Jesse and Jezebel: Low-Rent Capers and an Ink-Drawn Heart

IMG_20190227_002830_419

“Jesse and Jezebel, the name given to outlaw couple Jesse Weathers and Janice Lister after they began a sporadic crime spree in Arkansas, robbing a few gas stations, hijacking a truck and trying (and failing) to hold up a bank. Newspapers desperate for lurid copy just weeks after the death of Bonnie and Clyde seized on the couple’s low-rent capers and blew them up into a ‘national menace.’ With Janice’s sister Mavis in tow, the pair tried briefly to live up to the hype, first with a couple of insurance office robberies, then a brazen daylight attack on an armored payroll truck, which ended in a shootout on the streets of Fayetteville that left two bystanders dead, although it was never clear if they’d been hit by the robbers, the security guards or the police. Shaken by the incident, Lister and Weathers abandoned the life of crime, fled to Mexico and lived incognito for three years, then moved to Arizona using false identities, living out their lives as John and Sally Watson, a quiet, diligent car mechanic and a secretary for an insurance firm who ended up as head of administration. Jesse died in 1963 of congenital heart failure. The indomitable ‘Jezebel’ lived another 35 years, dying in her sleep at the age of 88. As for Mavis, who had returned to her parents’ home before the final job and was never formally charged with a crime, she parlayed her notoriety into roles in a couple of Hollywood B-movies, then spent a few years as an exotic dancer in dubious Chicago clubs. But with the advent of drive-in movies, she came into her own as a raucous, hard-bitten character actor, contributing memorable roles in films by Roger Corman, Russ Meyer, William Castle and others. She always claimed that she had never heard from her sister again after Janice fled to Mexico, but when Mavis died of lung cancer in 1974, a shoebox was found under her bed containing dozens of postcards with an Arizona postmark, left blank except for a small ink-drawn heart.” Pencil sketch, digital paint.

art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boris Pasternak: At the Paris Anti-Fascist Conference, 1935

pst2“Sketch of Boris Pasternak, allegedly made by Pablo Picasso at the International Conference for the Defense of Culture, the great anti-Fascist gathering of world artists and thinkers in Paris, in June 1935. A Soviet delegation was invited. But when Pasternak — suffering mentally and physically and out of favour with the Stalinist regime — was not included, Andre Malraux, one of the main forces behind the Conference, insisted that he and Isaac Babel be sent. The next day, Pasternak was confronted by Soviet officials who bundled him onto a plane, provided him with an ill-fitting suit and sent him to the West. Pasternak, in a feverish and dazed condition, took part in the conference along with such luminaries as Andre Gide, E.M. Foster, Robert Musil, Heinrich Mann, Berolt Brecht, Aldous Huxley, Theodore Dreiser, Rosamond Lehmann, W.H. Auden and others. One of the only two photographers present, Gisèle Freund, took down part of Pasternak’s address to the Conference: ‘[Poetry] will always be in the grass, it will always be necessary to bend over to see it, it will always be too simple to be discussed in assemblies. It will always remain the organic function of a happy being, overflowing with all the felicity of language, lying contracted in the native heart ever heavy with its load, and the more happy men there are, the easier it will be to be an artist.’ The sketch here was found in a Paris bookshop in the 1980s, in the leaves of a used, battered copy of Pasternak’s early work, ‘My Sister Life.’ Its original attribution to Picasso is now largely thought to be mistaken; there is no record of Picasso attending the Conference or meeting Pasternak while he was in Paris.” Pencil sketch.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Giancarlo Sobretti: “What Art Is”

IMG_20190218_160547_952“‘You want to know what art is? I’ll tell you what art is. Art is what remains when the bullshit that invades your mind and your soul from the day you are born is expelled for a moment — for only a moment, a moment so fleeting it can’t be measured — and you’re left with a clarity that sees and feels and knows the meaning of our existence, in a way that can’t be explained or reduced or systemized, that can only be conveyed, like wine or water in a cup, from one soul, one point of consciousness, to another. Then the clarity is gone, the bullshit resumes, and you must struggle with tortured memories of that vanished moment, and the painful knowledge of how far from it you are now, until the miracle happens again — if it happens again, because you can never be sure it will. That’s what art is, for both the giver and the receiver of the cup.’ Giancarlo Sobretti (1890-1981), Italian painter and sculptor, interview with Il Manifesto, April 23, 1979.” Pencil sketch.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cynthia Norwich: “The Secret Sharer”

bb4bec3a-226f-40ed-9b84-59b47a2e3a3a_kindlephoto-261765469“Cynthia Norwich. Photo for the ‘Domestique’ Sunday color supplement of the Sidbury Times, Sidbury, Connecticut, September 4, 1966. The story noted her election as President of the prestigious North Maple Home and Garden Club.

But she also had another life. She was a special confidante of Mary Pinchot — “the secret sharer,” Mary called her — from their student days at Manhattan’s exclusive Brearley School.

Pinchot, a journalist, later married Cord Meyer, originally a leading left-wing pacifist who morphed into a dedicated anti-Communist operative for the CIA. In the 1950s, the Meyers became good friends with their next-door neighbors in Washington: John and Jackie Kennedy. Mary became more involved with her painting, and with exploring various avenues of expanding and altering the consciousness (she was a close friend of Timothy Leary, for example), even as she continued to move in the highest social circles in Washington. Her sister married Ben Bradlee, later editor of the Washington Post during Watergate. A few years after her divorce from Cord, she and Jack Kennedy, now president, became lovers.

By all accounts, she was the most serious of Kennedy’s extramarital partners, an intellectual sparring partner who influenced him with her still-fervent pacifist views and her ideas of altering consciousness for the betterment of the world. Her affair with JFK was tracked by the CIA and other agencies. She had, perhaps foolishly, let several people know she kept a diary of her relationship with Kennedy. Several months after his assassination, Mary Pinchot Meyer was shot dead while taking a walk along the canal in Georgetown. Bradlee, informed of her death by CIA friends, hastened to her house to retrieve her diary, only to find James Jesus Angelton, CIA chief of counterintelligence, already there, jimmying the door. Together, they found the diary and burned it — which Bradlee admitted 30 years later in his autobiography. An African American man, Ray Crump, was picked up a quarter mile from the scene and charged with her murder, but was acquitted due to a total lack of evidence. The murder remains officially unsolved.

Throughout these years, Cynthia Norwich had made frequent visits to Mary, especially after the divorce, enjoying the bohemian side of Mary’s life, then returning to staid Sidbury. In September 1964, she received a package in the post: a set of photocopied papers and a note from Mary: ‘A little secret for the sharer.’ When she heard of Mary’s death a month later, Cynthia buried the photocopy of the diary in one of the beautiful flower beds that adorned her award-winning garden. She never spoke of it as long as she lived. She died in 2014 at the age of 86. The papers are still buried where she left them.” Pencil sketch, digital paint.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Joseph Hart: ‘These Blues are Just Like Love’

bluesman“Joseph ‘Slow Dog’ Hart, Knoxville blues singer (1897-1955). He spent most of his years as a street singer, with occasional gigs at house parties and bars. But in 1947 he had an unexpected success from a one-time recording session with Alan Lomax. It was a song of his own composition, ‘These Blues are Just Like Love.’ He scored a regional hit with his version, then it was recorded as a country-and-western number by Tex Ritter, and became a national smash. With the royalties, Hart, who had often lived on the streets where he played, was able to live out his last years in comfort, before his death from liver cancer. ‘These blues are just like love/They keep me thinking of/Your beauty and your body and your touch/These blues are just like love/They got me cooing like a dove/You’re long gone but I still want you oh so much.’ Pencil sketch, digital paint.

art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Dry Martini with a Heartbreak Chaser

heartbreakchaser

“Dry martini with a heartbreak chaser. St. Valentine’s Day, 1954. Geno’s Place, Hoboken, New Jersey.” Pencil sketch.

art and text by ©2019 by Chris Floyd
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How quickly Greenland is disappearing

exp poet

“Johnny Marsanne, performance poet focused largely on ‘found poetry’ from various media. The poem below is from his most recent outing, at the ‘Alternative Currents’ poetry slam night at Grover’s Pub, Allentown, New Jersey.”

How quickly Greenland is disappearing

water expands as it warms
thermal expansion
melting
the planet warms

large chunks of glacial ice calve into the sea
vast plains of southwestern ice
the meltwater flowing to the ocean

a threshold has been reached
a point of amazing sensitivity
warming in the future
warming in the last century
losses
considerable losses

we have passed, or soon will pass

(Found poem carved from the New York Times, 22 January 2018)

art and text by ©2019 by Chris Floyd
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment