The Cleveland Songbird

The Cleveland Songbird

Last year I was quite fond of saying that there were only three magical cities in America–New York, Chicago and New Orleans; the rest of it was fucking Cleveland.  I said this in my effusiveness to rally support for New Orleans and it was a funny, if cheap, laugh at the expense of Cleveland.

I’m going to stop saying that.  A great many of my friends from Cleveland didn’t appreciate it, and have fond memories of that city like I do of Chicago and New Orleans.  And the more I read about the city of Cleveland, the more I realize it is not very different than Chicago.  Dumb luck has made us the sexier city.  Dumb luck, geography and machine politics is what kept Chicago from sharing the fate of Cleveland.  My studio director, Stan Klein, is still a Cleveland Indians fan,which lately is a lot like being a Cubs fan; thankless, joyless exercises in the absence of reciprocal affection.

There is a longing about the city of Cleveland.  Many citizens groups are fighting the banks in the wake of the mortgage crisis, where banks and lenders fucked citizens with mortgages and interest rates that they knew the folks they sold them to could not repay and then getting even richer by selling “reverse mortgages.”   Clevelanders have not taken this lying down.  They’ve pushed back and tried to wrest some of the primacy of their neighborhoods back.

There are beautiful parks in Cleveland.  Cain Park, in Cleveland Heights, on the east side is a place loaded with birds, gardens and hills for sledding, as well as a theater and art studios.  My friends from Cleveland remember this place with great affection.

I wanted to make a metaphorical songbird for Cleveland and some months ago I bought a collage from my friend Alpha Lubicz.  She is my favorite collagist right now and last September she accompanied my crew to Japan.  In almost every flea market, Alpha and I went after the same kind of stuff.   She has an amazing eye for scraps and makes astounding works.  She is the goods.  For those of you reading this on Facebook, look her things up  in my friends list and get one.

For months, I looked at this beautiful bird-woman collage and finally called Alpha and asked her  if she’d mind if I drew it into my new piece.  After getting her blessing, I made this piece.   I changed  it a bit, but make no mistake; it is a case of out and out theft and generosity on behalf  of my friend Alpha.  I’ve learned much from looking at her work and so should you.

I gave her a bluejay’s body  just because  I love the fuckers.  They’re obnoxious and noisy and operate like gangsters; and they are so beautiful.  They, like starlings, often steal their nests by muscling the occupants out of it.   They just kind of show up and chirp, “Fuck You. Leave.”   And the other birds comply.  Bluejays are badasses and don’t take any la-la from other birds.

When I was a kid, I caddied and every once in a while would find a bluejay feather on the golf course and I don’t know why, but these were real treasures to me; simply because of that paralyzing blue. . .somewhere between cobalt and cerulean. . .a blue you saw nowhere else in nature.  A jazz blue.  A story blue.  A midnight kind of blue. . .carved right out of the holy sky.

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