I was very saddened to hear that my old art dealer, Pat Parsons, recently passed away. She pretty much discovered me as an artist.
I started painting in art therapy while I was a patient in a hospital and then later put that interest aside to pursue my interest in music and writing. After my rock band Pinhead broke up back in the mid-’80s, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. But after deciding to quit smoking cigarettes, I had an intense urge to start making art again. And so I did.
When I had finished 10 paintings, I left a few of them at Webb and Parsons, Pat Parson’s art gallery, at that time over the Flynn Theatre marquee in Burlington.
I got a call from Pat the next day. She wanted to make a studio visit. She did that and said she liked my work a lot. My art career had begun. I can’t remember exactly how she marketed me back then, possibly as a self-taught artist, which I was, or maybe she called me an outsider artist, which I certainly felt like, having twice been a mental patient. Later she said I was hard to categorize, and that maybe what I really was, was just a good artist.
Pat included some of my oil paintings in a couple of her group shows and we later did some shows together in my studio. On several occasions she sold some of my paintings at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City. She also encouraged me to send slides to John and Maggie Maizels, founders of Raw Vision, who were curating a show at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. This led to a few of my paintings being in their show, “Love: Error and Eros.”
Some of the work I was making then was a hard sell for Pat, some of my non-animal dysfunctional family pieces. She called them difficult, because they were so personal, but she always did her best to try and find collectors to buy them.
I learned a lot from Pat and through her was introduced to the work of many great folk and outsider artists. I didn’t learn much about Pat herself, however, as she was a very private person. Unlike myself, who will pretty much tell you everything you want to know, and even some you probably don’t want to know, Pat didn’t reveal that much.
One day I was pleased to meet an old friend of Pat’s whose personality was more like mine, and I learned that both she and Pat had attended Miss Porter’s School, the highly prestigious girls’ boarding school in Connecticut, the same school as Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy Onassis) had attended. Had she been a classmate of Jacqueline’s? I don’t know, but Pat was born just a year later than Jacqueline, so maybe.
I always found it interesting that this very nice, very sophisticated Bedford Hills/Miss Porter’s School/Vassar College woman with the Westchester lockjaw accent had such a deep interest, knowledge and love of folk and very primitive outsider art. Perhaps she was an outsider, too.
Pat and I had drifted away from each other after she semi-retired, and I hadn’t seen her much over the last few years, but I was very pleased to see her attend my last performance-art show, “Napshots of the Suburbs,” at the FlynnSpace a year ago June. I shall miss her. She was a very special woman, and I will forever be thankful for her interest in my work and for her encouragement and support.