Alice Neel + Fascination
Now that I’m basically done with Bedroom Stories, and before I move onto what comes next – see below – I thot I’d delve into Alice Neel for a bit. Alice was an unsuccessful portrait painter (1900-1984) until later in life when her work finally started to sell. That said, it gave her a long while out of the spotlight in which to a) work and b) think. Here’s a pic of Neel in her studio, perhaps from the late 40′s:
Though her expression is a bit blank (oddly she looks like her portraits), I see certainty, dedication and an absolute confidence shown by her work having been removed from the frames and collected together behind her, forming a portrait of the art and artist that doesn’t include the 3rd aspect of presentation. In short, this is all Alice Neel and it’s an awesome statement.
Of which, per b) time to think, Alice has a few quotes I especially like:
“I thought you had to give up a lot for art, and you did. It required complete concentration. It also required that whatever money you had had to be put into art materials.”
” You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is… unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far.”
If you’ve given your life over to something, truly, then you know exactly what she’s talking about. If you haven’t then they’d make great inspirational posters with rainbows and waterfalls and eagles meant to buck you up for what is most likely an inevitable slaughter you’re simply not prepared for. After which, well then you’ve turned pro.
Now then, NEW WORK! The next piece, large like Marlboro, is called Fascination. It’s the name of the bizarro gambling hall Jeff and I worked in immediately after arriving in San Francisco in 1988. I was 22 and he was 23. The idea for the move, though I hardly understood it at the time, was to be homeless on purpose to break from the ‘having a job to pay for an apartment to be able to get up to go to a job that paid for the apartment, etc.’ So Jeff found a ledge built into a cliffside overlooking the Pacific Ocean right across from Seal Rock. At night we could hear the seals barking and in the morning watch them sun themselves on the rock. The ledge was names Titus after Kenny Titus, the toughest kid we knew from elementary school. We’d found a round pin with a picture of a kid that reminded us of him, a young African-American fighter in football pads, and it stuck. But we did have jobs, of course you’ve got to make some money. That hasn’t changed at all.
Below is the full text for Fascination. I thought I’d show you the piece from inception. It’ll measure out 42 x 63″. Enjoy!
Jeff had this job at a place called Fascination and since I didn’t have a job I took it. Fascination was located at 7th and Market in downtown San Francisco, home to pimps, prostitutes, crack and the ‘late night/satellite’ scheme: stolen telephone cards and soon-to-expire all-night bus passes. My shift was from 4pm – 2am. Fascination was a narrow business with 2 sets of gambling sections holding 40 stations side by side split by a caller, which due to his longevity, two months, was Jeff. The game was simple: when the caller hit a button rubber balls filled the base of each section. Players would then roll the balls uphill into a 25-slot drop board. In order to win you’d have to drop 5 in a sequential row. Alternately, a red ‘travel light’ moved from station to station so that if the travel light was above your game when you won, the caller would consult the blue neon mermaid that hung above his chair, constantly watching with a flat, placid blue smile, to see how to multiply the winnings. Theoretically, given a standard $5 payout for a 50-cent game, you could win $200, but that never happened. It used to be that they gave out prizes, old shavers, a wallet, blenders, absolute detritus that collected dust in the smeared glass cases abandoned in back. Now it was strictly cash, and that had to be paid quickly. I’d have about 90 seconds to collect and make change for my 20 different stations before a winner was called. The average length of employment at Fascination was about a month. The man who owned it, an old fellow named Saul, hired me because I went to the same college his daughter once attended. He was assisted by two Korean war vets, Sam and Hank, whose main jobs appeared to be drinking coffee, playing cards and advising me on the virtues of small Asian women. One night as the shift was about to end, a man with a suitcase