Way Past “Time To Educate”

Laurie Simmons's "Clothes Make The Man" at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea
Laurie Simmons’s “Clothes Make The Man” at Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea

Rochester is one of seven cities in the US that can claim half of their children are living below the poverty line. This is something that is hard to believe for those of us lucky enough to be on the other side. And according to the Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester compounds the poverty with extreme racial and economic segregation. New York State is the most segregated state in the country. What is a kid born into these circumstances gonna do?

The Urban Suburban program is growing but they’re simply syphoning off the best, those that could be role models for the rest. And one sixth of city students go to charter schools, the ones without disabilities or language problems. Last year at Kodak Park School fewer than ten percent of the students were proficient in math and and English.

The newspaper, in a series called “Time to Educate,” is looking for solutions but right now they are in probing mode. They are asking for suggestions as to what they should be investigating. This a problem that belongs to all of us and it will bring us all down if we don’t do something about it.



Venus statue in Wolcott New York

I’m determined to swim today. Although we’re in charge of the chemistry for the street pool this week, I haven’t had time to get down there. I’ve been trying to complete a painting for this upcoming show and it has taken all my time. Even when you are “finished” with a painting there is no real sense of satisfaction. The painting may be finished but the next one is already all you can think about.

There must be some good in collecting your thoughts. Reluctantly. I have done so and I’m now ready to move on. I may find clarity in the swimming pool.

I am not comfortable in front of the camera. It is hard for me to stand still and a broad smile seems unnatural. I feel vulnerable, trapped. Maybe that is why I find mugshots so interesting.

Maybe it is because my brother was arrested at such an early age. He served time for possession of a small quantity of marijuana in 1970. I posed five of my friends in front of a white canvas shortly after that. My entire family’s life was impacted by his arrest.

In 1976 I took a job as a graphic artist for the City of Rochester. I worked on the fourth floor of the Public Safety Building in the Rochester Police Department’s Crime Analysis Unit. I had access to the mugshots and I constructed flyers and posters with them in an attempt to link perpetrators to crimes in particular areas of the city.

In the mid-nineties I started painting portraits of local people. My source was, and often still is, the Crimestoppers page from the Democrat & Chronicle, people who are wanted for violation of parole. I have continued to revisit this subject for many years and recently competed twenty charcoal drawings for this show.

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Dumb Luck Or God

"Mob Jr" license plates on car at Wegmans

I really like the new “More” revamp of our daily paper. I suspected Gannett was just trying to sell us less as more but there really is more local coverage and I am thankful for that. There has been some great reporting on the thievery in Maggie Brooks’ organization and new scandals in Mayor Lovely Warren’s new cabinet. And the story today about the 70 year old guy who shot himself in the hand in a local restaurant was thoroughly entertaining. He was showing his gun to a friend and a round went through his hand, struck his leg and grazed his friend’s ankle. A family with a baby was sitting at the table next to him and the story quoted the baby’s mother as saying the shooter kept repeating, “I’ve got a permit. I’ve got a permit.”

The new national news section is all picked up from USA Today but there is more there than we used to have, and by chance, USA Today picked up a photo from the AP that showed a man sleeping on a subway grate in Washington DC, and because our paper carried the photo, his family in Rochester spotted him and were able to reconnect. According to the story, the man’s mom claimed “God took this photo” and the local police chief claimed “It was pure dumb luck.” I love thinking about the distinction between God and dumb luck.

I pointed out “Lucille” license plates on a car in Wegmans parking and Peggi pointed to the car next to that one with “Mob Jr” on their tags so I photographed it. I would love to see a nostalgic piece in the paper about the Rochester’s mob days.

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Into The Light Filled Void

Jeff Spevak working in the tent

We were sort of lost on the second night because none of the night’s sound files excited us. We read the blurbs in booklets but we make decisions with our ears. And we know that sometimes a band will sound great live while their recordings are lifeless so we soldiered on. We ran into Rick and Monica coming out of Tim Posgate’s Banjo Hockey at the Xerox Auditorium. Monica warned us, “they aren’t improvising”. We gave it a shot. Indeed they were reading and then playing while we watched.

Nordic Connect at the Lutheran Church was melodic piano-based compositions and featured two sisters on horns playing arranged parts with the trumpet player’s husband on drums. For me they really hit the mark with a piece written by the trumpet player and dedicated to the planet. The piano player switched to the Fender Rhodes, the drummer played mallets and the tune sounded like something from Miles’ “In A Silent Way” lp. Not like one of those tunes but just pretty.

There is something maniacal about deadlines for a review of the night’s shows for the morning papers. But Jeff Spevak is better at this than anybody. He finds the color in every assignment and makes it all sound like fun. If only you could find his stuff online. The D&C continues to make their website the least hospitable stop on the web. Every time I go there they have added a new layer of nav bars. It is almost impossible to use. The articles disappear in ten days unless you want to pay for them. And we do subscribe if anybody cares. Did they really set up a blog for Jeff on the “HerRochester” site? We were happy to see him on a Mac this year.

Terrel Stafford Quartet at Montage was really good. They were all really great players, in fact. But we long not for the academic with the perfect tone but for the edge that reminds us we are alive. Like the moment when Terrel sat out during their version of “Taking A Chance On Love”. He leaned against the dark door to the right of the stage in this photo and the door flew open. Terrel almost fell into the light filled void.

These are excerpts from my jazz fest coverage as chronicled on the Refrigerator.

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You Are Invited

click photo for full paintings

I numbered the backs of my paintings today so I can keep track of them. I plan to put half of this last batch in to a show at the Little Theater Cafe that opens next Wednesday, January 14th at 7pm and the other half in a show at the Printing and Book Arts Center that will open on February 6th.

The faces are all from recent Crimestoppers pages in the Democrat & Chronicle. I sent an invite to the Monroe County Sheriff and whoever it is that answers the mail at info@roccrimestoppers.com. I hope you can stop by for the opening party. You can preview the paintings here.

Show Is Split Between Two Locations

01.10.09 – 02.07.09 Little Theater Cafe
240 East Avenue Rochester NY
Opening Reception on Wednesday 01.14.09 7pm to 9:30pm
Margaret Explosion will play at 8pm

02.06.09 – 03.04.09 Printing and Book Arts Center
713 Monroe Avenue Rochester, NY
Opening Reception on Friday 02.06.09 7pm – 9pm
DJ Sam Patch will provide the music

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