Have you ever wondered why sometimes nature creates a situation where contrasting or opposing minds have to find means to achieve a certain goal for humanity? Is it because only in such situations the noble, the loyal and the honest lets their guard down in other to give reason a chance to find what is good for evolution and advancement of humans. Or only in such conditions, the honest relies on the bright light of reason to shine on hidden treasures in his or her opposite. This attraction of the opposites was what brought Ole and me together.
My dear Creative Friend this is a short story, a bit sad but fun, interesting and inspirational. Relax and let me tell you about how Ole Lindboe helped transformed Danish art and artists. The man who brought Danish artists to peak into what is going on in the world stage. And how my friend Ole, this modern genius and his mastermind ideas put our opposing beliefs and different perspectives aside in order to maintain our common goal for the greater good of helping aspiring Danish artists.
I met Ole Lindboe a Danish publisher, the owner of kunst magazine about 20 years ago through a mutual friend Jeanette Christjansen a former beauty queen now a professional artist living in New York City.
Few years ago, one afternoon after returning from an exhibition reception at Jeanette Christjansen’s place in Denmark, Ole and I realized that both of us have been boxers during our teens long before we started to follow that long path in search of an adventurous and creative life.
After realizing we were amateur boxers in our youth Ole thought we should do some sparring for the fun of it. Every former boxer no mater how old or unfit will always take on any opportunity to jab around. All of a sudden politeness, gentle talks, diplomatic and politically correct talks, philosophical talks, sophistication and shyness gave way to street boy surviving attitude. It is all about Ole versus Sam, the African versus the Danish, the successful well-known publisher versus the artist, win or loose that’s all with Jeanette and the camera as referee. We became like street boys and everything that makes us different vanished. For this is the same like choir boys: it is society who takes the fun out from the choir boys. Sports people see the game very different than the fans. It was all two street boys in front of a former Miss Denmark, ready to beat each other up. Ole gave me an intimidating look to scare me and I psyched him: I acted weak meek, rusty and a bit off balance to confuse him so that he wouldn’t know where I stand. I did so because he is small and skinny and anxious to fight so I know he is fit and therefore will be fast and quick on his legs.
Couple of times I held back pretending as if I lack stamina and very rusty always trying to trick him so that I can sneak in with some sucker punches or below the belt punches. I know our Danish beauty/artist wouldn’t be able to catch me cheating, but Ole was an old pro quick on his legs, he smiled and laughed. He tried to get me but I used my height and reach to keep him at bay. I gave an open chance by pretending I have forgotten to let my guard up but he didn’t bite the bait. We started boxing and Jeanette took some pictures then stopped and both of us reminiscence toughness of the streets, the don’t mess with me attitude, the prize of winning if you pick a fight with me doesn’t worth it, how one must look and act in other to survive, and enjoyed some special Danish meals and drinks and got some lessons on Danish dark bread.
Art and artists of Denmark:
In the beginning when we met, Ole and I were extremely different, opposite with contrasting views on art; we have nothing at all in common, different in everything except boxing and the dream to try to transform a nation’s artists? In art he believes either you have it or you don’t and I believe, the nature and nurture applies to artists too. He believes modern art is on a rise and representational traditional art is going downhill, on a downward spiral. Although I believe the hardcore of the academic beliefs protects and secures the mind from taking chances and guides the artist to play safe it is still important for all to at least gain some basic skills and understanding.
In such situation most artists will take things personal then cling on to their narrow beliefs and that would be it, end of conversation, the aggravation doesn’t worth the friendship. The visionary and mastermind of Ole is, he engaged me more and decided to write about my outlooks in six-page articles. It was the beginning of our over 20 years of art, philosophy, wine, and food, discussions and visiting museums. We always have heated arguments yet we mark our calendars four-six months ahead to make sure we meet. He went on to write more about me in the preceding years. And also wrote about Jeanette’s art. He masterminded the quest to introduce as many Danish artists to the best of all that which represents American art.
When we met about 20 years ago I was very idealistic, very raw and didn’t understand the joy of variety and the power of differences. I asked Ole how could you aim to help when these guys (Danish Artists) do nothing, approach art as children but desire to be famous like a 70year old Picasso. Isn’t it a big joke to make believe you can become Picasso without skill, discipline and experience, I continued. He was very shocked by my undiplomatic direct no sugarcoating approach. Like in boxing the placement of a foot tells exactly where the opponent is standing, so I said things like this to see his reaction. As a old pro he took my shots without blinking. Of course he threw some shots at me too. Skill and experience are not everything he said.
Danish artists need the exposure and the influence of American artists and art is not about the noisemakers or the bling, bling that come out when the circus is in town.
During this period it was interesting and surprising how Scandinavian artists think of what American artists where doing. Andy Warhol, signatures on toilet bowls piecing and urine have become part of what was going on but not the only art. Danish artists were behind American art over 30-50 years. Ole doesn’t think of telling the truth that there is more to American art than just urine and toilet bowls signed then scavenged. In his savvy ways he thought bringing 15-20 practicing artists to the United States every other year and taking them to visit artists’, galleries and museums was what it will take to enlighten Scandinavian artists.
Once after we have gone through some two bottles of red wine at lunch with the painter Jeanette Christjansen, we decided to find a way to indirectly help Danish artists raise up their game. The question then was how do you enlighten artists, when a publisher, an African artist and a former beauty queen get together, especially when we all have nothing in common? It was this goal that the visionary and mastermind of Ole became apparent.
To enlighten Danish artists, just expose them to what is going on in America: the galleries, the institutions, schools, what is on the streets and let them return home with reality and ideas that trigger hard working, was the suggestion of the owner of the Kunst Magazine, my friend the publisher? “ Even though a word to a wise is enough, I believed then, that there is so much junk, literature, financial investment and power out there to support the contemporary art that the average artists will only hear the noise makers not the necessary influence. And so as an educator and a traditional painter I suggested advocating only ideas and virtues that bring the best in artists. Most important reason is students nowadays don’t know the difference between good and bad and not aware of the importance of skill and experience.
Temptations to slack when no basic standards are demanded from students are common among students. I argued that an environment that encourages “everything goes for the sake of freedom, encouragement and art for art sake” mentality will produce environment of mediocrity and the culture at large wouldn’t get the best of its citizens. Jeanette has a place in Denmark so she took the role to organize painting and lecturing workshops for me in Denmark.
For about 15 years we all followed up with what we promised to do. Ole continued to bring between 15-18 art students and artists every other year to New York; I spend couple of hours with the artists at my studio lecturing and answering questions in a conversation and casual style. Then invite them to the Academy School of Fine Arts where I teach, for them to see what is going on among American artists and art students. Most of the time almost always all of the artists were shocked to learn that American art is broader than what foreigners in their countries perceive. Almost all foreigners miss out the fact that there are over five totally different areas or traditions of American art: the modern and contemporary world, the representational and traditional world, old master arts, the educational and the auction/business. All these sectors have their own heroes. Like all new talents, artists forget to acknowledge that the road to become an artist is very easy but to become great and effective is totally different ball game.
The routine continued and several articles in Ole’s magazine came out of our meetings. With his principle of teaching by only showing; the articles that he wrote about me, were about my life and journey, my art and my books always stress how far I have come by starting with so little. Evolve and advance from working hard, develop the taste to see the best in all and follow the natural and tradition of the true artists journey. Two years ago we were planning on me to have a page in his magazine so that I can contribute, I wonder how that would have gone. If you look back to see what dominated Danish art twenty-five years ago and what is going on today, you will see the influenced Ole’s mastermind.
For this reason I had like to steal this opportunity to raise a glass to send Ole “skoall” and a short note
My dear friend, my dear comrade
I hope you had a great visit and enjoyed the experiences that came your way. From our conversations two years ago it seems to me you were ready and looking forward to meet your maker. It also seems you accomplished your assignment; I say so because from the look of things, skill, experience and sensitivity is now part of the discourse amongst Danish artists. I regret that I never found some quite moments to wish you farewell and to thank you for everything but you know how appreciative I am to all that you have done for Danish artists and for me. I will think of your departure as a reminder of this fickle life that we make so much deal of. Your leaving, more than ever provides the here today gone tomorrow forever, with all material acquisitions left behind.
I will force my self not to mourn or be sad or be concerned with questions about nature, life and our maker’s intentions, I believe in my dreams we will continue our philosophical conversations so I rather thank you for indirectly asking me to make the best of life. Please when you settle down in your new home, I hope in my sleeps, dreams and quiet moments you will visit me more often for more philosophical conversations and arguments. You know my schedule, you know that only when I am quite or sleeping are the times I converse with divine messengers. Please say hi to my father for me, you will like him. He too left last spring
Please, send special regards to Elvis Presley, tell him after seeing his DVD I became a devotee. Also greetings to Michael Jackson, Jimmy Hendrix and tell them how appreciative I am for making their working ethics accessible. I intend to call on them with some questions. I had like to consult them so that I can share their thoughts with my young musician friends. Please ask their permission if I could talk with them?
Wherever you are Ole, know that our philosophical conversations and arguments gave me more than you think,
I will have some Dark Danish bread (the one you recommended) and with straight face I will say skidegodt (like you taught me.) Just for you at my next Danish immigration I will say skidegodt to the immigration officer and I will say it with a straight face just for you.
Thanks for the visit Ole, thank you for everything my dear comrade, and thank you for the articles my friend, most of all thank you for introducing Henriette Sonne a wonderful artists and innovative artist and some beautiful Danish painters.
PS: Again, don’t hesitate to intrude my dreams and quite moments for chats and discussions, from where you are I know you can tell how much l enjoy long consultations with the wandering souls of the immortals, prophets, sages and saints, you know I hope to be the vehicle of their divine intentions. You never know maybe you can assign me to some projects.
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