Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ken Grimes

These are all very large scale paintings by the painter Ken Grimes. Because they are so big, and the digital reproductions are so small, it is hard to measure their impact on the viewer. But they really do catch your eye. Especially since they are usually much much bigger than your body.

I met Ken Grimes at a benefit for a social clubhouse for the mentally ill in Connecticut around 2002. Artwork was being auctioned by mentally ill persons and persons who were self-taught. I had an oil painting there that a dealer had attached with a suggested price of $1,200. It sold for $100 to the one person who bid on it. A little disappointing. However, the dealer narrated to me later that when the winner's name was announced she jumped up and down and that her friends hugged her. So she really wanted my painting. Its nice to know it went to someone who appreciated it.

I had talked to the bidder while wine and cheese were being served during the silent auction. She is a therapist and I think it appealed to her to have artwork done by an authentic schizophrenic. I asked her if she did anything creative, and she said that currently she was trying to find a creative way to hide her trash cans so that they didn't look so ugly. I remember warning her that her husband might no like the painting - it was of two monsters and I tried to make them as unsavory and disturbing as possible. I thought that living with my painting would be a little unnerving. But she said that if she won she would hang it in her living room.

Ken Grimes was selling a relatively small giclee print that had a suggested price tag of $1,500. I thought "wow, and that isn't even an original".

Here's his bio that his gallery has written for him;

"Is a man a closed system or is something added that possibly might come from outside the solar system?" (Ken Grimes). For Ken Grimes that "something added" first manifested itself in the form of a science-fiction B-picture that he saw during his adolescence. The film, which depicted an ever-growing, brain like, alien creature, was to be what Grimes considered his first real exposure to alien intelligence.

Grimes was born in New York City on July 16, 1947, a day that correlates—the artist is apt to point out—with other significant world events, including the first moon landing and the first A-bomb detonated in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1943. When he was still very young his family moved from Manhattan to Westchester County, a suburb of Tampa, Florida, and back to New York City again before settling, when Grimes was six years old, in Cheshire, Connecticut, where he still resides.

Grimes's grandfather, a semiprofessional magician and inventor, left a long-lasting impression on the young Grimes. The artist was first moved to deal with the paranormal, creatively, by an extraordinary circumstance. He discovered that the same time he was working at a public lottery in Cheshire, another Ken Grimes, sixty-two years old and living in Cheshire, England, won the largest soccer pool in history. This as well as many other coincidences have become part of what Ken refers to as the "Coincidence Board."

Since the Cheshire, England/ Connecticut coincidence in 1971, Grimes's paintings have gone through a number of media and styles, but he has diligently maintained a theme of alien intervention, space signals, synchronicities, and government cover-ups. He paints only in black and white, which he maintains is the most direct way of showing the contrast between truth and deception. These bold white-on-black graphics have become more iconographs than pictures. Sometimes a written statement will take up most of the piece, as if to remind us of the painting's true purpose.

"The sooner we start a pattern of global awareness and formulate a response to side affects, the easier it will be to make the transition between a human-centered view and an alien perspective," Ken Grimes.

I don't want to paint like Ken Grimes. However, I admire the creativity in his work. Rather hypnotic. And I know that he, like myself, has dedicated his life to producing artwork. I had lunch with him once and he told me that he lives like a monk. He wasn't being light with me, I think he thinks of himself as being particularly withdrawn from the world around him. Which is a necessary trait if you are going to produce art of consistent quality and live with a serious mental illness. You have to make strict choices with how you are going to spend your time and what, exactly, is going to deplete your precious reserves of strength.

Today I feel as weak as a kitten. My husband is home from work with a cold. I wonder if it isn't something more than a cold since he is alternatively freezing and sweating. Mostly he's sleeping. He's got a bad cough too. Me, I just has some strange nausea this morning and then this persistent weakness in all my muscles. Tried to read a book on Mark Rothko but I found that I couldn't concentrate. So I watched a stupid movie. The remake of "Arthur". I thought that there was a bit of chemistry between Arthur and his nanny, Helen Mirrim, but that there was no romantic chemistry between Arthur and his lady love. Also, I think that when I'm physically ill I lose most of my sense of humor. Or else there was nothing really funny in the movie to begin with.

It is obvious that my husband can't walk the dog today. So later I'm going to attempt it. What I really need is a shower. Since I've been in bed all day long, it will be very telling how much energy I have trying to stand in the shower. My husband took a shower this morning intending to go to work and he said he could barely stand, he was so weak. And as soon as he got out of the shower he started sweating. I'm thinking he has a fever.

My brain being fuzz, and my body not quite something that I could claim as my own, I didn't paint today. I predict that it will take all of my energy just to take a shower. Poor dog, I predict she won't get a walk. But my plan is shower, rest, rest some more, and then take the dog around the block. By then the moon should be out.

The drama around taking a shower or not is something that happens on days when I don't have a touch of the flu, something that is my schizophrenia. My therapist has earnestly asked me, why is it so hard for people with a mental illness to shower? He said he got a whiff of one of his clients who he gave a ride to in his truck, and he was glad his dog was sitting between him and his client. And I said that from my perspective, it is the radical change in the environment which is a shock to the system. You go from being dressed, to naked, from warm to cold to warm, from dry to wet - and the last is borderline traumatic. Dry to wet. Not all mentally ill people have trouble taking showers, but I do remember in high school taking a shower every morning before school and it was easy. So for me it was easy to do before the onset of my mental illness. But now it is hard.

But when I do shower, I pat myself on the back and count it as a victory. An achievement. Proof of my strength of character.

Everyone measures their accomplishments according to different expectations. We all carry different rulers in our hip pockets. If I'm going to love myself, not just like myself, I have to give credit when I do something courageous. My best friend R. is paranoid schizophrenic and she has no problems taking a shower. In fact, she feels gross if she doesn't shower every day. She fears she smells. I too care about my presentation to society, and that does get me in the shower. But I swear, the only word I can use to describe the accruing of will power, focus, and building of internal pressure that occurs in the five minutes before I get into the shower is courage. I need personal courage to shower.

And even though I'm physically ill today, along with my husband, happily the forecast is good, all the intentions are in line, to shower soon. Very soon.


  1. In one of my bibles I have the word "courage" which I cut out of a copy of the serenity prayer, and I stuck it where I have outlined the phrase (where the phrase was coined), "God is love." Courage. God is love.

  2. I have to drag my rear into the shower too. I have schizophrenia as well. I usually only shower if I have to go somewhere, otherwise every other day is fine. I need a haircut right now so I can't get away with skipping them as easily.
    I remember high school and getting in the shower everyday at the crack of dawn and sometimes before. I can't even move in the morning now without coffee.
    I just got out of the shower actually and fired up "google reader" since I have you in my blogroll. This was one of Ken Grimes' "coincide board" moments.


  3. Hi Karen and thank you for your wonderful comment on my blog the other day. I printed it out and have re-read it several times. It made my day.

    I am like Ken Grimes in that I believe the voices that I experience come from some alien source outside of myself. I live with them. They have been tormentors, guides and teachers, even friends. I have not turned my beliefs into art though and I'm impressed with Mr. Grimes ability to do that. I have had the thought of writing some science fiction exploring the topic. I think of writing fiction because I don't believe people would generally believe my story told straight. That and fiction would allow me to go deeper into the assumptions I make in my daily life.

    About self-care: I shower about once a week, unlike my parents who bathe once a day. I have trouble comprehending bathing once a day, it's way too much trouble. I can't even remember if I did that before my psychosis hit me, it's been too long. Then again, I live alone and so the pressure to be presentable is not there unless I have to go out to visit my brother or go shopping. I don't really mind bathing, I'm just generally not in the mood to do it often.

    What does bother me is that I don't keep my home clean and orderly, which is one reason why I don't have people over to my house more than a few times a year. I remember reading that genes can be turned on and off and that some people may have the gene for schizophrenia, but never develop the illness because their gene for it has not be turned on so to speak. Well, if there's a gene for cleaning, it's been turned off in me since I developed psychosis. I just walk by my messes day and night and have no inclination to pick up and clean my living space. I truly dislike that aspect of my illness, though again I live alone and have not much pressure to deal with it.

    I hope you and your husband are feeling better and you're both back at work.

    All my love to you Karen,

    Kate : )


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