The Doppelgänger (Homage to René Magritte)

September 26, 2013
New York City, circa 1996

New York City, circa 1996

This photograph was taken with one of those old “drug store” panoramic cameras. They were on the market from 1996 to 1998 or so. They gave you a whole camera. You’d use it and they’d develop it, giving you back the prints and negatives.

This was one of my favorite photos I’ve taken with that format. It’s a bit grainy but my timing was good.

It looks like a printing error but it’s not. I did this intentionally. The section on the right is a mirror image of the image on the left. Note the reverse writing on the truck.

The man walking (with the white pants) is the same man whose head appears on the shoulder of the figure at left. The woman walking by has her hand and the tip of her shoe appear on the left.

The figure on the far right and the far left are the same man. On one side is the “real” person and on the other is his reflection.

Many of us have doubles or ghost selves. I’ve often had people swear they saw me or tell that they saw someone who looked exactly like me. I’d wonder “Who is this person? What if I was to run into them?

September 26, 2013 for René Magritte

Not to be Reproduced:

You can click onto the photo to enlarge it, or click twice to enlarge it further.

Back in my Life Again

August 30, 2013
My father and I, early on

My father and I, early on

Before this year ends, I’ll turn 60.  It’s really hard to believe in ways.  There’s been a lot of water under the bridge.  Ah yes, the times that we have seen.

I was looking through old photos today, back when I was a baby or a child or a young man.  If I hang in there,  I’ll be looking at photos of myself as I am today, maybe in the year 2040 or so.

All the parts of life hang together.  They touch each other and tell each other secrets.  To be alive: that’s the key (and there lies the rub).  To exist is not enough.  Some us attempt to transcend, to go for the gusto.

With my Grandpa Greenia and my dad, Christmas 1953

With my Grandpa Greenia and my dad, Christmas 1953

With my Grandpa White, singing.

With my Grandpa White, singing.

“Artists are not made; they are born…there is very little you can do for them.”  Louise Bourgeois (in the film ART CITY)

From the get-go, it seems that I was an artist, an artist of some sort.  I just ran across this quotation this week.  Many people are different but some are more different than others.

With my brother Dennis and my Teddy Bear

With my brother Dennis and my Teddy Bear

ABC: Always being creative!  I look at my childhood drawings and paintings and they’re quite good, of kind.  Jacques Karamanoukian saw them and kidded me “Maurice, what happened?  You were so good!”  Yet I didn’t really get serious about making visual art until I was 23 or 24.  Since then, I’ve made up for lost time.

I write and do performances too.  I’m in two or three musical groups or bands.  Then I do puppet shows, at least a few a year.

Brooklyn Bridge 1990

Brooklyn Bridge 1990

Yes art is a way of life.  I want art to wake people up and change their lives.  Many people see art as “watered down” by definition.  They look at it like it’s some sort “candy” or “wallpaper.”

Yet I know that it can shake people to their core.  It can make you see life and the world in a whole new way.  People have told me that my work’s helped them get through some tough times.  That means more than a prize or an award.  It’s nice to get paid, at least some of the time.  Yet there are different ways to get paid.

It’s not all about the money or fame.  A lot of it’s about love, imagination, dreams, magic and (if you will) revolution.  It’s world-changing time!  I just want to try to shake things up a bit and cause some trouble while I’m here.  Onward!

Flint, Mchigan (May 2013)

Flint, Michigan (May 2013)


Bigger Cages, Longer Chains

July 31, 2013


The story goes that, in Britain, there was a protest rally.  A group in the crowd started in chanting “Bigger cages!  Longer chains!”  I always thought that this was a scream!  It appealed to my sense of humor.

To wit:

Toxteth riots, England, 1981.  During a lull in the action a leftist militant climbs on to a box and addresses the crowd on the subject of the coming socialist utopia.  Her promise that there will be jobs for all is met with derisory laughter from a group of young rioters.  As the speaker details other reforms, the group begins a mocking chant, “Bigger cages, longer chains!”

from the SPECTACULAR TIMES booklet “bigger cages longer chains” (from Larry Law).

Sun Ra said “It’s ridiculous for America to even talk about freedom when all the artists are in chains?”

Most true, deep artists struggle, fight and suffer as a matter of course.  It’s especially true of visual artists.  The odds of making a living off of making pictures aren’t very encouraging.  It’s like you’re carrying a psychic ball and chain around with you.  Eventually, you get so used to it that you forget that it’s there.

Many of the artists who do make it big do so through luck more than talent.  Or they study art magazines and the art scene, foster connections and get ready for the “big swindle.”

Most true artists don’t create to make money or to strive for success.  They do so because they must.  It’s part of their character and the way that they breathe, the way that they move.

The game is slanted toward entertainment and the popular arts.  It’s not easy to make it there either.  Yet with talent and persistence, one might have a fighting chance at least.

For most of us though, it seems to be a losing game from the get go.  We can’t stop playing it.  A labor of love is still work.  Yet many of us play it our whole lives, with little reward or recognition.  We create a good body of work and hope that it touches people.  If it doesn’t do so while we’re alive, maybe it will after we’re gone.

This is true for us visual artists.  It also often applies to other artists as well.

If need be, yes “Bigger cages! Longer chains!”  Better still would be to find ways to escape from our cages.  We could break and remove the chains.

The next stop would be a total artistic Renaissance.  Art would play its truest part in changing life and transforming the world.  Sometimes just “enriching” society is not quite enough.

living under a cloud

A Note from Miriam Patchen, from June 1989

June 28, 2013

Writing and receiving postal letters is one of the great things in life.  It’s difficult to find the time to do so though.  Now, it’s even harder what with email and related digital communications.

I sent many mailings to Miriam Patchen.  I’d often enclose a Stamped Self-Addressed Envelope containing blank index cards when I’d write someone.  This would make it easier for them to reply.  This is how I attained some of my best letters, notes and autographs.

This was postmarked 25 June 1989 and arrived on both side of two blank index cards:

Dear Maurice-

I’d been away-Germany (a Patchen show)- a friend took care (?) of my mail, suddenly your letter turned up!  But how good to hear from you.  It seems so long ago since the first POETIC EXPRESSES came here.  At least you are continuing on the clear way.  Would there be more who’d do so!

I take part in the essential peace work.  every Tuesday (for five years now) at a mall or shopping center with posters, parades, meetings etc.  It won’t make peace but, like you with your writing, I must affirm the importance of life, not death.

Thanks for your remembering-for reading Patchen & loving jazz!  best, Miriam

miriam onemiriam two

Here’s a link to my xerox publication, digitally archived.  I’m still putting it out.  I haven’t missed a month since April 1985:|subcoll&term=grepoe

Art Therapy for a Sick World

June 21, 2013

blue gardens (from May 2002)(

In 2002 I had two solo shows going.  One was at my work, at the library on the McNichols campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.  The other was at the late, great Zeitgeist Gallery and Performance Venue.

This second exhibit was titled Art Therapy for a Sick World.  I wrote this statement in connection with that.  Wow, it was eleven years ago now.

I decided to put this out again, without many corrections or updates.  There are more (parenthesis) than I’d use today.  It was an experiment with that, stylistic flourishes?

If anything, the world is far sicker than it was in 2002.  I still believe that art could have an important part to play in the healing.  Sometimes, a cure must be provoked.  The heart of the sickness has no idea how sick it is.

this introduction: June 21, 2013, the first day of Summer



April 25, 2002    from Maurice Greenia, Jr.

Many “art critics” have always discounted the power of art to make a difference in the real world, to change things for the better.

To them, art is a happy paradise, a child’s “fairyland” or a little sweetness off-setting the sourness of this so-called reality.

To me though, art does have an important, even urgent part to play.

What’s more, it’s not being permitted to play it.

If it’s not “entertainment” or if it’s not (otherwise) a good “financial risk” it’s often swept under the rug, “ghettoized” and otherwise ignored.

Yet the thing about being “ostrichsized” is that the ostrich may have a temper.

Many critics find themselves influenced (consciously or unconsciously) by how the creative works they judge relate to/fit in with the MARKETPLACE.

I judge my work (and other’s) in regard to dream content, the potency of the imagination, the residue of deep and complex thinking, absolute awareness (without filters or blinders), the amount of LOVE which is visible in the work (heartfelt) and (finally) the mysterious and even magical element (the old “X factor”).

These are not things often in the mind of the critics or in the minds of those who rule our nations, start our wars, exploit the poor, terrorize and so on and so forth.  (Is politics the criticism of reality?)

This is not to overly criticize our needed cultural critics and observers.

Yet (so far as the rulers, legislators, fat cats, bigwigs, generals, kings, queens etc. are concerned) things do seem to be off, out of synch and in a mess.

Who believes that all (or most) is right with the world?

If those in power were open to the creative spirit (love, deep thought, imagination, energy, enthusiasm) perhaps this would help inform some of their choices and plans.  What is art’s true place in the world?  What should it be doing that it (largely) is not?

Is art the criticism of reality?  (Or can it be?)

It should be part of life, deeply CONNECTED with life in a living, near primal and organic way (not just electronically or as possible PRODUCT).  It could be similar to how it is (and has been) in so-called “primitive-tribal” paths.  The artist can sometimes be like a shaman, gathering forces and then letting them re-emerge in healing forms.

To try to find ways to have art, TRUE ART really have an impact on an expansive REALITY, to touch people and make them more awake, more alive-this is a constant challenge.  Art could explode into a new renaissance, evading traps and pitfalls aglow & alive.

On the “Art Strike” Movement

May 31, 2013


Various Art Strikes and Actions

The 1970 Art Strike

I’ve been researching the art strike movements and the recent occupy museums movement.  This month and last I’ve mainly just posted links to some of my web sources.  I’ll write more about this soon.  I hope to have a post on it here sometime in the next few months.  Meanwhile here’s this.

From the Art Strike Propaganda Workshop 1989

“Art Strike is a ceremonial mask of a movement away from competitive art making and toward a culture without curators.”  and too, a nod toward “the demolition of serious culture.”

No kidding?

How to protest by withholding something that few people care about or few people want?  If it’s not commercial, not tied to real $$$$, then why pay attention to it?  Yet many of our artists who sell their work for huge amounts of money create mediocre work, or worse.  It’s a paradox or a quandary.  Artists!  You have nothing to lose but your chains!

The 1990 to 1993 Art Strike Campaign/Movement
Stewart Home
Another Take
New York 1990's

New York 1990’s

Gustave Metzger
Art Strike Anyone?
Recent Art Strike activity
A critique

On the Occupy Museums Movement

April 29, 2013


I started to look into this about a year ago.  I agree that the relationship between the artist and the museum, between the artist and the gallery and between the artist and the collector should be investigated.

I’ll do more research into this before coming up with my own statement.  These links are a start.  Several clues are here, should one investigate.

Black Light Cave Art

March 23, 2013

my old wall 001I don’t think that I have a better photo of this.  If I find others, I’ll  add them.  I found one more so far, see below.

Back when I lived in the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood, my bedroom had a door to the upstairs back porch.  Sometimes I’d sleep outside in the Summer.

There was a bare brick wall.  I think that it was on the other side of the fireplace.  We painted it black and covered it with cartoons.  These done with black  light paint.  My brother Dennis and I did most of this.  He did quite a bit.

It’s some of my earliest painting, as an adult anyway.  Sometimes other siblings and friends would work on it a bit too.  It was an early attempt at having a series of visual jam sessions.

There are sayings such as “Do it!”   There’s a “peace sign” and shouts out to Jerry Rubin and to the Rolling Stones.

There’s also a sort of green clown holding a giant butterfly, a huge bug that’s lying on its back,  an airplane and an upside-down figure.   There are various shapes and forms.

When you saw it under the black light, it was really something.

Its companion piece was a window shade.  This was also painted with black light paint.  It depicted the earth with people on top and people down below, standing upside down.  In between, in the center of the Earth, there was hell, all full of devils and an “O.O.E. Welcome” sign.

The O.O.E was (or is?) an acronym for the Organization of Evil.  This was a sort of spoof that some of us were involved in.  We weren’t really that bad.  It was more mischief and pranks, like five people wearing masks to the grocery store or to the greasy spoon joint.  You can’t do that any more.  Those were different times.

This was all or mostly all painted by Dennis.  I might have helped a bit.  I still have it.  It’s hanging up in my back hallway.  It’s a bit battered yet it’s good to still have it.

A figure with Nixon mask and toy.  The wall and a danger sign are in the background.  I don't think that that's me.

A figure with Nixon mask and toy. The wall and a danger sign are in the background. I don’t think that that’s me.

Shake Up the World with Art!

February 27, 2013

For Destiny

There are many people who believe art to be powerless!

They’re assured that it has been declawed and defanged.  If art has venom, it’s been transformed into honey or nectar.

Yet wait!  Step back and look again.  Art is explosive and volatile.  Even when art is gentle, it can still sing the leaves off of the trees.

Lurking in shadowy corners and ready to pounce: ART!

Skulking on rooftops while brandishing binoculars and bags of pebbles: ART!

Singing in every language all at once, while occasionally stopping to dance: ART!

Searching after the deepest, most disturbing possible truths, in all their glory: ART!

Roaming around the world, dressed in strange clothes and wearing animal masks: ART!

Holding countless secret conferences deep in the heart of the forest or in abandoned houses: ART!

Finding hundreds of new ways in which life is the perfect disguise: ART!

Making contact with fellow creative people, creating a massive global movement: ART!

Creating new works which are amazing, astounding, beautiful, ugly and soul-shaking: ART!

Engaged in campaigns to wake up the victims of “death in life” and certain sleepers: ART!

Entering deep into the chambers of love itself: ART!

Wrapped in tangles of kisses approaching mad love or amour fou: ART!

Exploding in combinations of colors and shapes which bring new tastes into one’s mouths: ART!

Poetry is revealed, making the masses laugh, cry or jump up and down: ART!

Mysteries create new mysteries which emerge fully fleshed out of old mysteries: ART!

Dance, poetry, writing, painting, visual art, cinema, theatre, photography convene and bond with each other.  All arts form a single art!  Artists of all stripes arise.  There are countless truces and coalitions.

Art will help change the world.  Art will play a key part in transforming life.

Calling all artists: arise!  Do the best work that you can and seek out kindred spirits.  Now’s the Time.  A true, new Renaissance lurks close by, ready to burst free.

Why I Don’t Apply for the Kresge Art Fellowships/ “take one”

January 30, 2013

Wash and Bamboo Pens

I’m convinced that the Kresge Arts Fellowships are a good thing.  A lot of deserving people have been assisted and rewarded.  A bird in the hand is better than a kick in the pants.

I was part of an application.  My performance art/ music/ poetry group the Spaceband, applied a few years ago.  I helped with that.  As I’m a writer, I did most of the writing.  Other members of the group did a lot of the work as well though.  I had help.

I’ve still never applied for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship on my own behalf.  This is despite my “triple threat” status.   I could apply for my writing, for my visual art or for my performances.  Thus, I’m not ruling it out entirely.  If this opportunity continues, maybe someday I’ll apply.  So far though, I’m not inclined to do so.

I talked about this first here, four years ago:

Now, I think that it’s time for an update.  I wonder how many other creative people don’t apply?  Why don’t they apply?  Why don’t I apply?

1.  I’m still just too busy.  I spend too much time living the life to be able to find time to complete a grant application.  It’s as if I’m working two full-time jobs.  This is because I’m serious enough about my creative work to allow it to use up a lot of my time.

Then too, I’m working an actual full-time job, at the library on the McNichols Campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.

I keep trying to figure out what I’d have to cut out in order to apply.  Let my house get messy?  I’ve done this before when I’m making art for a one person exhibit.  I just let almost everything go and make art.  It takes awhile to get things back to normal.

Should I refuse to do a few live performances?  Turn down an invitation to be part of an interesting art exhibit?  It’s hard to figure out what to sacrifice in order to free up the time to get an application together.  Breathing space and quiet time are precious.

2.  I’ve had good things happen to me in my art life.  I’ve shown my work in France.  I was part of the Zeitgeist arts collective for eleven years.  I’ve had my share of reviews and news articles.  I had a massive exhibit of over 400 works, at MOCAD aka the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  Maybe I should try to help give some new people a better chance at something good?

Then too, there’s my lifelong impulse.  As a “white man” I try not to collect a lot of the treasures that are supposedly due me.  Affirmative action is still valid and it exists for a reason.  If I apply and win, am I reducing chances for women, African-Americans and other minorities?

Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of the winners seem to be academics, art professors and so on.  Some of the others, while not teachers, seem to be more seasoned in the sciences of writing grant proposals and working on specialized applications.  Some of those who are doing this for the first time still were selected.  Yet some seem to have an advantage.

This increases my impulse to include myself out, to give someone else a chance.

3.  I have a tendency to do things the hard way.  Why take the short cut when you can take the scenic route, with all its booby traps and brambles?  I get a sense that I haven’t quite finished paying my dues yet.  Maybe I’m biased against awards and prizes more than I should be.  I admire people who turn down awards, when they have solid reasons for doing so.  There’ve been cases of people turning down Academy Awards and Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes.

4. Money isn’t everything, but $25,000 is a lot of money.  Would such a windfall enable me to finish writing a few books and paint another hundred paintings and/or buy more musical instruments, props and costumes for the Spaceband and/or mount a traveling puppet vaudeville troupe?  It wouldn’t hurt.  If you don’t play, you can’t win.  Yet what is is.

5. Especially for visual artists, the whole system seems to be wrong in ways.  It’s set up to be exploitative and unfair.  There’s too much there to go into here.  Yet the dynamic between “popular” and “unpopular” arts seems to be bizarre.  I’ll explain more in a future post.  I have explained it some in past manifestos and statements.

I mention it here, because this situation, this dynamic, is another reason why I haven’t applied.  I realize that this is ironic in ways, as the Kresge Fellowships seem to attempt to address or offset some of this.

6. Lastly, I’m always searching for ways to unite the Detroit arts community.  I try to help find ways to make it stronger and more solid.   Sometimes I’ve noticed others doing this as well.

Yet the various segments could be aware of each other and support each other more than they are now.  The Kresge art grants don’t really seem to do much in this regard.  I think that I can do quite a bit here, with no money at all.

By making individuals and collaborative groups stronger, the grants do help the community.  Stronger segments do help.  How do we connect the dots?

Spirit Photograph

Spirit Photograph

In addition, I just went through their list of previous fellows:

All together, I count 21 literary fellows and 21 performing arts fellows.  There are 30 visual arts fellows.  These include 18 from 2009 and 12 from 2011.  This make 72 all together.

Of these, 30 of them, I know their work well.   Most of these are people who I’ve been friendly with.  Some are even friends.

Then there are 42 whom I’ve never heard of at all.  I had a chance to experience some of their work at the Art X Detroit event in 2011.  This was a good thing.  A lot of the live events were packed/ sold out.   The work I was able to experience was mostly good to excellent.  I didn’t see anything that I actively disliked or thought was mediocre.  Some of it left me cold though, not my cup of tea.

The eminent artist awards all seem to be good choices, especially the first two.

Despite my reservations, I thank the Kresge Foundation for trying to help art and artists in and around Detroit!  It’s a good thing.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.