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Intervening years 
between Early and Late Willis Galleries
Bastard Gallery No.1, 1978 
Book of the Dead, 1980 

by
Stephen Goodfellow

"Bastard Gallery" No.1, 1978 

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 there..."
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 went.


Stephen Goodfellow standing outside the Gallery, Zapped Pyramid in background - 1978

Click for larger picture
Interior - "The Last Supper"

I 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 to start.

 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 paper 1978

"Midnight Arrest" Chalk on paper 1978

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!


"The Detroit Book of the Dead", 1980

 Back 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 television

I did and additional "Bastard 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.

SG