Bygones be Back

Bringing up this particular painting is a touchy subject, not just because of the process I experienced in making the thing or what it means to me on an emotional level, but because of the physical piece itself. Honestly, it’s become a haunting albatross around my neck. One reason is the size. It doesn’t fit into any car. Anytime I want to move it, I have to rent a truck. Plus, I can’t enjoy it for what it is anymore. It causes me too much anxiety.

Forgive, 2007. Oil, paper, and thread stitched on canvas. 48 x 65 inches.

I made Forgive a long time ago. It’s going on thirteen years now. I can still see all the emotion I put into it. It’s highly charged for so many reasons. I’ve talked about it before. It’s so personal, it scares me a little.

But what scares me most is what happened after I sold it. The collector who once purchased it resold it on eBay. He’d already been collecting my Artist’s books before he was interested in it, and then he came to a firesale I had at my studio right before I moved from San Pedro to South Pasadena. Days later, I took him to my gallery (George Billis at the time) to see Forgive and he actually wept. He said he had to have it. He bought many other pieces from me at my studio sale and I thought I had a patron for life.

The same day he purchased Forgive, he also bought another Artist’s book to place into the NMWA in Washington, DC., but weeks later when the book was accepted into the collection, a financial discrepancy arose with the gallery. The gallery director asked me to intervene, which I just shouldn’t have done. Big mistake. It made the misunderstanding much worse.

From there, it was a nightmare and a bad taste ensued. Some months later he was supposed to loan the painting for a show at UCLA Hillel and refused unless the painting could be insured for an astronomical amount that painting that Hillel couldn’t provide.

Months later, he was trying to liquidate the paintings he bought from me and wanted me to give him my contacts. Because I felt I owed him, I actually gave him as many contacts as I had at the time. I felt obligated to him since he’d once helped me when I needed it, so I thought I should return the favor. But nothing I did was good enough. He wasn’t able to unload the work at good prices. He turned his anger at me, began writing me hateful emails and told me my work didn’t have any value. And it all happened during the worst time of my life.

Then one day during my next major solo show, he put Forgive up on eBay for less than 1/4 the amount than he paid for it. I was mortified and wanted him to at least take it down until my show was over. I thought it was really bad PR. But of course, he wouldn’t.

I talked to my gallery about buying it back, even splitting it with me, but in the end, they wouldn’t.

Finally, my friends that run Chance Press Books in northern California offered to buy it as long as they could trade me some other pieces that would fit better on their walls. I agreed and helped them make the arrangements for their friend to pick up the painting and we made the trade some weeks later.

In the interim, I received more emails from the original buyer cursing me out, accusing me of bullshitting him, scamming him, using him, lying to him, misrepresenting myself, and many more awful things. This was after I hooked him up with several people I knew who bought art from him. He was also mad because he didn’t get as much money as my galleries got for my work and continued to tell me my art was worthless, and, that I was too.

After Forgive came back into my possession, I didn’t mark it “for sale” for years. I felt horrible like it was a sin or something. I was scared I’d receive harassing emails. Then I put it on loan with USC Hebrew Union College to display in their classrooms. However, as of now, the loan term is over. I wish I could donate it to them, but they don’t take donations. Now I have to arrange a pick-up.

What was once a “breakthrough” painting–at the time I made it–and one of the few paintings I was proud of, all I see now are my doubts about myself. What did I do wrong? How am I responsible? Why aren’t I a tougher person? That’s all I can think of now when I look at this painting.

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