Saturday, July 27, 2013

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

I first met Fred Kahler in the fall 2004.  We had had some goodhearted phone conversations over the summer.  He seem to be a comfortable, reasonable kinda guy.  I had gone to his house in Rappahannock County Virginia to pick-up one of his prints; just a short visit.  His wooden house sets in a hilly wooded area with large well respected vegetable gardens in almost every direction.  You had to walk up a flight of steps to get to the, wrap around the house porch/deck, where the main entrance was.  As I walked into the house my eyes couldn’t help being immediately drawn to the art covered walls.  I walked around with my mouth hanging open, I was in awe of the work I saw hanging there.  With the spontaneity of a kid, I asked him, “Why aren’t you rich, or at the very least, famous”.  He told me stories of woe and how he had been taken advantage of by sly and cunning gallery owners.  He had me believing that Chris Murray and his Govinda Gallery were little more than a den of thieves praying upon this poor innocent artist, drawing him into his gallery like a fly to a honey sweetened spiders web.  At the time I didn’t know that Fred Kahler was such a relentless storyteller.  A storyteller with regards for only hints of reality and distorted tints of the truth.  That lesson was learned later at great personal expense.  For most of my life I’ve try to abide by this saying; “I believe everything you say, until I know better, then I believe nothing you say until I know better”.  Well, as you’ll see, I really fucked up with Fred.  There was something so pitiful in his eyes that you just felt sorry for him.  His eyes reminded me of my older brother Dan.  Dan had cerebral palsy that gave him a life filled with frustration, misery and disappointment.  He required a lot of help and defense from people who seem to feel that his torment of living with cerebral palsy wasn’t enough suffering, but he needed to be mocked and taken advantage of at every turn.  More than once my brother’s mockers felt the fury of my scarred avenging fist.  There were times I thought that my rage toward these mockers was, in reality, releasing the angrier I felt toward god for doing this terrible thing to my brother.  So carrying that history, I had already been nurtured to be a defender of the less fortunate.  With those eyes of his, feeling sympathy for his struggle as an artist and, of course, always on the lookout for something “good” to do, I asked Fred if he would let me market his work.  Rather quickly he said “Sure”, and with a cautionary tag along, “but many have tried”.  Oh how I love a good challenge.  I had already spend a great deal of time doing marketing and making a lot of money for other people.  The recipe here was quite simple, I didn’t think it would take but maybe a year or two at the most.  I could add another feather to my hat and ride off into the sunset a hero, one more time.  Seems there had been a string of failed attempts to create a market and/or recognition for Fred’s art work.  It is some kind of great work he had created, this should be a piece of cake.  Fred was 62 now and turned out to be fairly bitter that the art world hadn’t celebrated him or his work yet.  The art world and the spirit world had abandon him.  Left him half blind and working for, by his account, some horrible woman who dominated and humiliated him daily.  As he spoke of his abandonment Fred became aware of his blossoming bitterness and skillfully eased out of it with a bit of ironic laughter and that toothless smile of his, but you could tell, he really resented having to work at that nursery.  It wasn’t the work that bothered him so much, but the woman.  He expressed his disdain for her many times over the next several months, that’s when he quit to pursue, what turned out be, a full time job of self inebriation and self pity.  At the time, before I knew any of this, and with my our distorted thinking, I thought I could do some good for him.  Maybe once he saw his work being recognized he would feel better and spend his remaining days outside his house gardening in the sweet rain of success.  So as I left,  I told Fred I had a lot to do and things I needed to finish up and that I’d start working with him after the first of the new year.  As I drove away thru the woods, down the dirt road, I thought, this might just work out.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fred Kahler's Birthday

These photos were taken on June 22, 2009 on Fred's back porch.
This my favorite Fred Kahler picture and today is Fred's Birthday. 
Feel the rhythm of it all?

All photos © Gary Keyes 2009

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mary Speer & Fred Kahler are talking to Suzanna after a lovely dinner in June 2006.
© Gary Keyes 2006