Martha King

Perils of Archiving…part 1

Odd things do surface when one embarks on archiving (and cleaning out) files that have been sitting in untouched splendor. This is an orphaned unnumbered page from my never finished detective novel, Max Sees Red, circa 1978. Max, my protagonist, is driving upstate to rescue his friend Robby ….

This is me.

This is me.

Robby that son of a bitch, he’s too nervous to know what’s good for him, he’s had it too easy, going from oil to oil. It’s been nothing but one straight line for him starting with his home and school and now writing his books. 

 Sweet Robby, if you only knew dirt under your fingers from hard work and not just because you can’t be bothered to wash your hands.  You know, Robby, my father’s hands were always dirty when he came home from the plant and he was always washing them and washing them. Planted permanently in his palm was the dirt of making thousands of Dodge cars. I said to myself, there’s got to be another way.  So what do I end up doing? Shit, I end up a painter. Color and oil under my fingernails all the time.  Goes to show ya, you can’t travel too far.  Yah, no assembly line for me I says, so now I got my quota.  Twenty paintings a year or else.  Boy, that was a good curve, slow and easy like they say. 

Those impressionists don’t know how lucky they were.  First the tube of paint get invented and they are able to get outside. Who has the time now? You got to have a lot of time to get an impression of something.   Wonder what would have happened if the car had been invented before the tube of paint.  No Monet.  It sure could have fucked things up. Or maybe not.  Maybe we would have come to it another way – that the boot is as important as the tree…. 

Renoir never did like the way Matisse used black.  Renoir, the sunshine kid, eh? He was the John Denver of his day.  What a sight Renoir and Cezanne spending an afternoon in a porno parlor.  Renoir knowing it all, Cezanne uptight, paranoid, but really digging it. Oh yes, this is your territory, your scene Cezanne. I can see you right behind that big rock all excited and letting those “little sensations” get to you and turn all the frustrations that you couldn’t shake off to color to shape a wonder.

 Max, you romantic ass, next thing you’ll be voting and teaching school.  Be sensible and get back to asses and tits and straight lines and drive. 

This is Basil King's painting, "AFTER Monet." (Dyptich, mixed media on  masonite.)

This is Basil King’s painting, “AFTER Monet.”
(Dyptich, mixed media on masonite.)

Martha King

Earrings by Kirin!

SUNDAY – July 6 – Unique Earrings  

326A 4th Street, Brooklyn

Between 6th and 5th Avenues (on your way to the Farmers Market on 5th)

earrings-3 earrings-4

A collection of handmade individually designed Swarkovski crystal earrings

One-of-a-kind designs by Kirin and Sansana Sawasdiskosol*


* Yes, this is my grandson Kirin, with some designs by his father Sansana! Kirin Sawasdikosol

ART Basil King Martha King

Baz does “Windows”

Baz does Windows!

From "Windows" - mixed media on Stonehenge paper, cBasil King, 2014

From “Windows” – mixed media on Stonehenge paper, cBasil King, 2014

This new series, called Windows, of mixed media on Stonehenge paper (all 40 inches x 26 inches ) and two diptych paintings (mixed media on canvas, combined dimensions 56 inches x 42 inches) testify to some variation of that old song:  “Don’t cry for me dear Abstraction…the truth is I never left you….”     But his abstraction did morph and recombine and even now reappears.

The full album is on Flickr at

Basil King Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside)

A New York Birthday–with Cops and Hot Dogs

Hetty arrived in mid-summer.  Basil’s parents had taken our daughter Mallory out to Long Island where Esther (her grandmother) and some of her relatives could dote on Mallory while we waited on Second Avenue to deliver her sib. We two had gone up the street for Chinese food to celebrate and late that night it took me more than a few minutes on the toilet to recognize that this was a baby coming, not over-indulgence in hot Schezwan. Yike. But Baz was a tower of calmness. He proceeded to shave, shave!  while I was barely able to pull on some clothing.  “I mean it. The baby’s coming!” I gasped.

Second Avenue in the 1960s.

Second Avenue in the 1960s.

A fellow park mother and good friend who lived on Great Jones Street had an actual car, a rarity among our friends, and had offered me something priceless.  “Call,” Delores said.  “Anytime. You know how taxis are.”

“Not in my cab, lady” canny drivers were likely to calculate when waved at by a very pregnant woman and a young man holding that tell-tale overnight bag.  Baz woke Delores up. He might have been sure we had loads of time, but Delores took one look at me as we got in the car and gunned her engine.  It was not quite dawn. By this time, Baz got it. Not one of the three of us realized we were going the wrong way on Second Avenue—uptown not downtown—until a cop car with siren pulled us over. “There’s a woman in here having a baby,” Dolores managed.  It was sweet. “Follow us,” the lead cop said. We had a police escort all the rest of the way up to New York Hospital and no ticket, and not even a scolding. Dolores, still in her nightgown, drove home.

A little later was sweet for Baz too.  He no sooner arrived in the tension-drenched ‘father’s waiting room’ than he was paged.  The haggard dads-to-be glared as he rushed out. And there she was: perfect and plump, with a mop of black curls, and looking so like her father I wanted to pencil on a little mustache.

After seeing me settle down for sleep, Baz walked all the way from 72nd Street and the East River to West 42nd Street. It was a glorious summer day and at Grant’s Cafeteria, a now long-gone landmark, piles of the best hot dogs, a raw bar with clams and oysters, huge cold pickles, and tubs of spicy yellow mustard, waited. A camera crew was there, shooting something. B roll? A documentary? Baz happily signed a release, he told me, and the crew treated him to dogs while they filmed. So somewhere, maybe still, there’s film of Basil King welcoming his daughter Hetty on July 10, 1964.

Hetty this spring at the warehouse where materials for New York City dance teachers are offered free by Capezio  Ballet Makers and others.  See the website for Friends of Materials for the Arts.  Hetty teaches dance to New York kids, preK to 5th Grade. (The photo was not credited.)

Hetty this spring at the warehouse where materials for New York City dance teachers are offered free by Capezio Ballet Makers. See
the website for Friends of Materials for the Arts. Hetty teaches dance to New York kids, preK to 5th Grade.
(The photo was not credited.)




ART Basil King Martha King

More new art from Baz


Birds in Basil's studio...

Birds in Basil’s studio…

 The Birds Arrive, which started November/December 2013 and is  continuing…There are now 24 images. All © Basil King, 2013-14.

Pigeons in Delacroix’s Garden!   Nine of ten new works on paper, from this spring.  All © Basil King, 2014.

A new series, Windows, containing two new paintings (both diptychs) and eight works on paper.    All © Basil King, 2014.

One of the "Windows" graphics--mixed media on paper

One of the “Windows” graphics–mixed media on paper

Gemini I - mixed media on canvas, diptych, Basil King, 2014

Gemini I – mixed media on canvas, diptych, Basil King, 2014

Should you want to see even more, visit Flickr, King New333, for a photostream of over 200 images.


ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Green Man Martha King Prose Writing

Old files! Fielding Dawson on Basil King

Cleaning closet and old files, and here emerges a pamphlet with text on Basil’s art by Fielding Dawson, written twenty-five years ago. The pamphlet accompanied  “Paintings from the Cards,” an exhibition of Basil King’s work at Steve Clay’s first New York City shop, Granary Books, 636 Broadway—September 21-October 20, 1989.

There were eleven paintings in the show, all oil on canvas, all done between 1985 and 89, and none captured by digital photographs. There are slides. And the paintings themselves are in storage at Crozier Newark.

Twenty-five years ago, Fielding (and Basil) attributed his angle of vision to a birth accident – as once again we’re doing in re Baz’s spinal-fluid gap (aka salt water ocean) in his right brain – and the amazing overgrowth of  his left brain.

Good to know that today’s neuroscientists have debunked the old left brain/right brain dichotomy. (Left being intuitive, inventive, open to the subconscious and Right being bookkeeper, analyst, grammarian, mathematician.) Instead it’s rosy grey all over with many ways and means to cross talk.

None of that is as interesting as the insight Fielding had on Baz’s paintings which holds up years after Fee left us.  AND in language with punctuation that uncannily captures Fee’s unique vocal presence. It’s as if Fee himself emerged out of that old filing cabinet.  Scroll down for Fee’s essay!

Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his  "Looking for the Green Man"  paintings, 2012.

Baz in his studio. Just behind is one of his “Looking for the Green Man” paintings, 2012.


Looking for the Green Man,  80"x 54: mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010

Another “Looking for the Green Man,” 80″x 54″ mixed media on canvas, Basil King, 2010


New work  18" x 24" mixed media on Stonehenge paper, Basil King,  2013

From the “Windows” series – 18″ x 24″ mixed media on Stonehenge paper, c Basil King, 2013


On Basil King’s Paintings   –   Fielding Dawson

Early work, in an artist’s life, is predictive.

Later, mature work, is reflective, in particular if it’s original.

It is in retrospect we see first clues to the genius of Pollock in that first, small self portrait…more of the same, but as none other, of Mozart, in his first symphony, written at eight, which we hear throughout the piano concertos and in the final work of work, the unfinished Requiem.

And once in a while we’re lucky to have a mature and original artist whose most recent work reflects not only the entire body of his work, but himself as well.  I’ve known Basil since we met at Black Mountain, 1951 or so, so these words are from experience, as well as ideas.

His work is meant to be seen before it is judged, just like Van Gogh’s. Or Soutine. Look at it, see what you see. This work speaks its own story because it’s involved with style.  The way paint is applied is the style of his visions (not true of dozens of painters, from Hals to Rothko: where paint is the medium toward impact).  Basil’s figures are painted on, they do not emerge through. He’s an illustrator after appearances, illustrating what he wants but we might not want, to see.  This work reflects his point of view his way:  he’s the artist, not the apologist.

The responsibility of seeing art is also in the viewer, and here—perhaps as always—to forget Rembrandt and look at Rembrandt’s work, see what you see, if we forget about who painted these paintings, and concentrate on the work, a good understanding is possible.

These odd diffuse presences, on their flat netherworld surfaces: classical shades near the River Styx, silent in their infinite, in part Surreal elongations and distortions—bodies unlike familiar bodies, heads unlike familiar heads, faces and expressions unlike oh ANYTHING as we know it!   For in our Western world it all becomes subjective, while pretty still lifes and landscape posters from the Met and the Louvre, like advertising not an inherent part of our lives, but like Impressionism in clever hands, are preferred, attractive and recognizable, these even beautiful images we imagine are part, perhaps denied, but part of our lives, in an inner, romantic way.  Beauty as inner experience, preferred and enjoyable we wish—WISH! DREAM it to be imbued in us which thereby we pray it becomes REAL, and we do pray.  A subjective prayer toward what the media and the cultured art world have assumed is proper, and nice.

We don’t know how brainwashed we are until we see original work like this, that reaches in, grabs hold, and gives our senses a good rattle.

No matter what we do with it, art was, is and will never be any one way.  It is the one experience of humankind where all the rules can be broken and it will survive, healthy and of its own, intact. And, like nature, it reflects the artist by casting in its reflective way light on aspects of a potential sphere of action many are not aware of, or are aren’t sure…if all things are taken into consideration—brushstroke, size of canvas—all things (his awareness of the edge of the canvas), open all the doors (all his colors appear mixed no use of the primaries), and the artist—with an interested onlooker only an elbow away—will see the inevitable image or composition that is beyond his control but is yet a great part of his life, which so few artists admit:  this other face, or image—identity, that so few painters confront but is such a part of the dynamo…in his concoction where behind his eyes a blend results in a visual transfer of identity to emerge complete with a point of view not unlike, if we put aside Stevenson’s theatrical lab work, born all over again:  Mister Hyde the artist.

Who might regard these paintings as the result of a collective Eyes Closed effort, a stylized pictorial range of human shapes and configurations ignored, if not avoided, but which are with us still and in great numbers there, in Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, so near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, in the blood of Agent Orange children painted through, not from, right through Ethan Allen interiors: through the false color of color television: on opaque backgrounds, foreground image-figures, cartoons, alive by a will greater than their own.

The artist possessor of that will discovered of recent (how old is Basil, fifty-four?), and in conversation in his studio this summer, said that after lifelong upper back problems—causing a slight difference in posture—he saw yet one more in an endless chain of doctors who, with his hands on Basil’s back, asked, had Basil been born in Caesarian birth?  Yes.  Well, this medical gentleman said, he had been lifted out at the wrong angle, causing the spine…on the first day in the world, of the man who painted these paintings.

Fielding Dawson,well-known for his superb short stories, novels and memoirs, is an artist as well, whose collages and drawings have been widely published.




ART Basil King Poetry Writing

Basil’s Brain

Because Basil’s right-side weakness is getting worse, I persuaded him to see a neurologist. His first neurology visit since teenage episodes of seizures that stopped well before he went to Black Mountain in the 50s. And well before there even were MRIs.

Unknown miniaturist, England, c. 1300.  Thank you, Wiki Commons.

Unknown miniaturist, England, c. 1300. Thank you, Wiki Commons.

He had an MRI a few weeks ago and my jaw dropped when the doc showed us the image:  On the right side is a large dark spot, signifying nothing. Meaning there is nothing there, nothing but spinal fluid.  It’s big: 4.9 x 2.8 x 5.2 cm, which I translate to about a third of the right half. In the area of the parietal lobe mostly. Either gone or never was. The doc speculated a prenatal stroke or, more likely, as Baz was told of birth injury by his parents, caused by a critical oxygen loss during his delivery by Cesarean.

Important to stress: this big black nothing is called an arachnoid cyst; it’s benign and stable. Been there all his life. Alas, the increasing weakness turns out to be just old age and the remedy is the same as it is for everyone: just keep on going on. The nerve damage caused by the cyst is responsible for symptoms Baz has had all his life: a weak underdeveloped right side, a twitchy right hand, a slightly lopsided gait. For most of his life he finessed the gait thing. Only people who were very attentive, usually people with some impairment of their own, ever noticed his right foot moves like a hockey stick. These days, it is further hidden because he uses a cane. The cane goes with his white beard and gets him seats on the subway.

There are some other things the cyst might have caused, but it didn’t.

In a way the biggest effect besides the physical ones is the feeling Baz has had all his life — that something in him is off.  What a difference it might have made if we’d both known there IS something off. Something as tangible as a big nothing where brain should be.

On the morning before seeing his MRI he wrote this first stanza:  all the rest followed in the days since then:

Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
Stonehenge Easter Island
The stones the hand of a loved one
Light persists and goes unanswered
Brevity mothers the pearl
And the pearl Eiffels and towers
The Sistine ceiling fingers a man
Transported to Grand Central Station
He says he has never been to North America
He is from South America and he has never
Seen the sky depicted incorrectly * 
 Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he and his brothers never
Wanted anything to do with Spain
He says the women didn’t like
The Spanish beard their unwashed bodies
He says he knows that half of
The right side of my brain is filled
With spinal fluid and I was deprived
Of air at birth mother of pearl
Did you know and never tell me
The left hand never tells
The right hand what it is doing
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he wants to walk with me
I walk the city ride the Metro
And I am given a seat
I have a white beard
A cane when I sleep I dream of
Incandescent bulbs the cook serves
Two eggs hash browns coffee
A good friend once said
I’ll take the literary world
You take the art world
I didn’t and art never thanked me
People who have been picked on
Think they have the right to say
My survival is all there is
And fuck everybody else 
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he doesn’t understand my paintings
He says I put too much into them
He says Muscles and Triangles are incompatible 
He says I create a disturbance when
I want to put my hand inside of you
For Love I want to squeeze your heart
Nostrils lips falling rain
A vertical arm angers my memory
And I draw organic shapes diverse eyes
Mathematics elongates the face
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
*From Wikipedia - On the ceiling of Grand Central Station
 “Orion is correctly and beautifully rendered, but the adjacent constellations Taurus and Gemini are reversed both internally and in their relation to Orion, with Taurus near Orion’s raised arm where Gemini should be. One possible explanation is that the overall ceiling design might have been based on the medieval custom of depicting the sky as it would appear to God looking in at the celestial sphere from outside, but that would have reversed Orion as well. A more likely explanation is partially mistaken transcription of the sketch supplied by Columbia Astronomy professor Harold Jacoby. Though the astronomical inconsistencies were noticed promptly by a commuter in 1913, they have not been corrected in any of the subsequent renovations of the ceiling.”
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
I bought a new sketchbook the other day
Clean pages Constable was right
The clouds in England are lower than the clouds
In America in America we have a Blue Sky no clouds
No interruption but the continental flight
Of linear men Oh, Mother of pearl
I am an artist a voyeur
I watch society men and women
In Grand Central Station
Pigeons dressed in their best
Reimburse the stars
Asparagus there is more
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he knows my nature is unpredictable
Spring summer fall and winter
The black hole in my head
Can’t be allowed to possess
The figure that fulfils intention
My hand dipped in ink
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he knows what is best for me
I should take my vitamins the A B C’s
Of health is not to indulge
But what if compromise forfeits passion
Grey between black and white
Tables engraved lines banisters
A plate a glass a knife and fork
A full set of teeth this stew
Needs onions carrots herbs
Measure the ancient crime
The disaster of knowing
The abused

                                Basil King, April 2014


ART Critique Exhibitions Martha King

Jasper Johns at MOMA


Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic. 27 1/2 × 36" (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson

Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic. 27 1/2 × 36″ (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson

First, take your time.

A large painting hangs dead center in the first room of this exhibit.  Dimensions aren’t given on the wall sign, but the press kit lists 67” x 96”.  This painting is central and all the other works dance in variating attendance on it, playing off and playing with it. It’s a stopper. Not just the deaths head in the upper middle, but as you look, the two women, the haunted magician, the grimacing masks, the wings, the eggs, the northern shivering lake — and these are what I saw in just a few minutes in just one visit, and just in the central middle top of the great “Regrets” 2013.

Take your time.  Johns paints what we don’t see – exactly what Barry Schwabsky once said to Basil King about Basil’s work.

When we arrived a serious young man was seated on the bench facing this painting, writing rapidly in a small notebook.

Johns has the authority to demand his viewers take the time.  The one-hit wowser, illuminating or titillating, is somewhere else at MOMA.  In here, grays in quietly manic variety, via quietly grey inks, water colors, pencils, chalks, charcoals, here color gets a quick laugh, but there is always more.  Blotches, scratches, hatching.  Delicate precision lines and wide swatches of splash. Paper. Plastic. Canvas.

Neckties • villages • aerial views of suburb landscapes • windows • rooftops • Swift changes of proportion • huge chairs and a bed • tiny dark boxes • glinting mirrors.

One needs time to unpack it like a really great poem. And Johns packs it in, going over and over ways to never repeat.

In some versions the visitors’ faces are shielded; they sit opposite the man who sits with hands in front of his face. Sometimes these doubles disappear completely into the material, both always and never abstract.  Sometimes there is only the man on the bed.  Lucien Freud. Is he mocked by Francis Bacon? Is he competing with Jasper Johns? Is Jasper Johns outdoing him? Is this an art-world palindrome: paintings and etchings springing from the crumpled remains of a print of a 1964 photograph taken by British photographer John Deakin, and retrieved from Bacon’s studio floor, then enshrined in its torn up form in a photograph that appeared in Christie’s auction catalog?  This mangled print is on display here, meaning, I’m guessing, that Johns bought it from the auction, after all its travels.  Breaking, crumpling, dividing, varying.

How many ways can an artist mine a single image?   The answer is not here; the work goes on, Johns’ work and ours. We will need to come back again and look again. Call and response – a change and a change again.  How many times can someone sign with an unchanging rubber stamp? Is it mocking or reaffirming? Or is it simply the joy of the stamp’s calligraphy?

Someone once defined art as something that has to be looked at again and again, because it can deliver something else, something more, over time.  This is very opposite of propaganda or illustration, standing as they do exactly in the moment.

When we left, the serious young man was sitting opposite the ultimate painting, still writing rapidly in his small notebook.

JASPER JOHNS, Regrets.  2013. Watercolor, charcoal, and pastel on paper, 31 ½” x 46 7/8”  (80 x 119 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Promised gift of Marie-Josee and Hanry R. Kravis. ©Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

JASPER JOHNS, Regrets. 2013. Watercolor, charcoal, and pastel on paper, 31 ½” x 46 7/8” (80 x 119 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift of Marie-Josee and Hanry R. Kravis. ©Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson.

The exhibition is up until September 1.  There is time to visit again. As noted on the captions some of these works have been promised as gifts to the museum. So they are promised to be around again.