between Early and Late Willis Galleries
Book of the Dead, 1980
Even before I Arrived in Detroit from England to
try for my Masters of Fine Arts at Wayne State University, I knew of the
Corridor by reputation. Two of my instructors at Hull
College of Art knew of it, telling me that "There's stuff going on
By the time I got to the Corridor, this particular art scene
period was starting to
wind down, but I was to learn that the Corridor is a resilient
place - that new manifestations of the scene were to come and go.
I have now watched the Corridor culture rise and fall several
times since I have lived here. The year
after I arrived, Steve Faust and a plethora of other artists had
picked up and moved to NY City - ostensibly because that's where successful artists
Stephen Goodfellow standing outside
the Gallery, Zapped Pyramid in
background - 1978
Interior - "The Last Supper"
enrolled in the MA program at WSU painting department, spent my time
slapping paint on canvas at Old Main, walking the Corridor and spending
time with what seemed to be an ever decreasing amount of Corridor Artists.
By the time I was doing my MFA, the Willis Gallery had moved to the Fisher
Building, leaving the old gallery empty.
I had the good fortune of bumping into Cobb and Henry Normile in 1977.
Henry had taken over Cobb's Bar, and was making a fantastic go of it. The
place was incredibly popular, with great musicians such as Bobby McDonald
and the Griot Galaxy Jazz Band playing there.
At this point I had finished my MFA at Wayne and had to shit of get off the
pot; if I was an artist, I had to make my living as such. I had this idea
that the artist should be in control of their own destiny, not subject to
the whims and fads of gallery dealers who took exorbitant commissions. This
put me in a quandary - how ought one to exhibit? I conceived this idea that
a gallery ought not to exist as a permanent entity, but a temporary
installation; a shell inhabited expressly for the artists exhibition, after
which if could be discarded - hence the name - a bastard gallery.
Seeing the old Willis
Gallery empty, I asked Henry and Cobb if I could use it to do a show, and
to my utter delight they were quite amenable.
I had just finished reading "The Illuminati Trilogy", a fiction
about a world in which mankind enslaved itself, egged on by a few powerful
select. At the same time, I was interested in the symbology of Tarot
cards, and thought them a good framework to express the impressions that
had so influenced me in "The Illuminati Trilogy".
North Wall of the Gallery - "The
Last Supper", in which Generals and Leaders sit around a table in
the war room, snacking on candy bars and waiting for the Third World War
I remember painting late into
the night, listening to my scratchy tape of "Young Americans"
by David Bowie, desperately getting the mural ready for the show.
The exhibition was truly my baptism under fire; I sold just about all my
work and launched me into my career as a full time artist.
"The Fool" Chalk on
"Midnight Arrest" Chalk on paper
The 1978 Bastard Gallery exhibition
consisted of a mural on the back wall twelve "Tarot Suite" and
eight "Illuminatus Suite" chalk drawings 32 x 40" in size.
The show was a complete surprise to me; it was packed! People who were familiar
with the Old Willis Gallery came out of the woodwork. I sold just about
every image; it was my baptism under fire - and it left me fired up and
excited - I was going to make art the rest of my life!
Detroit Book of the Dead", 1980
then, I hung with a group of friends, Margaret McGuinniss, Amy Currier and Lowell
Boileau. We used to spend a lot of time hanging at the Song
Shop drinking, talking and sketching.
Our sketching was a communal affair; someone would start the sketch, then it
would be passed on and another one of us would ad to it, and so on. We
continued on this way for over a year until we had compiled a considerable
body of work.
One evening while we were sitting around, we started talking about the still
abandoned Willis Gallery and someone suggested that we ought to do a group
show there; we could show our own work, as well as the best excerpts from
our common sketch books. This is what we did, called the exhibition
"The Detroit Book of the Dead", it opened in May of 1980.
Left to right: Stephen Goodfellow, Margaret
McGuinniss, Amy Currier, Lowell Boileau
Margaret demonstrates the wonders of
I did and additional
Gallery" show at the defunct Willis Gallery in 1981. I left the lights up at the request of
- can't remember - who put up the first show at the 2nd coming
of the Willis Gallery? - and they remained there until the Willis
closed in 1997.