Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Dominic Avant painted our resident Homeless Man "Mikie" as he lounged under a shade tree this summer. Mikie suffers from fairly severe mental illness and has been a fixture downtown for many years. Urban legend is he was a boxer and is punch drunk; alternately he was brain injured by too many drugs; that he was abandoned by a well off father; etc. It is almost impossible to tell what the circumstances leading to Mikie's street based life are; he is usually not clear enough to tell you and when he does the story always changes. What is clear is he could be any one of us given the right circumstances. He is harmless to others, many of the downtown merchants feed him, give him cast off clothes, blankets, etc. More than once any one of us has dragged him out of the street, calmed him down, led him to a safe location. He continues to use and abuse substances as a way to self medicate his raging mind. As a society we do so badly by men like Mikie. He deserves a warm bed, medical care, a bath, clean clothes. He lives in a city where the amount of wealth is staggering. I have no answers for the Mikie's of our world. He would rage at any forced half way house residency...he is simply too crazy. So when I pass by him, I try and make eye contact, say hello, bring him lunch. He smells so bad it is hard to get too close. We can't invite him into the gallery, the body odor lingers for days after. In Dominic's painting Mikie appears blissful; and often he is very happy, chattering away, smiling. I am sure he will not live a long life based on the statistics for men in his circumstance. When I look at Dominic's painting of him it appears as if he has almost transitioned; as Dominic puts it "Almost Home". I am so delighted Dominic chose to paint him, commit him to our collective memory.