Art Lies, Volume 15, Summer 1997 Page: 16
- Highlighting On/Off
- Adjust Image
- Rotate Left
- Rotate Right
- Brightness, Contrast, etc. (Experimental)
- Download Sizes
- Preview all sizes/dimensions or...
- Download Thumbnail
- Download Small
- Download Medium
- Download Large
- High Resolution Files
- IIIF Image URL
- View Extracted Text
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
I have written this letter at least three times. I am at a
loss in the creation of a letter of this type. What do I say?
How do I say it? Straight or tempered? What are the
important issues? I mean, really important issues?
In this epistle, I will not concern myself with the art
directly, but with the underpinnings, the buttresses that
support your work. I make no apology for this, because
for me, it is here that the real meaning of your work
"So Garry, what do you think about Michael's work?"
Don Bacigalupi asked that day at the Blaffer, his whole
body it seemed, leaned over the desk.
"I like it."
"Do you think it will be well received?"
"That I don't know about, but I think that it initiates the
kinds of dialogues that I am interested in."
To be honest I had not seen your work in five years.
I had not seen the happy Pecola Breedloves, the slim
fasted Jemimas, or even Homie's hypnotic and charm-
ingly exaggerated lil' brother, Payback.
I had remembered your work from a show that we
were in together at The Collective; diminutive spooks
hidden in corners, sitting on baby carriages. I also
remember you and the Muslim brother talking in the
library square before Oldenburg's mickey. So cool and
direct was your handling of his rebuttals, tit for tat.
And then there was Rodney King. I don't remember
how or who first told us about the verdict handed down
by the Simi Valley jurors, I just remember us trying to
balance that disheartening news with the dialogue that
you were having. Tierney Malone was so beside himself,
hell we all were. He just kept looking down McKinney,
stuck out like he was somewhere in Manhattan, trying
to hail a cab to Harlem, ready to knife the next sucker
that rolled down his window and asked where he was
I remember the panel discussion at the Blaffer and
all the whining. Oh to be young, black and misunder-
stood. Negroes Please! Where is your mettle, your chutz-
pah I wanted to say. I remember "that question" and all
the drama that surrounded it. Always these DRAMA-
CITALS, this proclivity to do things in the baroque, the
need for taking implacable and stolid positions, and in
view of all. My great uncle calls it 'high cappin'.
I also remember the day the first color tests on the
plate came in. I had purposely not looked at it all day. I
wanted to be alone when I first talked to your baby. It
was about 6:30 in the evening and I was the only one at
the Blaffer. I took it over to the light table. I looked at
the monkey-like creature drooling on the circus animal
pedestal and tried to find myself in him, to find some
truth housed in his ridiculous posture. It didn't take
very long. "The coon still sells," I mumbled and placed
the plate back on the table.
I did not have a run in with your work again until
this Memorial Day when I found Irene, my youngest, in
my studio camped out over your BEWARE painting.
"Daddy, what is that?"
"That my dear, is a SAMBO."
"A sambo, oh yeah. He's Blaack!"
"Yeah he is."
"He's got hair like Kevin."
"No baby, Kevin's hair doesn't," Oh hell no, it must not
stick, this self hate thing, this bullcorn, with the hair, with
everything, it must not take hold, "stick up like that. It
falls down remember, and it smells good too."
"Oh yeah." And then she kept turning the pages and
So you see, I have no choice but to write you this
Once anything enters the world of my children it has to
be dealt with immediately. And yet I do not know
where this epistle will take us. I am interested in talking
with you at a later date about your work, just you and
I. Not many of us seem eager to talk to you. We diatribe
you, poke you hard with our nickel plated fingers, say-
ing things without taking deep breaths, a number of
shots of Scotch. Who knows, during the course of this
letter my thoughts may fly up as well and yet my
words remain below. It is difficult for understanding to
rise squashed under anger and pain. But I will try.
We as African-Americans are proffered the paucity
of any meaningful opportunities to talk about us, with
ourselves, which always seems to be about race, that we
must engage every opportunity always hoping for mir-
acles, even as we are dog tired of explaining for the
umpteenth time things as simple as drinking water or
SPROOTLUM and TOPSY
My mother would register the above mentioned down-
cast at any kid who was slovenly dressed, hair
uncombed, teeth unbrushed, and a little more odorifer-
ous than necessary. I was 25 years old before I read
Uncle Tom's Cabin and realized that this was the person
she had been talking about (I am still searching for
Sprootlum). Topsy, was the brutalized slave girl that
Augustine St. Clair had bought for his New England
16 I ARTLIES SUMMER 1997
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Matching Search ResultsView 15 pages within this issue that match your search.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
McGee, David & Locke, Patrick. Art Lies, Volume 15, Summer 1997, periodical, 1997; Houston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228046/m1/19/?q=Michael%20Ray%20Charles: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .