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Exorcism of Mary

Exorcism of Mary, Mikel Glass

A portrait of a street walker I met on 24th Street in Chelsea in the early 1990’s. At the time I was mostly painting homeless people, but “Coco” warranted a stop on my bike as I rode down Tenth Ave. We chatted, and when Coco said she was half American Indian I told her he grew up in a majority American Indian town called on Cape Cod called Mashpee. Kismet - she then told me she had worked in Mashpee in the 1970’s as a chambermaid at the Wigwam Hotel. A rush of emotion came over me. The Wigwam Hotel was seared into his memory as an unsolved mystery from his youth. Every day on the school bus was the same routine - the driver would blast The Jackson Five, her giant afro bobbing side to side, obscuring the view out of the windshield. “You kids gotta learn yo ABC’s,” she’d always make the same joke every day.

But the music was against regulation, and she’d always turn it off as the bus passed the cranberry bog before the school. And seared into that image in my brain was a dilapidated hotel across the street from the bog. It never made sense to me; who would ever stay there?! Suddenly, about two decades later it all made sense. Coco was no chambermaid!

I started this painting of Coco but set it aside. A few years later I was introduced to Mary Boone, and didn’t like her. A couple of years after that, Boone opened a new gallery in Chelsea - on the very block where I had met Coco. I dusted off the painting and got to work conflating the two woman, cleansing their collective soul. There was only one gallerist brave enough to show the work, any others asking me how could I dare? I’d answer that I didn’t like her, and didn’t think she was good for art. Let’s just say, a decade or so later I felt totally vindicated.


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