Posts Tagged ‘death


the white goddess: a goodbye to judith bledsoe

Graves” first muse…the first after he articulated his White Goddess theories, was Judith Bledsoe. Judith, by all accounts, was a naïve young girl who found in the older Graves something of a father figure whose intellect and worldly knowledge was appealing. Graves found in her the physical embodiment of the White Goddess. It seems that in the case of Judith, as in the muses that followed, who or what the person might actually have been seemed less important to Graves than what he believed the person to be. And so Judith who at first was clearly enamoured with the attention she was receiving began to buckle under the pressure and, as R. P. Graves reports, Beryl “… took Judith out to lunch alone, and quite calmly asked her whether she wanted Robert or not. To which Judith could only protest, quite honestly, that she loved Beryl and Robert more than her mother and father, and that she had no intention of doing anything to injure their marriage” (The White Goddess, 188). –source,

Judith and RP

judith and the author at the bowers museum, santa ana, california

it has been reported that my dear friend, judith bledsoe, has died. i have tried to reach her children without success so details are not available which makes it an even sadder event; their silence a rebuke of the many friendships their mother nurtured over the past several decades. [on july 5, 2013, i received notes from both of judith’s children which have been posted in the comment section of this post. perhaps i judged them too harshly, but at the time i wrote this tribute i was saddened by their silence. mea culpa.]


m. (the author’s life partner), judith, and the author at a gallery opening, san diego, california

there are several pivotal events in my long career as an art dealer, one of the most vivid is selling my first bledsoe painting to the daniel’s. “blue house at st. pompon” with it’s vivid hues and little black cat sleeping on the railing of the balcony above the street, was not a large painting, but the joy judith brought to it, with her free brush work, layers of colors applied then stripped away, little border of contrasting hues making the whole a polished jewel, touched this young couple so deeply — they stood in front of it — and later sat in front of it in the gallery’s viewing room while i stood and discussed its merits as a work of art; its emotional pull working on me as well as them.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

i was new to the business of art, but i connected then to her joie de vivre (it is best said in french, not english, and no, i’m not being a snob, dropping the occasional french ‘mots’ because i believe it elevates this discourse, it is because it best represents who judith is/was), her obvious happiness, her palette filled with colors that pulled at the hem of your shirt like a child wanting attention but too well-behaved to whine, her brushwork a busy intersection in paris, her adopted hometown.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

her studio, on rue falguière in montparnasse, had been chaim soutine’s and it always tickled me to think what the ghosts of his tableaux mortes with their sides of beef, the dead fish, the torture, and the pain of his palette and brushwork now thought of the abundance of life that filled the studio. she once told me that she liked to sometimes strip naked and dance in the night, taking “a moonbath” and scandalizing the neighbors.


new work, studio visit, paris, 2000–2003

of course i fell in love with her before i met her, and then fell under her magnetism, her generosity, her lovely crooked smile and self-deprecating humor, and her obvious, but well-hidden delight at being loved for her art when we finally met that first journeyman year of my art career. she had a way of touching you, physically touching you while in conversation that included you in her fantasies and droll humor, as if you were her compatriot in bohemia, the jangle of her heavy north african jewelry (she had a home on the spanish island of mallorca, a family home where she had been when she met robert and beryl graves as a teenager–the white goddess of graves’s poetry theoretics) an undercurrent to the liberation of spirit that bohemia promises to the staid, the square, the suppressed.

after that first meeting, we saw each other almost yearly until the early ’90s, after which my career trajectory changed, but we continued to stay in touch, exchanging holiday greetings (oh, how we looked forward to our card from judith, always hand-made, with her decorated envelopes and loose-handed script scrawled from side to the other–a card from paris!) and quarterly phone calls to get caught up on gossip, art, life, loves, the troubles and triumphs of our lives. we grew closer.

later in that decade, the opportunity came for our careers to cross again, and out to california she came, her doting fans congregating at galleries, restaurants, museums, and our homes. she and i drove down the coast one day and it is a drive i’ll remember more for what wasn’t said than what was, although the life experiences she shared with me were reassuring in their “it happens to all of us” familiarity. it was  watching her look at the passing ocean, the open chaparral, a wistfulness and quietness that settled over her that i’d not seen in her before that has stuck with me all these years later.

she loved liberally and late in life found a soul mate in a russian emigré, sergei, a portrait of whom graces a wall of our home today not unlike the one of him at the top of the three paintings posted here. up until about a year ago, our phone conversations continued to be filled with remembrances, and who, what, when, where. about six months ago when we spoke there was a noticeable disconnect in her voice; she was pleasant, but was complaining that her children “had hired someone to get her from one place to another” which she did not like at all and that they were there now, “cleaning up my apartment” (which of course, more than likely needed it, house-keeping not her ‘thing’), she signed off with a distracted au revoir.

a week ago, a mutual friend of ours called and told me she’d heard that judith had died. a friend and collector of judith’s work had told her he’d seen it on another gallery’s website. i contacted them for details, but they only said they’d forward my message to her children. i wrote to the son using the email address i have, no response; we called her home, no answer, just eerily her recording, “c’est judith. je ne suis pas là…”

ciao, judith, je t’aime.

judith passed 17 february 2013. she would have been 85 this year.


ocean view (and responsibility)


when a public figure dies, regardless of the reach of their renown, what responsibility does the family have to report their passing? everyone handles death in different ways, but if you knew that your parent, let’s say, had a “fan base”, even if you, as their child, were unfamiliar with the reach and depth of such a base, wouldn’t you feel a certain responsibility to let those other, non-family members know of your parent’s death, either through a published obituary or a notice on their website?

you, whether mate lover brother cousin, may have no idea how deep the ties of friendship run with those outside your own relationship with the deceased. i don’t know what the relationship may have been with the one person i’m speaking about with their children, but the silence from their family makes me sad.


day for night (notes on gun ownership)

you may have heard on the news that there is an ex-los angeles police officer on a murderous rampage in southern california. he has killed the daughter of his defense attorney and her fiance as well as another police officer and wounded his partner. authorities found his burned out pick-up truck in a snowy field in the san bernardino mountains near the resort town of big bear. his footprints lead away from the truck and disappear into the snow. he is armed and extremely dangerous. on his facebook page is a manifesto (the news reporters and the police are calling it that) that lists all of the people he plans on killing. this has been going on now for several days and he has yet to be found and apprehended.


i don’t live near the san bernardino mountains, but they are just a couple hours drive from my home. when i got home last night i did say to m. that the fear this marauder evokes makes me seriously consider owning a gun. are you shocked by that statement? if you knew me, you would be. i know i am.

there was a .22 rifle propped up by mother’s bed for many years when i was growing up and she was a single mother. when mary lived with us and later with her last husband, roy, there were always guns in the house. we went hunting every year, if not always for deer, then ducks, grouse, pheasants beware. i did not like shooting living things and voiced my opinion to the adults in my life about how cruel i thought it was. they ignored me.

i was taught to load and fire a rifle and a shotgun. my uncle would take me and my cousin out into the countryside to shoot at tin cans or to go skeet shooting. once i was old enough to stay at home by myself i no longer went on hunting trips because of how much it sickened me. i am an anti-war, anti-killing, anti-gun bleeding heart liberal.

until last night. when you look around your home; there lies your napping dogs, your loved ones, all that you’ve worked for all your life, the trappings of comfort and family and to think that one crazed individual could end that so easily frightens me deeply. my house may be my castle, but it is not my fortress. it is mostly glass and so easily entered to be ridiculous. i cannot imagine how fearful the residents of the big bear area must be.

and i want a gun. m. agrees. “just for an emergency,” he said last night as he struggled to get up from the couch to greet me when i got home and expressed my fears.

we will not own a gun. the fact remains, though, that we have considered it and at a gut level understand why someone else may want to have one, “just in case of an emergency.” that seems a valid reason to me this morning as i hear the wind whip up the canyon, brushing past the rose bushes and wiping the windows with its cool touch.


a week of first paragraphs (the end), friday


I’m beginning this book on All Saints’ Day in Paris, six months after Brice’s death. This morning I went with Brice’s brother and his brother’s lover to the Père Lachaise cemetery to leave some flowers before the white marble plaque that marks the niche where Brice’s ashes are stored in an urn. At first there wasn’t a receptacle for flowers and we’d just leave them on the cold floor, where they’d quickly wilt. But then someone–the Spanish woman who cleaned for us once a week, perhaps–attached a little brass vase to the plaque, and that’s where we put the flowers now. Today I left yellow fressias. Someone had Scotchtaped the photo of a young man to Brice’s plaque and I wondered if it was a secret admirer who’d left his own portrait; retrospectively I was jealous. Maybe it was a photo of one of the other dead young men that had been taped to our plaque by mistake.

–Edmund White, The Farewell Symphony


world a.i.d.s. day 2012



death comes to beverly hills (not written by p.d. james)

my dear friend, charlotte fisher, died yesterday at 91, just a month shy of her 92nd birthday. she’ll be flown home to providence to lay next to her family, including her son, paul, who pre-deceased her. i wrote this post on february 11th of this year before we drove up to beverly hills to see her (the same day that whitney houston was found dead in her bathtub.)

i will always love you, charlotte.

this little lady will be 92 this september.  if she makes that date it will anger her as she’s been trying to die now for the past several months.  cedars sinai hospital recently kicked her out because, as her doctor said, “she just won’t die.”  typical of her really.  she’s always been a contrary soul.  “charlotte,” you might say, “isn’t it a beautiful day?” and she’d reply, “why, robert, it’s pitch black out.”  and then you’d spend several hours debating your position (if you had the wherewithal to last that long, her stamina is/was legendary.)

she lives in beverly hills; m. & i are driving up to see her today, a farewell visit, if you must.  i’ve known her longer than i’ve been with m.—which is quite a long time.  she hired me at the first art gallery i worked for in chicago.  i like to think that i learned the art of selling art from her.  which is mostly a true statement for to watch her with a collector (newbie or seasoned) was to watch a master at work.

we were quite the team; me 6’4” and she just shy of 5’.  she, with her beantown honk and me with my flat midwestern drawl; she was manipulative and sly, i, well, i’m a bit of an open book, but we clicked.  we filled in where the other might fall down; she smart and funny, so quick with a riposte, so silkily delivered you wouldn’t know you were bleeding until you hit the street (having just spent several thousand dollars).  her collectors were fiercely loyal (we joked that we should hang a sign out in front of the gallery when she was there that read, “the doctor is in”), because these lost souls would come in, sit down at her green onyx-topped, cruise-ship-sized antique desk, spill their guts, hand her a check and leave with a work of art.  it seemed a fair trade.

at the same time, she was impossible to work with: that slyness manifested itself in peculiar ways and after several years it became obvious to the gallery owners that if we (both valued employees) were to continue, something would have to change. i had by that time, expressed my displeasure with the status quo; she had the opportunity, after the death of a cousin from whom she inherited a considerable pile of money and a home in beverly hills, to move to our sister gallery on beverly drive, just south of santa monica blvd.  i took over the operation of the chicago gallery.  we stopped talking.

and then in 1997 we picked up where we left off, as if nothing had ever come between us.  she had retired, i had moved to another art business, we had a mutual friend whom we both adored (besides, she had always adored m.).  we spent vacations together in carmel, we lunched and shopped and giggled and yes, debated whether it was night or day.  we always said, “i love you” when we parted (irl or on the phone).

today’s trip is going to be hard to bear, but necessary.  i’m feeling a little weepy already as i type this; our mutual friend who has been helping her throughout her dotage has said we should steel ourselves.  charlotte wants for nothing now except she will not die and it’s aggravating her.  she’s begged her friends to kill her, but who among us could do that?  she joked (we think) that we should have her son come out and do the deed, but we’re afraid he would (truly.)

time to say goodbye, farewell, bon voyage, let go, i love you.


flowers, art, and death

this morning when the alarm rang it woke me up in the middle of a dream that i was robert motherwell’s studio assistant/biographer (last night before i fell asleep i had been reading about richard ellman, james joyce’s and oscar wilde’s biographer) and motherwell was finishing one of his monumental black and white paintings and it was all black except for at the very right edge where the black overlapped a block of white that had been painted to look like the edge of a sheet of deckled paper laid over a narrow section of black, and as that was revealed to me, i said, “that bastard.”

i assign no meaning to the above paragraph.

i am a compulsive obituaries reader. today, there was a lengthy paid obit about the life and times of a 94 year-old man. one paragraph, as they are, was devoted to his survivors and those who had predeceased him. those who had gone before were a sister and a son, ronald. then the list of survivors began, it included his second (loving) wife, children from both marriages and their spouses, grandchildren (11) and great-grandchildren (unnamed, but numbered, there were 18), [numerous] nieces, nephews (one named kieron, singled out for some reason), and the coup de grace: peter paul rubens (not his real name), the deceased’s son’s partner (italics mine).

i thought that was sweet, charming, progressive, and a sign, perhaps, that even in death, love is universal.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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