Saturday, June 9, 2007
Springfield's Doyle the Twig Painter (above with a half-naked nutcase) has suffered the most devastating loss any painter can ever endure - he's gone blind. Thanks (or rather no thanks) to diabetes his eyesight has degenerated to the point that he can no longer paint pictures or continue teaching as an art professor at American International College.
Fortunately, after a period of suicidal depression, Doyle has discovered a new way of painting - with words! Instead of using the handmade twigs he used to use to create images, he now uses a pen to write words to describe what he sees in his head. A book of his writings will be coming out later this year, and I've seen some of it. It is quite good, and when it is available I'll let you know how you can buy it through this blog. In the meantime, any of you thousands of Valley residents who own a Doyle painting, hold on to them because there ain't gonna be anymore, which means the existing paintings are rapidly increasing in value. Here is a great portrait that Doyle painted of Jerry Garcia.
Doyle served in the Army in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and painted this picture to offer his opinion of that conflict.
The title of the painting is For Nothin'.
Recently I was visiting Doyle in his Pine Point gallery. He no longer sells commercially, in fact when he needed extra space recently for a new air conditioner, he let the workers cut a hole in the sign in front of his shop. It no longer matters anymore.
In the course of my visit, Doyle asked me to visit "the refreshment stand" for something to "inspire the muse." By which he meant go next door to the liquor store (package store, as we call them in New England) and get him a quart of vodka. I left out the back door, and observed on the walls that remnants remained of the used colors he used to fling out the back door after a day of painting, permanently staining the walls.
Further observing the walls, I noticed something I hadn't seen before, this air vent covered with a rusting Victorian shield. I'm surprised no one ever stole it, as that's probably worth something to antique collectors.
By the stairs I saw how Doyle would have gotten to the refreshment stand had I not come by - his wheelchair. Diabetes is a mercilessly cruel disease which takes your life only after it has robbed you of everything else you have. Besides his sight Doyle has also lost his left foot.
In decades past this area behind Doyle's gallery was an infamous party place. Believe it or not, sometimes even the cops used to stop by to chat, indifferent to the wild scenes that often took place there on an almost nightly basis. Today it is deserted.
The famous composer Beethoven suffered the musical equivalent of Doyle's fate - he lost his hearing. Yet he continued to write and even perform, declaring that "Life without music would be meaningless." That artists of every sort often continue to be productive even after suffering losses that should have ended their career is a wonderful testament to the indomitable spirit of the creative human mind.
When I got back with the vodka, I mentioned this, and Doyle insisted that the first toast be to Beethoven. That was not the last toast of my visit, but it was the most sincere and best deserved.
Hey, it's finally happening! This week the often post-poned tribute to my mother, Joyce Devine, a beloved decades long city employee who was a pioneer in teaching ecology in the public schools, will be held in Forest Park, where a bench will be dedicated and a section of the park will be renamed "The Devine Way." I hesitate even to post this, lest I jinx it, because previous attempts have been cancelled due to vandalism and flooding. But this time it looks for real, and is to be held at the old skatehouse at three o'clock this Wednesday. If it's raining, it will be held on Thursday at the same time and place. All the poohbahs will be there, and lots of familiar faces ranging from her old team members from the girl's softball team she coached, The Balliet Bombers, to lots of city employees, political people the media and even her black sheep son, yours truly.