Posts Tagged ‘friends


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.


world a.i.d.s. day 2012



typeface (i can’t remember)

these seventeen typefaces belonged to a dear friend who was my first close friend to die of AIDS back in the 1980s.

unlike other mementos of his life that i have (a pot, a photograph), these have never held any meaning for me. i can’t remember where he displayed them or if he even did. i can’t remember him saying, “those were my _____ ‘s,” or “_____ gave them to me when we first fell in love.” none of them are his initial, nor those of any of his circle of friends — most of whom were also part of my circle (a venn diagram, obvsly.)

but yet, i’ve packed and unpacked them over several decades and several homes. most of the time they’ve resided in a drawer with other “important” things: my naturalization papers, my german birth certificate and passport, my adoption papers, a rubber stamp that quotes andy warhol, “art is anything you can get away with,” my collection of address books dating back to 197_ (in case i ever need to call someone i slept with, but no longer remember, as if…), postcards from friends and lovers, notes from my mother on 3 x 5 cards; the fallen leaves of my fall.

i just can’t remember.


plumeria (and disappointing phone conversations)

stored in a shoebox there is a letter from my mother that reads in part: “i am writing to you after our disappointing phone call today to let you know…” (at one time in the not too distant past, people used to write letters to each other — on paper — address an envelope and stamp it, mail it using the united states post office — no one called it the postal service — i’ve kept a lot of these letters, not just from my mother, but from my friends and relatives as well. they’ll never be published, you know, as “robert patrick: letters 197_ to 198_”, but they do give a little insight to what was happening in my life at the time.)

but back to “disappointing phone calls”: i had two yesterday. one with a friend who lives in paris and the other with a friend in chicago. it wasn’t until i had hung up with my friend in paris that i realized something was wrong; i’m not sure she knew who she was speaking with…she is elderly, and she admitted that her children had arranged for people to come and check up on her every day and get here and there and back again. when i asked if she’d been painting, she replied, “not for at least a year now.” which saddened me as there wasn’t a time that i’ve known her when she wasn’t in the middle of some revelation, breakthrough, new insight, and applying the news in paint on canvas/paper/tennis shoes. that’s 31 years of creating and that’s just the time i’ve known her. when i shared the news i had of two recent deaths of people she knew, she seemed disinterested, cold even.

and so, when i hung up, i realized that she sounded not unlike my uncle who has alzheimer’s…relatively reasonable about “how he’s doing”, but a little hollow and perfunctory, as if he were being polite to a stranger. <sigh>

the other phone call was with a friend whom i’ve know for as long as my painter friend in paris. this one still in chicago and struggling financially, still in her home, but barely, working two jobs, going without electricity one month, gas the next, or some other important daily necessity just to make that mortgage payment. i relayed my news, but she would not let me get a word in — her diatribe relentless (relentless diatribe = redundant, but true) and off-putting, for what was i to do, but listen and murmur agreement? finally, i said “i love you, but i have to go now.” and she quieted down and we parted–still friends, still sharing, still suffering.


agapantha (and memory exhaustion)

I had no idea it would make me this tired.

at a certain age, let’s say mine for instance, if you stop for just the briefest moment and contemplate all that has come before; the nap in kindergarten on the rag rug, the beret in germany, the leash your mother used to keep you close by when you were a toddler, the smell of your father coming home from the post, having your faced buried in your grandmother’s bosom as she hugged you tight, learning to read, the triumph of an ‘a’, the infatuation of a third-grader for his teacher, the smell of jurgens lotion (chocolate covered-cherries), petey bird  pepper cuddles charlie brown, boy scouts, boys club, big brothers, boys state, secret crushes, snapping sherry’s training bra in 6th grade, disappointing mr. robinson in 8th grade, “petunias never cry in an onion patch”, being teased for your femininity-your ‘otherness’, being beat up, playing the cello piano recorder (none that well), not being able to carry a tune–but so desperately wanting to, your first play, the laughter of the audience–the laughter you caused, applause, straight ‘a’s, your secret boy crushes, your sexual experiments with the neighbor boy your age, your mother, mary, grandparents, uncle, aunts, the sissies, learning to drive, that red pick-up and then the ‘mud queen’, a sort-of-girlfriend, the lack of caring when it failed, college, getting drunk, smoking a joint, french class, theatre, train trips, minnesota winters, sugar beet processing plants, acid trips, making out with girls (and boys), communal showers, dancing, ballet, modern, isadora duncan, chicago, your first blow-job, the goodman, friendships that start sticking, trips home as an adult, going it alone, roommates, apartment living, moving, helping friends move–the piano in the stairwell debacle, a cubs game, the ‘el’, an erection on the 22, black girls with transistor radios blaring, walking home during the day, late at night, the first taste of chicago, summers, winters, falls, springs, waiting tables, lenny, jimmy, john, michael, lee, mr. king the salad queen, michel, arnie, klaus, bill, toni, the pakistani contingent, the fat fuck of a maitre d’ whose name i can never remember until i’m away from writing materials, but whose face and handlebar mustache and grasping hands and leering eyes–little piggy eyes–i can recall clearly, punchinello’s, turtle soup, pudgie, le pub, disco, the hustle, polyester and bell-bottoms, boyfriends–most of them i remember, some have slipped the knots and run away from my grasping need to document every little fuck-and-suck, the thief, the priest, the cellist, and his lover, red high-tops, drinking wine at l’escargot, getting picked up on michigan avenue by my lasalle street banker, lovers who liked to watch from a cracked door, holidays and birthdays, celebrating, drinking (i know i mentioned that before, but it bears repeating), making ‘herbal’ tea out of stems and seeds of the last of the bag of marijuana, smoking cigarettes–kools, marlboros, merits, benson & hedges, camels, gitanes, espresso, lemon rind, miller beer, and asti-spumante, laura nyro, joni mitchell, labelle, and joan, i’m sure there are others, but what do you care?, and i’m not even 28 yet; uptown, downtown, mid-town, and soho, the meat-packing district, the mudd club–my punk phase (only because the boys were cute…and easy), black flagg, henry rollins (lust), the russians, the french, the english, i claudius, violet and wally, 4 flights of stairs, despair and the agony of loss, euphoria, the manic-depression of going nowhere (fast), 29; you may find yourself dead-tired.

p.s. his name is gerard, the maitre d’ whose name i can never recall–it came to me in the shower just now and even though i had no writing materials at hand…i managed to make it through washing my hair, peach scrub my face, body wash, stand under the rainshower head and stare off into space, dry myself off, open the door to let the steam out, shave, moisturize (what? you don’t?), dress, and get to the computer with his name still on my lips. i guess i’m not that tired after all.


the subject was a rose (a conversation among friends of this blog’s author)

“oh, there he goes again,” declares one, “another fricking photograph of some rose he can’t even identify properly–stuck right into our noses, like he wants to rub our faces in it.”

“he’s just so confrontational.”  sighs another.

“what’s to be done?” laments a third.

“well, it’s obvious we must do something.  perhaps an intervention?” suggests his _________, without crossing the _______/patient confidentiality line.

“is there a cure?  i didn’t realize that there was any help for this, this disease,” whispers his _________ eerily from the great beyond.  (yes, they’re psychic too.)

“you know, we could blame you, after all you were the one that set him on this path of self-___________,” retorted the _________.

“you have a lot of room to talk, mister, why i’ve half a mind to give you a good spanking.  except why should i give you the pleasure?” the ghost of his _______ rejoins.

“people, people, please.  let’s not turn this into a blame game,” says his most ardent admirer, “we’re here to solve the problem of his constant posting of photos of flowers–it’s really just too too much to bear; to watch him suffer so, the constant photo-taking at the slightest sight of a bloom, the time spent adjusting and manipulating the photograph afterwards, his posting of the images hither and yon; it’s all quite out of hand.”

“short of taking his camera and his phone from him what are we to do?  aren’t you afraid that he might crack if he were to quit cold turkey?  that we might not ever have our dear, dear friend robert, as we know and love him now, back again?” cried an online acquaintance who had, up ’til now, remained quiet, standing at the back of the crowd.  [author’s note: the use of the word ‘crowd’, of course, is wish-fulfillment at its most pathetic.  mea culpa.]

“there may be nothing we can do, really,” said a more reasoned voice, “shouldn’t we just let him do as he pleases?  what harm is there in his sharing the beauty he sees around him, after all?  i think you’re all quite silly. let’s take a watch-and-wait attitude and enjoy what he gives us without questioning his motives or his sanity.”

everyone concurred, sipped their coffees, picked up their bags, and went on about their lives.


saturday (a flower a day, parenthetically)

the week began with the yellow rose and the week ends with the yellow rose, but from a slightly different angle; parentheses to this week of flowers.

it can’t be easy accepting that death has come for you.  some may respond with a sigh, others with a shout of rage, many may just expire (that final use-by date having passed.)  when the doctors shrug and say, “there’s nothing more we can do, we’ll have to release her to home care, it’s time for her to die,” (“,but she won’t” is the unspoken part of their bedside homily), you bundle her up and bring her home — without much expectation that she will agree to do as she should and let go.  (i don’t mean to sound cruel, but i hope when it’s time for me to die, that i’ll accept it with some equanimity and not struggle against the inevitable.)

this is where we find a friend of ours, at the threshold of dying, refusing to step over and disappear behind that door.   it’s not that we wish she’d die, or even want her to, but the quality of her life in these last couple of years (she’s over 90) has deteriorated and her last hospital stay (a month!) was mostly comatose, a feeding tube, ivs, and monitors all a-beep.

complicating her passing, at least from our point of view, is her avaricious son, and whether or not the rest of this statement is fair, has expressed his disdain for her life and his desire for what she’s leaving him is more important than the time she has left.

if we were to look back at their relationship, as little as we know, it has been ever so.  he rarely acknowledged any love for her, showing up with his hand out, on which she would lay a golden check, and without a thank-you, he’d be out the door.  then she’d turn on us (we worked together) and the next few days would be filled with her anger and disappointment filtered through manipulation and despair at this failure.

we were too circumspect (and respectful of other people’s lives) to ask what had happened that she would have a son who loved her so little.   (at this time, there was another son, her obvious favorite, the youngest, the one she lavished her affection on, and in his way returned–although the transfer of money was also an integral part of their relationship.  her great loss was his death in a motorcycle accident, leaving her with the ungrateful and cruel older son as her legacy.)

our working relationship deteriorated over time until she moved away and we stopped talking, for a decade or more, until in some odd twist of fate (aren’t they all odd?) we came back together through a mutual friend.  and since then (with an exception, which i’ll get to) we have had a most wonderful relationship with her.  she, as she’s always been, is sharp-witted, sharp-tongued (in a funny, pointed way), highly intelligent, well-read, au courant, artistic and a delight to be around.  she turned out to be more generous than she had been and her circle of friends adored her.

however she has been particularly cruel to her closest friend, the one who has helped her the most in her declining years, the one who loves her the most of all her friends, the one the rest of us defer to in the matters of her health and well-being.  if this object of her derision and abuse were any less loving a friend, there would be no doubt that she would have died much sooner, for her son (who lives in another city) does not care at all what happens to her.

it comes as no surprise that she is angry.  it hurts us that she is being so cruel to her one dear friend.  what, though, can be done?  all that we can do is shower her with love and stand by her, and hope that she’ll accept our love with grace and at last find the strength and the peace to let go of this life.



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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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