As I remember, which might be a stretch at best, it was August nineteen seventy.
A strange lost boy head filled with the past present and some vague longing for a future as yet un-named and un-guessed. Cloudland and the abyss.
I found the book in the "new" ( aka: the ultramodern idiot building) library in the art section. "The World of Whistler" one of the time-life series on art and artists. It was nothing short of a nuclear bomb of aesthetics and insight into a way of thinking about painting that simply vaporized all my previous beliefs about how, and why art was made. James Abbott McNeil Whistler was the living bridge between then and an ever present now. He was savage, serious mocking profound and without peer. Dazzled by the light reflecting off of a monocle, and a sweeping moustache over a tiger smile he changed my life. But....
It wasn't Whistler that finished me off. In the book there was a section on the life, times, friends and social arena He fought in.
One of his good( possibly his only.) friends was a gentleman by the name of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The page was a reproduction of the "Bower Meadow." To this day I cannot look at it and not be moved to near tears. Now, I'll be the first to admit that "The Bower Meadow" is not not one of his greatest paintings, but there is something in it, that for me, remains a benchmark, a signal in the dark and a brightness in the fog of the instant gratification hyper stylized ultra disposable world we live in now. "Have nothing in your home that is not beautiful or useful" his friend(cuckold) and business partner William Morris once wrote. Rossetti was the liveing example. Ok, except for the wombats and Swinburne. He was a difficult man, proud, paranoid, generous to a fault, obsessive, addict, poet of very rare depth, and a painter of such single minded intent that sometimes the mind simply shuts down in the presence of his best works. I've heard from my friend BWS that his house at Cheyne walk still stands and is a private residence.
Rossetti and his work and my enthusiasm for it put my on a path that has endured to this day. Not that I would "imitate" him, a gross violation of my own muse, but rather the aesthetic of his, the damn the torpedo's and let God sort 'em out single-minded purpose of his work inspires and prods me onward to go further, aim deeper and try that much harder to be true to myself.
I feel that I owe the ones who set out alone, unafraid and determined that came before me to honor the sacrifices that they made, and you'd best believe that they did indeed sacrifice for the work they did.
On Whistlers deathbed he was said to have remarked, "You must not say anything against Rossetti. Rossetti was a king."
The king is dead, long live the king.
Be kind....it's the least you can do.