. But I suspect it would be more accurate with what one might, within the context of this post, term J&J's own version of the 15th Principle. Which would go something like this:

Disregard all of the above other than when flashing it around to the unsuspecting public.
The fact of the matter is that stockholder return is paramount.
Let the screwing of the sick people begin.


It's like haiku in its spare, elegant beauty, except a bit longer.

Anyway, Goldman is neither better, ethically, nor worse than any of it's competitors. It's just better at doing what it does than anybody else. And when they enact new regulations for Wall Street, it's gonna still do better than anybody else.

In a way, it reminds me of Formula 1. Not so long ago Formula 1 cars had v12 engines. Magnificent things to behold, aurally. Then, in an effort to slow the damned things down (plus save some money), they switched to significantly less powerful v8s. Net net? They are just about as fast today as they used to be. Technology evolves.

Somebody once wrote on one of my paintings that "Organized greed will always prevail over disorganized regulation", or something to that effect.

Anyway, the point of the article, in part, was to suggest that the evolved Goldman Sachs sports an unwritten 15th Principle. According to The Times:

But some former insiders, who requested anonymity because of concerns about retribution from the firm, say Goldman has a 15th, unwritten principle that employees openly discuss.

It urges Goldman workers to embrace conflicts and argues that they are evidence of a healthy tension between the firm and its customers. If you are not embracing conflicts, the argument holds, you are not being aggressive enough in generating business.

(Note to Chris Dodd: Good luck reining these boys in.)

I, for one, don't have any problem with writing down the 15th Principle. I'd move #3 up to the 2-slot, drop the current #2 to 4th position, and insert the 15th Principle at 3rd and word it in such a way that acknowledges the tension, in these complicated times with these complicated companies, between Client return and Shareholder return. As my friend Stan's shrink used to tell him: "Embrace your discomfort!"

Of course that's just me.

(Note to Mets fans: After re-shuffling the lineup, I would then send David Wright to bat clean-up for the Brooklyn Cyclones. This way we could still see him whenever we wanted, but it would be less painful to watch him strike out with men in scoring position.)

So the fun idea is to paint Fabrice Tourre, title the painting "The 15th Principle", inscribe the 14 accepted principles by which GS does business, and then let the world comment.

I wouldn't use that photo of the Fabulous Fab, however. I would use this one (shot by me from my television):

And just while we're on the topic of shots I've taken off the television, look at this one of Smokin' Joe Frazier, watching, as a much older man, the 14th (and pivotal) round of his last fight with Ali.

Whatta shot.

The smart money says that if Frazier had gotten up for the 15th Round, Ali would have stayed seated.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Times' love affair with me

If that's the right phrase.

I wouldn't call myself a man of leisure, as this implies a higher net worth than I'm currently sporting and the absence of a job, which, I guess, I have. That being a painter. But I do, by dint of the way I paint, find myself with a lot of time on my hands. Lately I've been reading The Times online and it's become all too easy to send dispatches to the Mothership via email.

So yesterday I got a note back saying:
Dear Geoffrey,

This is [redacted] at [redacted (but you know, of course, that it's The Times)]. We were wondering if we could possibly print your comment on our City Room post about descending onto the Subway tracks to retrieve lost items.

In order to do so we need to confirm your identity. Please email back with a phone number where we can reach you.

Thank you for your comment and have a great day,

Names have been changed to protect the innocent, as you can well see, but they were referencing my comment to a blogged item (The Times has a ton of blogs, fyi) about retrieving things from the subway tracks. My comment went something like this:
blah blah blah blah.
Which, really, is a paraphrasing of anything I ever say.

Anyway, they liked the comment so much they decided to put in the hard copy (I don't call it a paper anymore). "Print" (as a verb) was the term they used for what they had planned. How delightfully archaic.

All of which is lovely, by the way. Don't get me wrong.

And I especially liked the part about how I had to send them a phone number and they had to call to confirm that I existed. Which I had already assured them I did, via email. But the web, dear reader, is a treacherous beast--I don't blame them for being careful.

You can read it for yourself on page A20, in the City Room section. This, for the record, is the second time in less than a week that I find myself on the pages of this august ... this prestigious ... this beloved, but deeply infuriating ... this whatever-The-Times-is.

Because it's not a newspaper anymore. Newspapers have ceased to exist, tangible evidence to the contrary. They've become something else. Terminology to come.

Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Behind-the-scenes Tour with...

Did you know that the Met has its own U-Tube channel? Me neither, til I clicked on an ad on The Times' website.

Here ... this should keep you busy for 12 minutes or so.

Quick final note: Why is it that curators always seem to have the loveliest voices? Are none of them from The Bronx? Is none of them from the Florida panhandle? (I'm of two minds on the are/is question here) Did you ever hear Philippe de Montebello speak? Like BUTTAH the man was.
I hear you. But I'm not crazy about the second guy's pronunciation of Montmartre.
No. Me neither.
A bit too much of a third syllable.
Exactly. Although it obviously exists on paper...
It should exist perhaps less so on the tongue.
Quick final note #2: I wish I had a picture to show you, and the painting is around here somewhere (perhaps in storage), but every once in a while I attempt to reinterpret classic paintings in my own style. The one I'm talking about was called "White Rothko", which I thought would speak to a bunch of things, including, obviously, Mark Rothko but also, perhaps less so, Jasper Johns. And of course my boy Jackson.

The idea was to paint an all-white, dripped interpretation of Rothko's famous one-colored-block-on-top-of-the-other paintings.

This is likely the best example of what I try to do. Obviously it is not Rothko receiving the cheese here:

Anyway, White Rothko remains an unfinished effort. Which is ok ... I mean, it's not going anywhere. And there's no rule, in painting at least, that you have to finish what you start, either immediately or ever. So I'm feeling like I'm on solid ground here.

All of which brings me to the video you have likely chosen not to watch. Near the end, they pan across several small faces on paper (Linoprints, if that's the word. Done with linoleum?), and I thought, I would be fun to take some of those and render them vastly larger than they are in real life.

There's a lot to do this summer, and this is just an idea. But still...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm writing Tom Hanks a letter

So I finished watching The Pacific--the ten-part fictionalized/factionalized story of the War in the Pacific theatre of WWII. It was full of problems, not the least of which being that most of the characters, particularly early, since they were usually covered with mud and sand, looked the same. So it was hard to build any real emotional identification with any of them, at least at first.

Plus there's the Saving Private Ryan Theorem which posits that any movie or television show that depicts storming a beach in WWII will be unfavorably compared to the Tom Hanks movie from which the theorem gets its name. So that's a problem.

(It should be noted that Tom Hanks is one of the executive producers of The Pacific.)

Actually the most compelling character in the whole thing was a relatively minor one--a guy from New Orleans nicknamed Snafu (I understand that it's an acronym, but I thought that, given its use as a nickname, I would go with just the initial cap) who was part of one of the main character's mortar team. Snafu had the habit of prying gold teeth out of the heads of dead Japanese soldiers with his K-bar, if they called it a K-bar back then.

I'm reminded of that Talking Heads song that goes:

I can't seem to face up to the facts
I'm tense and nervous and I
Can't relax
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire
Don't touch me I'm a real live wire

Psycho Killer
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away
Psycho Killer
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

You start a conversation you can't even finish it.
You're talkin' a lot, but you're not sayin' anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Psycho Killer,
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away
Psycho Killer
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

Ce que j'ai fais, ce soir la
Ce qu'elle a dit, ce soir la
Realisant mon espoir
Je me lance, vers la gloire ... OK
We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they're not polite

Psycho Killer,
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away
Psycho Killer,
Qu'est-ce Que C'est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh....

Anyway, none of that is the point.

The point, dear reader, is that a character based on my Uncle Hugh (and bearing his name) was part of the first three episodes, which mostly dealt with Guadalcanal. And Hugh himself appeared at the beginning of those episodes as part of the montage of filmed, first-person reminiscences by old men who had been young men once, with the bullets flying.

I was fond of my uncle, who died in 2005, and was unprepared to see him talking to me in high definition; or at least the type of high definition that a $500 Magnavox television gives you. I should have bought the Sony, but didn't have the extra grand. Anyway, there he was ... and that, dear reader was something.

So I'm watching the closing credits where they, American Graffiti-style, put up photos of the dramatis personae and say what happened to them after the war. And up pops Uncle Hugh. Check him out:

His particular sequence featured three elements, this being the second. The first had his name and a photo of the character in the mini-series. This image then dissolved into what you see here--a photo of the actual Hugh Corrigan. Elizabeth Vincent is my Aunt Betty--my mother's sister. The third element is simply a change in copy. It goes on to say that after marrying Betty he went BACK to the Pacific and was wounded at Okinawa. He then, it says, survived and lived in Ithaca, New York, til he died.
Horrible typeface!
I know. Those Rs are a nightmare.
I can barely look at them. Who thinks that looks good?
Who knows.
Betty died some three years later--a fact that I discovered by accident some six months after the fact. Such is the disfunction of my extended family (a disfunction to which I readily acknowledge contributing), but that really pissed me off. I remain angry.

My last image of Betty was her sitting in a wheelchair on the grass of Arlington National Cemetary, shaking with age, exhaustion, grief, as a perfect young Marine in his dress blues handed her the flag from Hugh's casket and whispered something in her ear.

You can read an earlier post on the same topic by clicking here.

Anyway, the point of the story is that you look at these guys. Geezers like my father or Uncle Hugh, both now dead, and you can't imagine what they were like in harm's way at the age of twenty. I read a book a couple of years ago by that war historian--what's his name? Not Shelby Foote. The other guy--about flying B-17s and B-24s out of Italy and over Germany. It was titled "Wild Blue" or "Blue Yonder" or "Wide Blue Yonder" or something like that. I gave it to Dad and he said, "We shared the airfield with the bomber wing in the book." And until that moment I never really understood what it was like. Now I do, albeit in the profoundly inaccurate way that speaks to the fact that you couldn't possibly understand it unless you were there.

Same with Uncle Hugh on the beach at The Canal. Now I do, albeit in the profoundly inaccurate way that speaks to the fact that you couldn't possibly understand it unless you were there.

I am so writing Tom Hanks a letter.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Private Elevator

I finally figured out what my paintings are.

They are the vehicles by which people who aren't allowed to ride the elevators with guys like Jimmy Cayne and Richard Fuld get to give those guys a piece of their minds.

All of which leads me to this:

All of which leads me to this fabulous interview with Ace Greenberg by Deborah Solomon of The Times. Read question #3--the one about the elevators--carefully. Priceless. This is why we--meaning you, dear reader, and I--must buy The Times everyday!

Herewith, the interview as printed:

You’re the former chairman of Bear Stearns, the once-revered investment firm that self-destructed in 2008. How do you feel about your successor, James Cayne, who just testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in Washington and conceded that he had taken on too much risk?
Enough has been said about Jimmy. There is little I can add.

In your forthcoming book, “The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns,” you depict him as a careless manager who was off playing in bridge tournaments when he should have been minding the store.
We were going through rough seas, and he should have been at home guiding the ship. He shouldn’t have been playing bridge or golf during the week.

Is it true that he had a private elevator in the Bear Stearns building?
I said: “Jimmy, you want to help your image around here? Cut out that private elevator. Everybody hates you for it.” He said he only had it from 8 to 9 in the morning. I said: “That’s when everybody wants the elevator. They’re all coming to work.”

In the book, you present yourself as a frugal executive who recycled paper clips and rubber bands. But why didn’t you just fire Cayne, whom you hired when he was a young stockbroker?
In the first place, he owned about 5 percent of the company.

Why didn’t you tell the board that he was reportedly smoking pot in his office?
That wasn’t my style. I didn’t do things underhanded. Maybe I was wrong. We were making money, and the stock was making new highs. It was hard to complain when things looked so rosy.

You first joined Bear Stearns as a 21-year-old clerk and rose to become chief executive and chairman, during which time you took home as much as $20 million a year. Do you think you have any special talents?
I’m very good in math, and I’m a logical thinker. I don’t get wrapped up in things or even wrapped up in myself. My son once told me, “You’re really not that smart; you’re just so well organized and have a clear brain.” He was 11 years old.

Now that you work at JP Morgan Chase, which picked up Bear Stearns after its stock price fell to $2 a share, what do you do all day exactly?
Handle my own money. Handle clients’ money. It’s like a game. You win some; you lose some.

You say in your book that a phone conversation that lasts longer than 30 seconds has reached a point of diminishing returns.
My wife made me get a cellphone, which I keep in my briefcase. I’ve never used it.

Do you e-mail your clients?
No. I never use e-mail. The girls use the e-mail.

Are you referring to your secretaries? You should call them women, not girls.
They don’t mind. They’ve been with me 25 years.

You grew up in Oklahoma City, where your dad owned a group of women’s-clothing stores called Street’s. How did you get interested in working on Wall Street?
My father was the youngest of six brothers, and he was the brains. I never thought he was making what he should have. He had to split it with five brothers. So I made up my mind: I was going to go on my own and make my own money. I got lucky.

Are you a Republican?
I was a registered Republican for years. After the way the Republican leadership acted when the health care bill was passed, I changed my affiliation to Democrat.

How do you feel about the Democrats’ push to regulate derivatives?
I feel about it the same way that Jamie Dimon does.

And how is that?
I don’t know how he feels, but I feel the same way. Understand?

Not really.
I don’t want to say anything that might be contrary to how JP Morgan Chase feels. This is a very sensitive topic.

You’re 82 years old, and you’ve led a very full life. Why do you care what Jamie Dimon thinks of you?
I’m in the noon of my career. I’m not going to mess it up.

reprinted (ironically, since they just asked me

permission to use my stuff) without permission from The Times.

But in an attempt to make it right,

I would again urge you to go buy one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If you are here because you read about me in The Times...

you should consider buying a signed, limited edition print of The Annotated Fed ...

or any of my other Wall Street paintings. Life is short--own a piece of history. Contact me via the link in the right column.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself here and wondering what the Times had to say, you can go here.

I'm somewhere near the recent end of the timeline.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Are you listening to a lot of Neil Young?

I am. Right now, I'm doing so while gessoing a canvas (It isn't really gesso; it's Benjamin Moore Super Hide Latex Primer), drinking tea and screwing around.

Why, you surely ask?

Well, there's the obvious reason. But besides that, I was walking the dog this morning and heard a Harley coming up the street. It was one of those particularly fat ones, with a full front fairing and windshield, big saddlebags, and a seat that looks like it belonged on a tractor. Except padded.

What made all this noteworthy, there on 6th Avenue in the middle of the better part of the South Slope, is that it wasn't the exhaust note I heard filling the air. It was Neil Young, blasting so loud from they guy's speakers (yes, the really fat Harleys have sound systems) that the windows shook.

I guess it's hard to hear the music with a helmet on.

Anyway, he was playing Don't Let It Bring You Down from After the Goldrush. Which goes something like this:

Old man lying
by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by,
Blue moon sinking
from the weight of the load
And the building scrape the sky,
Cold wind ripping
down the allay at dawn
And the morning paper flies,
Dead man lying
by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Find someone who's turning
And you will come around.

Blind man running
through the light
of the night
With an answer in his hand,
Come on down
to the river of sight
And you can really understand,
Red lights flashing
through the window
in the rain,
Can you hear the sirens moan?
White cane lying
in a gutter in the lane,
If you're walking home alone.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Just find someone who's turning
And you will come around.

Don't let it bring you down
It's only castles burning,
Just find someone who's turning
And you will come around.

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the works

Just so you know that my mind is racing, here's what's in the works for the next month:

Nurse: St. Vincent's--an homage to the Richard Prince nurse paintings, to be set up for annotation in front of the now-closed St. Vincent's hospital.

The Conflicted Curator--a portrait of Jeff Koons, to be set up for annotation in front of the Skin Fruit exhibit at the New Museum. The urge of title it The Konflicted Kurator is almost overwhelming.

Where Goes the Republic?--a portrait of Abe Lincoln, to be set up for annotation in the usual places plus, perhaps, a trip to Washington. I thought it would be nice to give the Republicans something to write on.

The Annotated Dodd--it seems like it's time to paint Chris Dodd.

Red Geithner ... the T-Shirt

Consider this, dear reader:

T-Shirts! One for each daughter (although don't spoil the surprise by mentioning anything), plus one for me.

This is not the work, I must say, of my own hands. But rather, that of a fan of sorts. The copy reads: "It's Timmy AGAIN. Can you PLEASE tell Lloyd that I called?"

Which is reminiscent, if that's even how you spell it, of the line scrawled along the bottom right of Big Lloyd 3 (The Root):

Can you read it? It's in blue, and it says, I think, "Mr. Blankfein? It's Secretary Paulson on the line."

Same idea, different apparatchik. If that's even how you spell it.

For the record, he (the fan, not Geithner or Blankfein) was nice enough to ask permission to print up a limited edition of the shirts and so I gave him the go-ahead. The back copy was a surprise, but I appreciated the "By Geoffrey Raymond" plug.

Here's the closeup.

Makes quite a strong T-Shirt, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is a hell of a painting, isn't it?

Somebody in Washington owns it. I'm not allowed to tell you who.

I wish I still owned it since, if you can believe the New York Post, a similar portrait of Richard Fuld is selling, or has sold, for several hundred grand. The Annotated Fed has $175,000 written all over it, doesn't it?

Anyway, I just got a note from the Mothership asking me if it was okay to use the image, with a couple of variations (close ups, no comments, etc.) in a web piece they are working on. I, of course, said yes.

I don't know if the article is about me, per se (although I don't know why it wouldn't be). Probably being used to illustrate something about Bernanke. I'll attach the link when I have it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Half the fun of being a painter is coming up with the titles. My favorite, just off the top of my head, is "Dancer #3 (Reclining, Chelsea Hotel)". Although this painting (which is almost done and awaiting delivery to a friend) is titled "Big Daddy 75 (Chumbawamba), 2010".

Which is pretty strong.

Big because it's a big painting; Daddy because it's a portrait of her daddy; 75 because each of the siblings are chipping in a colossally small amount of money to buy a portrait of their father to give to him on his 75th birthday (how big a prince does that make me?); Chumbawamba because that's the band I decided to listen to while painting the painting; and 2010 because that's the year it was painted in.

I love the collar and the jacket. And the eyes, when you look at them up close, are like little universes, which is also cool.

All of which brings me to the Volkswagon Tiguan.

It's like a mini-SUV, and it's probably a fine car. But I gotta ask, what is with that name? Tiguan? What does that even mean? Googling this question, the answers I got border on the absurd. Most frequent ones speak to a melding of the words Tiger and Iguana.


It should also be noted for the record that the three trim packages of this car, which I am now loathing with every fiber of my soul, are named: Trend & Fun, Sport & Style, and Track & Field. I shit you not, dear reader.

And now a brief lesson in European/American relations. In short: they think we are idiots. Why, you ask? Because the same trim packages in England are S, SE, and Sport.

You do the math.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


You don't see this everyday. It was sent to me by Leah Siegel, who did the music. I don't know her--I'm just on her mailing list--but I've seen her in concert and her album "Little Mule" is lovely.

Anyway, I once worked at a PR agency in the mid-Eighties. One of 22 people. 12 men, ten women. By the time 1990 rolled around, every one of the male employees except the owner and me had died of AIDS.

So this strikes a bit close to home for me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Herewith, a germ of an idea

Check this out:

Richard Prince's "Nurse in Hollywood". A classic Prince. I couldn't find an image of the actual painting--this one seems to be a poster for a Guggenheim show. I don't know what that eBay business is along the bottom.

Anyway, I was staring at a picture of the actual painting a day or so ago and thought it would be interesting to paint a similar painting, title it "Nurse: St. Vincents" and put it up for annotation outside the now-closed St. Vincent's Hospital in the West Village. See, as per business as usual, what people have to say.

The problem (which, I haven't decided, in this particular case, may not be a problem) is that the closing of St. Vincent's happened a week or so ago, and I'm behind the news.

In a perfect world, I'd have been out there when everybody else was demonstrating against the closure. This, dear reader, in case I have to remind you, isn't a perfect world.

All of which brings me to the larger problem, and the related germ of an idea:

There are a lot of people, or situations, to whom/which I'd like to respond in a timely manner with an annotated painting. Goldman Sachs VP "The Fabulous Fab" certainly being one of them. But, by and large, I just can't paint the stuff that quickly. I frequently find myself behind the news.

So I'm considering exhibiting works in progress. Let's just say, for example, that something horrible has just happened at J.P Morgan/Chase/Bear Stearns--whatever they are calling the thing these days--and I need to bing out a picture of Jamie Dimon. Maybe they were packaging synthetic CDOs that were designed to fail, selling them to idiots and/or unsuspecting hedge fund managers, all the while shorting them like crazy, and got caught by the Feds.

I know this would never happen. I'm just thinking out loud.

Anyway, I slap down the first layer of my Dimon painting, neatly letter the title across the top (The Annotated Dimon, for example) so people have some idea of what is happening, and exhibit it for annotation the next day.

Okay, so some people write some stuff on it.

Then I take it back home, continue to paint it.

Take it out the next day. People write more stuff.

Then I take it back home, continue to paint it.


The advisability of this strategy is TBD. It remains a germ of an idea.

Helping My Friend Dave Understand the Mysteries of Life

First of all, a disclaimer: Dave is a fictional name. I'm not comfortable exposing my friends to the level of public scrutiny that appearing on The Year of Magical Painting entails.

That bit of nasty business aside, this painting, titled "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" sold for $106.5 million last night.

Good news for painters everywhere, I suppose.

Me? If I could get even half that much for one of my paintings I'd be delighted. Interestingly enough, it was, according to The Times, painted in a single day.

Now, rewind about a year. My friend Dave and I found ourselves ogling the collection of Picassos that Larry Gagosian (real name) had assembled in his Chelsea gallery. I'm sure you remember the show. Something about Musketeers. They all looked more or less like this one:

Late in life, Picasso appeared to be up to his ass in stuff like this.

Me? I'm a big fan. The man stuns me on a regular basis, and paintings I've seen many times frequently surprise me the next time I see them. Being a fan of Picasso, it should be noted, hardly represents membership in an exclusive club. I'm just saying that I, dear reader, am a member.

This was my favorite painting in the show, by the way:

Dave? Despite my personal rapture, Dave seemed unconvinced. Until I showed him three large paintings occupying their own wall. Each one was probably 6 feet high, 5 feet wide. Significant works, all wrestling with the same subject matter.

"Dave," I said.
"What?" he asked.
"Look at the dates on these paintings."

At which point his eyes visibly widened. As it turned out, the three had been painted on consecutive days. Which is something, let me tell you. Unless, I suppose, you're Picasso, who made a habit out of it.

A painting a day, more or less. For 70 years. No wonder there are a shitload of Picassos floating around. The fact that they can still nab a hundred mill or so remains one of the mysteries of life.

I painted this in one day, almost a year ago:

Minus the annotations. Which are recent. I had a French documentary crew coming to interview me and I wanted another painting for the background shots. So I beaned this out.

The first person in the video is actually the documentarian. Proof of this would be her turning and shouting at her cameraman in French.

I never actually saw the final product, although it aired on Canal Plus--which is something like HBO for the French.

By the way, I very much like Red Geithner. Completely unlike any of my other paintings in terms of technique (I took some red paint and some black paint, put on a latex glove, grabbed a sponge, and shmooed the stuff on until I was done), but I do like it. And it was completed, start to finish, in one day. Whereas I've got plenty of paintings that took weeks to complete and which truly suck.

And therein, dear reader, surely must be one of the mysteries of life.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sonny Liston

I'm reading "The Devil and Sonny Liston", Nick Tosches' biography of the great heavyweight. This would be him knocking out Floyd Patterson to take the title of World Champ.

Liston, not Tosches.

I like a biography to run about 250 pages--after that my lips get tired--and Tosches weighs in at a clean 253. Liston, for the record, fought at about 200 most of his career. And I have to say, Tosches' book is good clean fun. Which is hard.
What's hard?
To admit anything by Nick Tosches is good.
Why's that?
Because I can't stand the guy.
Do you know him?
No. I mean, just based on reading his work.
How much have you read?
Actually just one other thing. That was enough.
What was it?
"In the Hand of Dante."
Oh yeah. That one sucked.
Made me angry.
Yeah. I hate writers who go out of their way to seem like tough-guys. Few, outside of detective fiction--which, I suppose, gives you a license for that sort of thing--try harder than Tosches.
I bet the photo on the inside flap of his hardcovers is really lame.
Yeah. Probably wearing cowboy boots and a Members-Only jacket.
Sonny Liston, on the other hand, was a legitimately mean dude.
Yes he was.