Art and The Man

Last night Doug, who is acting as curator of Nate’s strip mall drawing exhibit at Leonard Tourne Gallery (don’t forget, it runs from June 7 -14, with an opening reception from 5-7 this coming Thursday!), worked with Karen on framing the bigger pieces. There are huge works, some as long as 11 feet.

Nate was lying on the floor of the dining room, right off the kitchen where the work was being done for him. At one point Doug asked if Nate would be jazzed by the show. I told him that it’s always hard to predict Nate’s reactions. At his big show in SoHo, he may just dawdle away on his iPad, constantly check out the bathroom and ask where we’re going to have dinner, as gallery goers marvel at his uber-cool work.

Nate’s relation to his art is an odd combination of infinite attachment and total uncaring.He’s viscerally connected to a piece until he decides it needs reworking. Then, the drawing that was once close to his heart ends up in the wooden wastebasket adorned with floral decals that he keeps nearby.

Years ago, when Nate’s strip malls caught Doug’s eye, he couldn’t grasp that Nate was tossing these pearls. “Don’t let him throw those away! I want them.” And so Nate had his first collector.

When we started going through Nate’s stacks, he was concerned that the pictures chosen for exhibit wouldn’t be returned. “Doug is going to bring these back sometime,” Nate asked continually, needing affirmation that at a vague future date everything would be the same. First, we’d say sure, then, we’d get deeper, explaining that, just maybe, some of Nate’s art would sell and then he wouldn’t get them back. We got a mixed reaction, but Nate quickly got his iPad and took photos of the departing work. That helped.

But last week Nate got it, and by “it” I mean the whole “working for money” idea that we all grow to accept. As many things do, it began with a discussion on Nate’s bathroom. He has a laundry list of fixes (he has a  laundry list for the laundry room too), and we’ve often responded by telling Nate that it’s expensive to rehab a bathroom.

Then I hit on the connective: “Nate, if you sell your art you can use that money to redo your bathroom.”

That was it. He understood and couldn’t shovel drawings our way quick enough. “Sell these!” Yesterday, Nate told me he was going to become an “instant millionaire.” From near-disinterest to total greed!

Last night, after the first piece was framed behind hand cut plexiglass, a rendering of nearly six feet of Illinois shopping center, I called Nate in to have a look. Doug was right; Nate was excited.

“It’s byootiful!” He was standing next to me; we were kind hugging, and the look on his face was byootiful in itself. He gazed at his work, suddenly transformed into a “real” piece of art, and I think he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

Neither was I. It looked different, viable and eminently purchasable. This thing could work after all.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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