Saturday, October 2, 2010

Barely Discernible Moments of Utopia


Donald Henry passed away last year.  There's a retrospective of his work at the Northern Kentucky University Main Art Gallery in Highland Heights, Kentucky, up until October 29, 2010.  We went there last night and got to see his work, and this reminded me of the first one-man show he had at Semantics Gallery in Cincinnati in 2007.  I wrote a poem about it.  In the picture above, Donald is hugging David Dillon, who I think helps run the Semantics Gallery.  Folks from Visionaries and Voices sewed a painted-cloth version of one of his paintings on the back of his suitcoat.  I will never forget that night.  A total 2+2=5 moment.  Here's the poem:

Barely Discernible Moments of Utopia


The art gallery was cold as hell
Maybe about ten people were there
Some guy was trying to fix the furnace
And everybody else was standing around.

Donald’s art was up on the walls
Wood panels were lined up like
Targets on a shooting range

Mean-looking beautiful things
Those robots he does
Some with gigantic genitals
Some without.

Donald had on a shiny necktie
And a ski-mask
Drawing robot versions
Of the characters on Gilligan’s Island
While a few of us tried to remember the theme song
To that show.

Smoked sausage links
Bubbled in a crock-pot of barbecue sauce
Next to a ripped-open bag of potato chips
And some of those miniature Three Musketeers bars.

The one painting Donald did not want
To sell was the robot
With his grandmother’s name

Pink and lavender
With those match-stick lines
And a number across her chest.

He ended up selling
About $1,000.00 worth.

Donald was totally comfortable
In his ski-mask
That staccato singsong voice of his
Echoing in the art gallery like the voice of
The god of all robots

The expressionlessness
That is total expression.

That night
He went from person to person
Hugging us all like
There was no tomorrow
Letting us know

He was what he was
And this is what
He does.

Letting us know
He was capable of hugging us
It was that easy.

And then Monday came
He lives in a group-home
And he wanted to wear the same clothes he wore to the art gallery
He wanted to keep on being that way
Shiny neck-tie

I guess the ski-mask too

But the worker in the group-home was new
And she hid those clothes
Thinking they were his dress clothes
And that they should be kept clean for special occasions
Only.

Donald flipped out
Ran out into traffic
Got hit by a car

He was not killed thank God
Just bruised.