It’s fitting that the June issue of Arts + Culture Houston marks my one-year anniversary as visual arts editor of the magazine. My Loose Ends column exposing how the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston inflated its attendance figures for years is exactly the kind of story the Houston Chronicle would never have let me publish — and would have made it all but impossible to pursue. For that matter, I’m not sure I would have allowed myself to pursue it while I had my own secrets to hide. In some respects the piece is an act of contrition for the times I let the MFAH’s late director, Peter Marzio, and his Dick Cheney-esque numbers guru, Gwendolyn Goffe, dupe the public through my all-too-often all-too-trusting reporting, which in hindsight looks more and more like stenography.
My other June A+C story, about a groundbreaking new art program for juvenile probationers, is also an act of contrition for one of my actions under the influence of a meth-induced psychosis back in 2004. Hours before I was arrested in Brockton, Mass., I helped a pair of youths who were probably exactly the same age as the kids in the A+C story, unload my van and dump all its contents, including years of paintings, photographs, negatives and artist books into a New Bedford, Mass., landfill. Half an hour later, annoyed with my mile-a-minute blather, they threw me out of the van along the side of the highway in Brockton.
Don’t get me wrong — the landfill’s gain was no great loss to the world — but psychosis or no psychosis, it was hardly a fine example to set for vulnerable youths whom life had already given enough disadvantages. As explained in my exhibition trailer for Art Criticism and Reporting, my Art League Houston exhibition that is still in progress, for part two of the show I’ll be painting the 2004 police report in its entirety. (The exhibition closes with a reception from 6-9 p.m. June 21.)
But first, as a further act of contrition and to prepare the space spiritually and emotionally, I’ll be destroying the paintings the New Bedford kids didn’t get to: the ones I had packed and shipped to what was going to be my new apartment in Providence, R.I. (After hearing that I was in the loony bin, my parents had the shipment rerouted to their house.) I’ll also be destroying selected works made more recently that I no longer need. This time around, it’s an act of creative destruction rather than purely destructive destruction, for I intend to donate the cut-up canvases to this new youth program, that its students may make something new from the remnants of my folly.
This will be done after hours over the weekend — probably Saturday night. I’ll tweet the time as soon as I settle on it. The public is welcome to watch the destruction through the window of Art League’s Front Gallery, but not to come in during the ceremony. I don’t need or particularly want an audience. It is simply something I need to do as part of reentering, Lee Krasner-style, an artwork that no longer satisfies me.