BOSTON, 1978 – There is no way, in Boston, in the late seventies that art and punk could be separated. It can be said that this would hold true for most of the world except for certain parts of Wyoming and Turkmenistan.
With schools like Mass Art and The Museum School funneling an unending supply of young malcontents armed with sharp wits, sharper exact o blades and a profound desire to fuck with conformity, Boston was fertile ground for musical exploits that could leave you agog.
Some of the artists who came thru the scene are Mark Dagley, George Condo, Mark Dirt (nee’ Morrisroe) and Gurl Eight, Pat Hearn.
Your humble narrator’s first exposure to Pat was in the Thayer St. basement performance/rehearsal space used by The Girls.
It was a dank, low-ceilinged bunker of a space with little light and a pervasive odor of something not quite right that you couldn’t exactly put your finger on.
Pat was performing with Steve Stain in a duo they titled “Hymie and Glinda.” They both wore only a tight-fitting pair of swim trunks with their bodies and faces completely covered in black paint with oddly Cyrillic markings in white on their arms and legs.
Oh, yeah, Pat also had a huge, black cock that arced from her crotch like a priapic homage to a long-forgotten Malaysian god.
Their musical accompaniment was a series of guttural howls, shrieks and the kind of glossolalia-esque ravings last heard in an Inuit hallucinogenic ritual to conjurer elk. There were many things being hit by sticks, loud bleats on some kind of horn and a feedback dirge of strangled guitar.
They were so free of everything that most people are are afraid showing us, the “TRUTH” that we had buried deep inside the darker alcoves of our soul, that even watching them for a minute could change your life forever.
Their artistic daring and commitment to confront, shock and create a spectacle was emblematic of the marriage of art and punk in Boston at that time.
Pat was an artist in every sense of the word. What was truly inspirational about her was not only her performance, it was the astonishing facility she exhibited in understanding and facilitating the needs of other artists whose work she championed.
After she had given-up most performing and was back in Boston after time spent in Paris on an art fellowship, she was beginning to exhibit her insight into how to help artists simply become what they needed to be.
Watching her shoot a performance video on a downtown rooftop was like watching a really French movie about ennui. You know, the kind where nothing makes sense until the very end when foundational artistic truths are revealed.
The band being filmed that misty day was nervous because their lack of experience and nonchalantly anxiety-ridden attitude to performance seemed to expand in a disorienting spiral of doubt in Pat’s formidable presence.
She was the shit. Her nod to your being was like being selected by the CIA to take part in an M.K. Ultra drug test with Marcel Duchamp, scary and illuminating and sure to cause permanent derangement of your DNA.
Her hand-held camera zoomed along at roof level narrowly missing the rocks that covered the soggy tar and swooped into the sky just in time to catch a bird in flight.
Without a break, the camera spiraled within millimeters of a brick chimney to finally come to rest directly in front of and perfectly framing the singer’s face as she began to sing.
All of this done with her eyes not on the camera as it moved thru space but, only on the eyes of the artist she was making incandescent for that moment in time.
She read their souls it seemed and captured their performance in a way that seemed effortless in its execution and exceptional in its document and eyewitness.
The one certainty about Boston is it sadly cannot usually stop its most amazing talents from searching out larger arenas and challenging peers to engage with. Pat moved to New York City.
In her usual way, Pat completely changed the game for artists in Manhattan. Moving there in 1983 she quickly defined what would be the cutting edge of the NYC art scene.
With an uncanny knack, she opened galleries in neighborhoods thereby making them cool on an international scale.
She was one of the first to move to the deserted barrens of West 22nd St. & SoHo, always the first before of what would be hundreds of more galleries to follow her blazing trail.
Along with her husband she created “The Armory Show” and was the muse of many artists including Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel.
Like the most beautiful things in the world are brittle at best and are often only enjoyed in brief glimpses, Pat died of cancer at the age of 45.
In her nearly full-page New York Times obituary:
“Pat Hearn, one of the leading art dealers of the last two decades, a founder of the Gramercy International Art Fair and a pioneer of the art scene in the East Village, SoHo and Chelsea, died on Friday at her vacation home in Provincetown, Mass. She was 45 and lived in Manhattan.
The cause was liver cancer, said her husband, Colin de Land.
In her 17 years as a dealer, Ms. Hearn was widely respected as unusually empathetic to artists, open to new art and willing to share artists and ideas with other dealers. When her cancer was first diagnosed and it seemed that her insurance company would not cover her treatment (although it eventually paid for some of it), her friends organized a benefit to which hundreds of artists and dealers donated work and money.”
She was called the Holly GoLightly of the bohemian art scene in that obituary. For a lucky few. Those with pure hearts of art madness and spines strong with creative resolve will always know her as Glinda.
No art was destroyed in the writing of this screed. The heart however…..
Stephan Dedalus is the main character of “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and known mostly for his ability to fly by all nets
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