Right now in the gallery there is one wall dedicated to very handsome, furry men drawn either in charcoal or graphite alone. After I put up the arrangement of drawings and prints, I noticed that every single guy I had drawn was from Spain. I used some prints for the display because some of the original drawings have either sold or are in other galleries. But these drawings just fit so well together... So I call it my Spanish Wall. I don't know what it is with Spanish men, but a crazy amount of them are just crazy beautiful.
In 1987, my dad surprised me with an unexpected gift, “I'm sending you to Europe with your sister”. I had never been to Europe. I was 17, my sister was 19. She was studying in Madrid and planned out our journey. Our trip was for me to fly to Madrid, then go to Barcelona, through the south of France to Nice and Monte Carlo and then on to Pisa and Florence. And then back to Madrid. In 2 weeks...
I was so clueless at 17. I mean, not exactly clueless, but sort of like an emotional rag doll when it came to taking care of myself. I could read books and have discussions, but I couldn't do laundry and had a hard time vacuuming and mowing the lawn. And when it came to figuring out how to buy airplane tickets or get a passport, or anything, I was dependent and useless... My sister put everything together with my father. I could hitchhike with my girlfriend to San Francisco high out of my mind at 15 years old and somehow make it back, but I ran on exactly that kind of energy and will.
I held jobs as a summer canvasser for Greenpeace and as a dishwasher and bus boy at 17 because by then I had dropped out of high school. And I had an extensive knowledge of Art, Music and Literature- enough to get me into an Ivy-League quality college in a year from then... And I was precocious and egotistical because I was pretty. But I was also very insecure and over sensitive. I was afraid to go to Europe.
And right then, when I got the surprise that I would be shipped off to this dream trip for most any teenager, unsupervised by parents and full of adventure, I was in the middle of the first real romance in my life. His name was Mark. He was 19. He was very blonde and bright blue eyed and hairy. Kind of like Armie Hammer. He was a student at the U of O. He was ½ real German from Germany and half American. I had wanted a real boyfriend since I was 12. I am not sure why I decided this, but I promised myself I'd wait until I was 16 to come out and after then I could have a boyfriend. And I had girlfriends before then and they must have been so bored... When I finally got a boyfriend. A real one, this super nice guy... all I could think was, oh no! I am going to be away from Mark for 2 whole weeks!!! I think we had been together for 2 weeks then.
Mark was worldly, having grown up in Berlin, mostly. He strongly encouraged me to go. I made sure to have some of his clothes with me so I could smell him while I was away. I didn't cry. I never really cried anymore by then, but I was so scared that I would lose the one thing most important in my life if I went away. I had already come out to my father. He knew Mark because he caught us in bed together one day... That sucked. But Dad was really nice about it. When I told him I didn't want to go, he said I should go anyway and I would feel differently about it later. I was a struggle to get on that plane.
I remember Madrid. Very fondly. It felt Almodovar at the time. I felt wild and fun and irreverent and full of history all at once. It's the first place I ever went to in Europe. It was big, loud, old, messy with all the dirty napkins napkins on the floor in those food joints where you ate bread stuffed with cheese. And those stone horses and Guernica and the actual Garden of Earthly Delights right fucking there in front of me... And that corridor of Goya's darkest dreams in the Prado- suffering was beautiful and intense and to be admired, but I didn't really suffer yet, it just had such a glow... Late night dinners hopping from place to place each one having it's own kind of tappas and images of a witches' sabbath and floating mysterious men on a flying carpet and a man in yellow with his hands raised being executed by the french during some war unknown to American youth and the train station in the rain, hungover and do we have everything we need for the next stop, where's my passport?.. That's my first taste of Europe.
And everywhere there, swarthy, mustachioed, bearded, hairy and hunky dark smiling men, laughing everywhere and brushing by not noticing the young dreamy eyed kid noticing every shiny detail of their eyes, their hair, their skin...
When I see these guys I am drawing, I am taken back to that time of being a young man with all this newness around everything. I always maintained a distance from the guys I saw. I didn't flirt or even acknowledge them, except for one time on accident. I was at a bakery and the baker was really this beautiful guy. Burly and square jawed and bearded and hot burning in his deep brown looks. I think he must have been gay. I can't imagine any other reason he'd take such a shine to me. I was on my own stumbling around in my Spanish trying to order some sweets in my sister's neighborhood and he was helping me pick out what I should get. The conversation kept getting extended by him offering more choices and he looked at me with a lusty look on his face. I finally had to get back. I paid for my treats and he said “Ciao” and since I heard it before and didn't really know what it meant, I responded “Ciao, Bello!” and he looked for a second taken aback, and then hopeful, and then I saw on his face that dismissal as he must have figured it was just my poor grasp of the language, and he put his head down and I walked out the door. I had meant my words.
I saw he Musee Chagall in Nice, the Sagrada Famillia in Barcelona, the leaning tower of Piza and the Duomo in Florence. My sister and I got in a fight in Monte Carlo. We were like cats then, happy and cuddly with each other, but then, once a day, just so fed up! She stormed off with half our money and I stayed with her college friend Eva with the other 5 francs.. I stood on the marble cliffs of Monaco and sang “Heart of Glass” by Blondie with my sister's friend as the rich gambled away their fortunes in the casinos nearby. We were so happy even though we had only enough money to get a baguette and orangina. In Florence, the girls went crazy shopping. My sister got a leather jacket and I bought one beautiful cabled ivory sweater for myself.
I wore that sweater one time. On the plane ride back home in Eugene. I dropped off my suitcase at home and then ran over to Mark's apartment. Stipping carelessly, I tossed the sweater on Mark's space heater and only noticed the smell of burning cloth after we had finished rolling around in the hay...