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It was old, worn and nondescript. A dark rectangular shape, with an exterior battered in thick grime. Was it brick? Concrete? It was impossible to tell without scrapping off years of grime. There was one entrance and a long window which allowed a hazy dim view of the interior. If this structure had a personality, it would be considered sullen. It was the exact opposite of what laid across and around it – a panorama of amusement rides, surf, sunshine, and brightly colored foods. Salt and mustard floated in the air. Squinting eyes adjusting to piercing sun rays. The sudden explosion of sounds, colors, aromas, and excitement of what laid in front further blotted out this large, cheerless shoebox. Embedded under the multi-level subway station at the Culver Beach, it made an extreme contrast to the shops around it. While nearby were cheerful vibrantly hued beach balls and radiant sweet treats, here sat this solitary, gloomy loner.
After years of sea air, layers of paint and neglect, the sign above the door led to various interpretations. Some called it Mike’s. Others said no, it was Mick’s. One old timer said it was Stan’s. Wafting through the door was the mix of stale cigarette smoke and sour, very sour, beer. Mike’s/Mick’s/Stan’s was a bar that while unnoticeable, really stood out because it seemed so out of place. Why was it there? Why did it remain while all around it grew and changed? It was like an uninvited guest who takes their place on the couch and never leaves. Through the smoky haze, dim bulbs outlined hunched figures. No matter the time of day or night, there they were. Early morning, dusk, night, no matter. Figures like melting candles, moving slowly, if moving at all. A lone pale figure, in extreme contrast to the crowd of tanned bodies, would on occasion, emerge. Time too seemed to stall at Mike’s/Mick’s/Stan’s as nothing about it ever changed. Holidays and seasons did not matter. It was not lost in time but existed in its own stagnant time.
Abel was hoping that his constant headaches would ease. Symptoms ranged from a dull thud to a head gripping intensity. The only way to ignore it was to drink and sit in the bar’s cool shadows. It was his therapeutic routine. He felt he was understood by the others who too were treating their various conditions. The somber mood was broken by the lurching energy of Blue. Blue’s real name was Irv but was nicknamed Blue because of his fondness for the color and the tint to his dyed black hair. Blue liked to laugh, hug, “dance” and sing and was oblivious to the moods around him. He knew everyone in the bar and believed he was enjoyed by all. He could not wait to see his friends and spend day into night with them. Abel was having an especially painful episode. Upsetting memories began to seep into his mind and he began to shake. It was not unusual for Abel to shake. Some would cry, some nodded out, others mumbled to themselves. Blue saw his buddy Abel, leaned on him, wrapped his arms around him and with a loud, exuberant laugh said, “Hey! How’s it going! Next ones on me!”
Off to the side Ida began to drift off while talking to a mummified looking Vince and muttered, “my past does not define me.” Blue heard this and yelled “Good one, Ida! You are so funny!”

20" x 24" acrylic gouache on canvas

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Comment by Resident Curator on Friday

Curator’s Comments:  

It’s always a pleasure to view your new paintings on the site! Your signature style is instantly recognizable, along with your sensory-rich narrative accompanying the work. The lurid nature of the figures is particularly striking in these characters; the raw red and pink flesh of “Blue” speckled with Band-Aids.  The characters have a familiarity in your story, and the visual imagery accentuates the unwelcome attention of the protagonist on the almost despondent bar patrons.  I marvel at the manner in which you’ve combined atmospheric space with highly ornate and active patterning. The acid green hues clash with darker blue shadows, providing color conflict to supplement the antagonism.  The cropping of smaller figures in the background space read as “accidental” figures in a snapshot. Other small details such as the fly strips supply a slightly grotesque humor to the scene.  Thank you for sharing this new work with us.

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Ms Kristen T. Woodward critiques of members art.

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