Monday, July 7, 2014

Recently, Sam Blain had this to say about Peter Simek's article, "The Most Successful Dallas Artist Ever"  (David Bates) which appeared in, in February 2014:

"I'm still trying to digest this article, since February...and, it's just not happening. Perhaps it's the title of the article. I realize, David Bates is getting quite a bit of press; but, to say he's the "most successful Dallas artist ever" is really stretching things. Maybe Peter Simek is able to pull this off with D Magazine, since it's a regional publication. For historical reasons, the story still doesn't play right. There have been artists in Dallas' past who have gained much more international prominence in the art world, than David Bates...which almost makes this Simek article appear to be a publicity piece, rather than an article of any historical merit. It's not fair to David Bates and his work, it's not fair to dealers representing him... and, it's certainly not fair to a quite a number of other Dallas artists...such as: Jim Brooks (pioneer member of the Abstract Expressionists), Noel Mahaffey (pioneer member of the Sharp Focus Realists), James Surls, Chapman Kelley (whose Wildflower Works projects have probably had more international press coverage than any Dallas artist in history), Everett Spruce, Bob Yarber and Alexandre Hogue. I'm happy for David Bates' success; and, I'm sure he'll even grow, stylistically, in the years to come. I think we can count on it; but, to say he's the "most successful Dallas artist ever" is absolutely delusional."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UPDATE: New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowned by money

     The Council of Artists' Rights recently sent out an email UPDATE to inform and educate the taxpaying public about U.S. public museum issues.  Here's  the email:

UPDATE: New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowned by money

December 2, 2013 

Dear ally of artists' rights:     

     Since launching our eblast ten days ago, we have subsequently learned that an independent third party has exposed to the world the fatal flaw in the charitable donations structure that was passed into law in 2006. That loophole in the law allowed some prominent Dallas families to sell off promised artwork that ostensibly was part of the permanent collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. 

     Those donor families in 2005 had gifted their $400 million art collections to the DMA as a so-called "irrevocable bequest." And the following year the DMA featured 300 of those works in their museum exhibition, "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art." It published a lavish catalog praising the generosity of the donors.  But not long after the exhibition ended, two pieces were forever pulled from the museum's future and sold for a combined $57.2 million. Those transactions allowed private art market speculators to reap a financial windfall at the expense of U.S. taxpayers via a public museum and its secretive private partner, the Foundation for the Arts.  Recently the FFA was tied to the museum in a DMA press release when some looted antiquities were returned to Italy.    

     Writing for Columbia Journal of Law and Arts in May of 2013, Harvard educated Alicia C. Beyer detailed the legal--but ethically untenable--charitable donation structure that was part of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Beyer has since moved on to become a U.S. federal tax law expert in the private sector.    

      On pages 481 and 482 of Beyer's analysis, Gone but Not Forgotten: The End of Fractional Giving and the Search for Alternatives, she wrote, "Nevertheless, museums have made some major acquisitions, demonstrating the potential of this donation structure despite its shortcomings. For example, the Dallas Art Museum recently acquired the $2.5 million Gehard Richter painting Stadtbild Mü jointly with two major donors. This work was a significant addition to the museum's already exceptional Richter collection, as the painting is a prime example of the influence of World War II on Richter's work."  

     Stadtbild Mü, like the Jeff Koons Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995 - 2005, and the Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1961, were part of the $400 million alleged "irrevocable bequest." All three works were included in the DMA's hefty five-pound catalog.  The Koons and Rothko work got pulled from the DMA's future and sold on the private art market for $25.8 million and $31.4 million, respectively. Obviously, millions of dollars in profit went to the art collectors; because the sales were private, the names of other profiteers in that network remain in the shadows. 

     What remains to be seen is whether or not Stadtbild Mü, too, gets yanked from the DMA and sold by a whole different group of art market speculators. Again, there is no guarantee this sale, and many others to follow, will not happen; these are merely temporary promised gifts accruing much financial prestige via the DMA.     

     Beyer goes on to say, "But, unlike fractional gifts, which give the museum a property interest at the time of the initial gift, promised gifts are just a promise.  Thus, there is always a danger that the donor will renege on promised gifts.  Indeed the enforceability of a donor's promise is often an open question.  While section 90 of the Restatement on Contracts provides that a charitable pledge is binding, even in the absence of consideration or reliance, many states do not follow the Restatement, leading to variability in the enforceability of those promises. Furthermore, museums generally do not want to need to sue donors or their estates to enforce promises (emphasis added)." 

     So, is the tax-paying public being served by its public museum, the Dallas Museum of Art and the private Foundation for the Arts, while the museum's intransparency allows shrewd art investors to pull valuable artwork--and sell it--from the museum's "irrevocable gift" inventory?


U.S. Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley            via U.S. Postal Service
135 Hart Senate Office Building                        7013 1710 0000 4144 0117  
Washington, DC 20510                                      Certified Mail
Tel. (202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224 6020

Sunday, November 24, 2013

New York Times' Roberta Smith, you were right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowning in money.

New York Times' Roberta Smith was right. Case: Dallas Museum of Art's integrity drowning in money.

     The Council of Artists' Rights recently sent out an eblast to inform and educate the taxpaying public about U.S. public museum issues.  Here's  the email:

November 20, 2013

Dear ally of artists' rights:

      One can imagine Dallas arts critic Peter Simek's jaw dropping open as he read a portion of a Dallas Museum of Art press release about that museum's recent return of looted antiquities belonging to Italy.
     What gave Simek great pause was the DMA's acknowledgment of its joined-at-the-hip dealing with the secretive and powerful Foundation for the Arts (FFA).  Reporting for D Magazine's FrontRow, in his October 31, 2013 article, "After Returning Looted Antiquities, Dallas
Museum of Art Scores Long Term Loan of Etruscan Treasures," he revealed his uneasiness with the arrangement, "...this sentence jumped out at me in the press release: 'The transfer was completed in collaboration with the Foundation for the Arts and Munger Fund, which held ownership of three of the works for the benefit of the Museum.' He continued, "...But this little detail does highlight the
complications that arise when you have a private foundation acting on behalf of a public museum." So now we learn that the 50-year old FFA, an entity whose original purpose was handling contemporary art, is also involved in stolen antiquities. Altogether, the machinations of this
circumspect and private group is to control the publicly-owned Dallas Museum of Art...shame, shame!

     The FFA. was founded in 1963 at the time of the merger between the Dallas Museum of Fine Art and the Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art. Its announced goal was to hold the DMCA's small art collection independently and only until the "wedded" museums were proved successful as one unit. In the event the DMFA/DMCA merger did not work out, the FFA was to be dissolved. And everyone expected the DMCA's separate art collection to be donated to the DMFA within a short period of time. The leadership of the Friends of the DMFA, Charles Miles (then-sales executive with IBM) and Dr. Vernon Porter (then-scientific researcher with Texas Instruments) were startled to learn that in
the 1970s, the FFA began soliciting monetary donations via the DMFA's annual report!

     Simek's long term wariness of the FFA is justified. In the 1970s, When Virgina Lazenby O'Hara mistakenly named two separate legal entities, the DMFA and the FFA as recipients of some $4.5 million Dr. Pepper stock, a lawyer of the Friends of the DMFA advised that the DMFA's fiduciary responsibility was to seek sole public ownership by the DMFA instead of jointly with the private FFA. Unfortunately for the public's interest, warnings by the local Artists Equity and the Friends of the DMFA were not heeded. Actually, the DMFA denied having any interest in the stock gift, the largest one until that time for any Dallas arts organization. An audiotape of the dishonest means of duping the Dallas city council investigation and the public's interest can be accessed here. The tape was created and archived by Dallas artists' rights activists. Now fast forward a half century to the present: witnesses--those who were there--from across the country are willing and able to step forward to testify at a moment's notice about FFA shenanigans.

     In 2002, Christine Biederman wrote about the then-current DMA's exhibition, "European Masterworks: The Foundation for the Arts Collection at the DMA." The incisive article appeared in the Dallas Observer, titled, "Butt Nekkid," subtitled, "The DMA presents a fig leaf of an exhibition that hides little and reveals much, none of it good." In it, Biederman boldly described the FFA as a "legal fiction."

     In 2006 a DMA exhibition featured works culled from a 2005 "irrevocable bequest"--valued at $400 million--by three prominent Dallas families. The exhibition was barely over when the donors Rachofskys pulled their "gifted" piece, a Jeff Koons sculpture, "Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995-2000," out of the museum's future and put it up for auction. It sold for an eye-popping $25.8 million. The artwork had been purchased in 2001 by the Rachofskys for $1.2 million. The FFA was no doubt aware of that DMA acquisition, but how much of their clout influenced the museum's decision to allow such an "irrevocable bequest" to transpire in the first place? According to page four of the
exhibition's catalogue, "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art"--published by the museum in conjunction with the show--regarding the Rachofsky's bequest to the museum, "Unless otherwise noted, all works illustrated in this catalogue are either partial or promised gifts to the Dallas Museum of Art or are currently in the permanent collection." "Balloon Flower" was reproduced twice in the catalog. And on page 21, in former DMA director Jack Lane's own words, "The grand utterly transforming moment came in 2005 when the...Rachofskys...joined to commit to the Museum by irrevocable bequest their entire collections..." (emphasis added).

Balloon Flower (Magenta) 1995 - 2005 Jeff Koons

    On May 18, 2010, Michael Granberry of the Dallas Morning News surfaced the disconnect between theory and reality in his article, "Dallas art collector's suit says Rothko resale violated secrecy." What triggered Granberry's interest was a 2007 secret sale of a Mark Rothko work and
resulting scandalous U.S. District Court lawsuit. The Rothko work, too, had been a part of the $400 million "irrevocable bequest" and featured in the DMA's "Fast Forward" exhibition. The Rothko piece fetched $31.4 million at auction.

     On May 23, 2010, Granberry, in his article, "What does an 'irrevocable gift' mean to DMA?" jumped all over the sale of "Balloon Flower, (Magenta 1995 - 2005)" with a pointed interview about it with then-DMA director Bonnie Pitman.  To say the least, the sale was a financial windfall for two art collectors, the Rachofskys.

     On May 25, 2010 Simek did some good analysis in his FrontRow piece,"In Wake of Rothko Sale, Questions Loom Over 2005 Donations' Impact on Museum's Future." Referring to the Neo-Pop Art movement of the 1990s and with Rachofsky pulling of Koons "Balloon Flower, (Magenta)" out of the museum's future, Simek said, "The DMA is now out a significant work by a major artist."  Simek raised the legitimate point about the DMA's possible future appetite for a Koons sculpture and what one might cost at that point.  (Actually, a week ago a Koons "Balloon Dog (Orange) sold for $58.4 million.  New York Times' Roberta Smith was spot on in her article of November 13, 2013, "Art is Hard to See Through the Clutter of Dollar Signs.") Simek ended his article with, "Again, like Granberry, I am raising questions here. Answers will require more time and space." There has been no follow up by Simek, so it is safe to conclude that his final sentence is code that screams: my
bosses won't allow me to reveal the whole truth about this and the FFA.

Untitled, Mark Rothko

     In late 2010, the introductory chapter of art historian Sam Blain's Dallas Art History blog raised questions about the FAA's involvement with the DMA.  That blog's scope is deeper and broader in looking at the ongoing issues at the museum.   Among other questions posed to the DMA, the blog weighed in about the O'Hara bequest, Blain asked, "Why is the Foundation for the Arts even allowed to exist as part of a publicly-funded institution (DMA)...considering, for this reason lone...Foundation for the Arts board member Fred Mayer's having conned Mrs. O'Hara on her deathbed into changing her will, leaving her millions of dollars to his foundation, rather than the DMFA (her original

      Once the Council of Artists' Rights (CFAR) became aware of the museum's search to replace outgoing DMA director Bonnie Pitman, on May 11, 2011, we sent an eblast, "Part" - U.S. Art Museums Must Follow This Leader," which also targeted contacts at the DMA and its search committee.  The note strongly recommended for them to add then-Indianapolis Museum of art director Maxwell Anderson as a search committee member.  We never imagined the best scenario in which Anderson would accept the DMA directorship. On hindsight, that was an uncanny "call to action" that CFAR made to the DMA's headhunters!

     And Immediately after Anderson assumed the directorship at the DMA in 2012, a small group of local visual artists requested a "meeting of support" with him.  That meeting reached fruition in January of 2013. The overarching purpose of it was to express their solid backing of Anderson. The FFA was among the topics discussed.  Anderson received a handout copy about the meeting's structure which consisted of A Clear View: The Case for DMA Transparency and its Future, a Presentation Synopsis, and Participant Biographies.

     As recently as February 6, 2013, Simek brought up the issue of transparency at the DMA in an interview with Anderson that appeared in D Magazine called, "Interview: Maxwell Anderson on Turkey, Art Exchange, the Arts District, and the Market (Part 3)." Citing examples of ethically questionable behavior by the DMA, such as how it allowed a Rothko painting, an "irrevocable gift," to secretly leave the museum and which later fetched $31.4 million at auction. Simek challenged Anderson.  Anderson's reply was that he is comfortable with the concept, which he characterizes as "a new model." But what exactly is the "new model?"  Museum staff and savvy contributors know that only a very tiny fraction of offered artwork will ever become part of a museum's permanent collection. And what of the federal income tax deduction angle and the implications for the well-heeled donors of the several hundred million dollar bequest? Are the museum and the tax-paying public being taken advantage of by three prominent Dallas families?  And what of the families with lesser means, who cannot reap tax deductions of the magnitude of those who are better off financially?  Is the general public being forced to make up paying the difference of such wealthier
donors who take mammoth federal income tax deductions?  Is the DMA giving select patrons a license to steal?

     Anderson's "new model" posture does not dovetail well with his previous declarations about how art museums should be run as when he detailed the guidelines in his wonderful paper, the well worth reading "A Clear View: The Case for Museum Transparency."

     A strong negatively-tinged perception of the DMA is born out of repeated missteps by it; that the FFA was aware and knowingly participated in the "looted antiquities" transactions.  Successive generations of DMA museum trustees have allowed such a blemished culture to flourish for 50 years. And it is such a culture that is on track to thrive into the foreseeable future.

     So, in a nutshell, does the FFA call the museum policy shots behind closed doors, or is it the DMA director?  Should the DMA board of trustees immediately sever its ties to the FFA? It is these and other questions which begin to percolate whenever another DMA "questionable behavior" item makes headlines.

      It is well known that U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has in the past championed investigations into the operations of 501(c)(3)nonprofit organizations like the DMA. In a recent press release Grassley delineated some of his goals, "That to-do list includes my efforts to ensure the nation's tax laws strengthen Americans' longstanding tradition of charitable giving and protect taxpayers from subsidizing wrongdoers who misuse nonprofits for their own good."

     What will Sen. Grassley do with all this evidence and testimony about a private foundation's 50-year run of power and influence over a public museum?

Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley                     via U.S. Postal Service
135 Hart Senate Office Building                        7008 1140 0000 7276 0265
Washington, DC 20510                                      Certified Mail
Tel. (202) 224-3744
Fax: (202) 224 6020

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 14

     In 1983 my extensive land and aerial survey of Chicago revealed a large area at the south end of Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park that appeared to show some promise for a noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works site.  I was disheartened to learn that area was heavily used during the warm months by the general public and police for softball games. The next site was the final choice, Daley Bicentennial Plaza, at the north end of the park.

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, looking north, Randolph Street in the distance.
      I drew up several possible plans for the site.  The Chicago Park District and I settled on a diptych of ellipses, like many of my paintings.  However, instead of being side by side, they were end to end, each ellipse being 150’ x 310’. The CPD issued a permanent permit for CWW on December 23, 1983.  In 1983 and 1984, range scientist Dr. Thomas Jefferson Allen and I spent much time studying nearby Illinois prairies which helped us to select the dicotyledons or flowering plants for CWW.  Eventually we learned that Ron Iverson was in the Illinois native plant business.  I was convinced that he was the go-to guy for what I needed.  He furnished us with soil plugs each containing six to twelve seedlings.  According to my blueprint instructions, a professional crew planted 350,000 plugs (it took five full greenhouses to grow them) of Iverson perennials during the fall 1984 – spring 1985 season.  The blueprint also specified soil treatment.  However, when the seedlings became recognizable, some proved not to be native species. Fortunately, the “bad” plants quickly diminished from CWW.  The alternative of using soil plugs instead of wildflower seeds cost me a few hundred thousand dollars more.  Actually, cost was never an issue because artist Christo had inspired me after I learned that he self-funded his massive artwork.  I had known him and Jeanne-Claude since the early 1970s.  And right after Christo installed his Colorado “Valley Curtain” I was invited to spend an evening with both artists.  During the 1980s the iconic duo traveled to cities in the U.S. By coincidence I crossed paths with them in several cities.  In 1984 I worked at adjoining tables and created CWW lithographs at the Jack Lemmon Print Shop in Chicago.  My admiration for Christo’s originality and talent only grew.  He personally invited me to Paris, France to see his work, The Pont-Neuf Wrapped.  Because I was committed to stay and work on CWW, I declined the invitation.

The Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, looking south, Buckingham Fountain is in the distance.
      So by using seeds to create the Dallas Museum of Natural History Wildflower Works, I consider it to have been a great success that yielded a potpourri of colors.  I could see future applications using seeds or seedling soil plugs or a combination.  (In my complaint against the CPD to protect my artist’s rights, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals basically said that I was not the creator or author of CWW; that the wildflower seeds themselves created CWW instead of me!  Those seeds were certainly secretive little buggers, weren’t they?)

    The many tenants of the surrounding commercial and residential buildings had great views of the Plaza.  The nearby 400 E. Randolph Street building was home to some of our most ardent volunteers and supporters.  The CWW was in effect their “front yard.”   Working alongside the much appreciated help of over 100 volunteers, we maintained the CWW across more than 20 years.  During that time the CWW cost the Chicago Park District virtually nothing.  As a matter of fact, using the conservative amount of $5.00 per square foot, the CWW saved the CPD somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,600,000.00 across two decades!  The amount does not include 15 years of tap water savings due to the CWW requiring only rainwater.  In 2000 I requested the CPD to permanently disconnect the water supply to stop water leakage.  The request was immediately honored.

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, white blooms

    As part of a public relations thrust the CPD organized a luncheon at the Daley Bicentennial Plaza field house.  My watercolor painting of the park--a panoramic capturing many of the surrounding downtown Chicago buildings—and a professionally prepared scale model with CWW in place, were central to the event.  Dignitaries attending the luncheon included Bonnie Swearingen.  Her husband, bank executive and oil tycoon, John could glance out of his office window to take in a superb view of CWW.   Bonnie and John were instrumental in convincing me to move from Dallas, TX to Chicago to install CWW.  Fatefully, also in attendance were members of the Friends of the Park, who were archenemies of the CPD and its then-superintendent Ed Kelly (no relation to me).  I was impressed with the CPD’s openness in inviting them.

     I began a tour of slide presentations and lectures to better inform the public and generate support for the CWW, including the following:
1984 – American Society of Landscape Architects, Illinois Chapter (they sent a commendation to the Chicago Park District)
March 7-8, 1985 - School of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana

The Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, lake view

April 2, 1985 - Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
April 3, 1985 – School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
April 24, 1985 – Buckingham Plaza, Chicago
May 14, 1985 – Harbor Point, Condo Association Board and members, Chicago
June 4, 1985 – 400 E. Randolph Street Building, Chicago
August 8, 1985 – Midwest Institute of Park Executives
September 24, 1985 – School of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, visiting from Champaign-Urbana
October 24, 1985 - Seventh International Conference on Urban Design, co-sponsored by The Institute for Urban Design in cooperation with the City of Chicago Department of Planning
1986 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, “Blooming Celebrations.” major fundraiser
1985 - New England Wildflower Society
1988 - School of Art and Architecture, Yale University

     There were many other slide shows presented to various civic and garden clubs.  The word began to spread about CWW.  For example, on June 20, 1985, the New York Times published its “Flowers as Art in a Chicago Park.”  Coincidentally, the same day the Christian Science Monitor published a front page article about CWW.

     I was invited to make a special trip to show my slide presentation at a Friends of the Park board meeting at the Sears Tower (since renamed Willis Tower).  FOP director Erma Tranter allowed me only five minutes for my presentation; the rest of the meeting was devoted to discussing how to bring the CPD and Ed Kelly to court to have him deposed. 

The noncommissioned Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 - 2004, overview

     After the meeting, attorney Alexander Polikoff (lead attorney in the landmark U.S. civil rights case Gautreaux et al. v. Chicago Housing Authority) asked me to allow his wife Barbara to interview me for a Chicago Magazine article.  Barbara’s write up appeared in the July 1985 issue titled, Chapman Kelley’s Wild Idea. It was a very complementary piece, with full color illustration of CWW across two pages.   However, the remaining article was a blatant attack on CPD superintendent Ed Kelly and the CPD; it was a most unfortunate political beginning.  FOP and the “lakefront liberals” had successfully kept Richard M. Daley from becoming mayor of Chicago.  Instead they supported mayors Jane Byrne and later, Harold Washington.  The Polikoff family was very nice to me.  During my extended hospital stay over the December holidays, they visited me and brought homemade cake.  I met the entire family.   They had me meet a group that was eager to see Chicago host another World’s Fair.
     Co-founders of the FOP were Jim and Joanne Alter, (Joanne, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Sanitary District and formerly with the Water Reclamation District), and Lois Weisberg (served six years as head of Mayor Harold Washington’s Office of Special Events), and Walter Netsch, who possessed an egomaniacal personality and was on the staff of a major architectural firm in Chicago.  Netsch, being somewhat of an art collector, had made himself look ridiculous by organizing an exhibition of his own paintings, something that is virtually unheard of in the profession.  Lois Weisberg wished to create and distribute posters and banners throughout Chicago promoting CWW.  She let it be known that Ed Kelly and the CPD approved her effort.  However, we later learned that Weisberg had not received approval from either one.  This signaled the beginning of the struggle for the FOP to gain control of CWW.  It was not unlike the power grab of what had happened to me in Austin, TX and Dallas, TX.  People in all three cities sought to exploit my concept by calling it their own idea.

     The CPD refused to cooperate with Weisberg.  Instead, they demonstrated a streak of bold independence by using two banners designed by me that were flown high and mighty in tandem with American flags at Daley Bicentennial Plaza.   

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 13


     After my Chicago Wildflower Works had begun its glorious blossoming in the mid-1980s, garnering great attention and commendations, some new gallerists in Dallas asked me to return there to give a photo slide show and talk of it. Their businesses were located on Fairmount St., as was my atelier. My wife Joan forewarned me that a very good male friend of ours would have a message for me at that event. Other than Joseph Hirshhorn, this friend was the most knowledgeable contemporary art collector I have known.
     The friend did come forward with a message; it was that Dallas arts patron Margaret McDermott had told him that she had so missed the long talks that she and I used to have. He was to ask me to give Margaret a phone call the next time I was in town. My reply to him was that it was my friends who were “pushing up daisies” and that Margaret had “made her bed and would have to lay in it.” I well knew that this phone call invitation by Margaret could mean only one thing: it would be a tacit agreement to keep my mouth shut about her behavior. In return for my silence I would be handsomely compensated by Margaret to again become the best known and richest painter in Dallas—and probably anywhere else.

     My reference to deceased friends was to those specifically who had killed themselves. One very good friend who committed suicide was considered by gallerist Ralph Kahn to be the best contemporary fine art collector in Dallas. The other suicide was a very promising young painter whose father was a board member of the Dallas Museum of Fine Art. Both deaths were largely attributed to the behavior of museum staff and board. In the last phone call from the art collector who took his life, he apologized to me for ending his public support of my work and those of other artists. He said that he feared retaliation from his wide network of Dallas business and social connections if he continued with our professional relationship. A different person, a very rich man whose family’s contemporary art collection is probably still the best in Dallas, told me that it was fortunate that his source of income came from outside of Dallas or that he too would not have been able to support my work.

     In 1977, just after my Dallas/Ft. Worth Wildflower Works had begun blossoming and after a very successful exhibit at my atelier, I found myself in the fortunate position to save two other dear friends from committing suicide. These two friends shared a commonality with the prior two suicides: the Dallas Museum of Fine Art and its behavior. My counseling effort was all that the latter two friends needed to carry on. I sought no compensation during the time that I helped them. As a matter of fact, so intense was that period of my life that I made no paintings or drawings for an entire year.
     My Wildflower Works offers a practical and aesthetically pleasing solution to humankind’s greatest problem: the growing scarcity of a drinkable water supply. However, some people in Dallas, Austin, and Chicago continue to hide, keep silent or spread negativity about the decades-long success of Wildflower Works. For example, then-director Jack Robinson of the Dallas Parks and Recreation District reneged on his promise to me to file an application to the Hoblitzelle Foundation to fund an exhibition designed by me that would benefit the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the National Wildflower Research Center (NWRC). Robinson went on to order the destruction of the Wildflower Works in Dallas despite an agreement to respect it.

When I sought to inform the NWRC about Robinson’s negative behavior (Robinson was an NWRC member at the time), executive committee officer Nash Castro refused to discuss it. The subsequent and unexpected firing of NWRC range scientist Dr. Thomas Allen signaled that organization’s radical change. The destruction of the WW, no follow up discussion of it and the Allen firing pointed to the change of NWRC’s original mission from a research-based entity to a clearinghouse of others’ research. This was all very odd because former first lady Lady Bird Johnson wrote a personal letter to me stating “…you are the real pioneer…”of the Wildflower Works, the model for NWRC.

     In the early blossoming of the Chicago Wildflower Works we were led to expect the Smithsonian Magazine to publish an article on it.

Instead, I received a phone call from an out-of-state photographer asking me to meet him in Chicago. We met at the CWW site where he asked me if I personally knew of Lady Bird Johnson, her lawyer and accountant. I told him yes that I had met all three. He went on to say that while on assignment in Houston he met up with Lady Bird who invited him to Austin. He said that she entertained him royally and filled him with stories of the great plans for the NWRC. Wasn’t it ironic that the nearly identical description of the future of NWRC—floral beauty not requiring any tap water—was what he and I were staring at, the CWW? What puzzled him about his meeting with Lady Bird was that she made no mention of me, zero.   I countered the photographer’s information gap of my work by furnishing him with evidence of the Wildflower Works predating the NWRC by at least seven years and my involvement with the intimate planning of the NWRC!

Laurence Rockefeller, Lady Bird Johnson and Chapman Kelley at planning meeting for the National Wildflower Research Center.  Photo courtesy C. Kelley

So he arranged for National Geographic Magazine to send a photographer and interviewer (twice) to Chicago to flesh out the CWW. For that photo shoot, the Chicago Park District furnished cherry picker-style equipment to enable some high-angle images, one image is below, to be taken for the following year’s National Geographic spring article.

Lady Bird was keenly aware of the very successful CWW which range scientest Dr. Thomas J. Allen and I had produced solely at my expense.

Personal letter from Lady Bird Johnson to C. Kelley " are indeed a 'can do' man."

In the spring of 1986 National Geographic postponed their CWW article until 1987 so that it would not appear to be a “me too” piece like the Smithsonian’s planned write-up of the NWRC piece (which was not on CWW as planned). By the next spring the National Geographic article on CWW had instead morphed into one on the NWRC! We have since learned that for many years Lady Bird Johnson was a trustee with National Geographic. As a result of Lady Bird’s cozy relationship with National Geographic is it any wonder that the article on CWW never materialized? Spouses of politicians do reap rewards outside of office.

     In 1988, after the Chicago Park District agreed to an out of court settlement in a 1st Amendment lawsuit in which I was the sole plaintiff forced to protect my Chicago Wildflower Works as "free speech," a freelance writer was engaged to do a story for Chicago Magazine about my work. When Chicago socialite Hope McCormick and oil tycoon wife Bonnie Swearingen learned of the “hatchet job” the article was launching, they refused to be interviewed for it. It was their way of casting a vote against the magazine’s hypocrisy: the magazine had previously published much positivity about the CWW. And when the magazine reporter got in contact with Dallas arts patron Margaret McDermott, she replied that she may have purchased something from me. That had to be the understatement of the century! Had she forgotten that I was largely the sole curator of her personal art collection or that she had purchased an early still life of mine from Atelier Chapman Kelley? Margaret failed to tell the reporter that she had bought and donated one of my “poplar series” works to the El Centro College and a large wildflower painting for the office of the Dallas Medical Center School’s top administrator. She also donated the work of other Texas artists that she purchased from my atelier for other Dallas city colleges. Furthermore, she purchased from my atelier original works by Arp, Henry Moore and Rodin. On top of that I had presented Margaret’s husband Gene with a framed painting of my work of his favorite cottonwood tree at their “farm” country home. The painting was moved to his room as he succumbed to illness. Some stranger…that Margaret. It’s strange as to why she would continue to fund the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center especially after it dropped “Research” from its title. Conducting plant research and publishing the results was the original purpose of the Center. One has to wonder if Lady Bird knew in advance that the site would eventually become only a personal monument erected at taxpayer’s expense; donors could list NWRC/LBJWC tax-exempt contributions as charitable deductions on their federal income tax returns.

     It’s worth repeating that WW was overwhelmingly accepted by the general public as a stunning floral display. It yielded continuous blossoming across three seasons. During the winter what remained was sculptural beauty. WW thrived on rainwater, used no tap water, insecticides or fertilizer. From an environmental and ecological perspective it conserved precious tap water which city and suburban front laws, airports and other areas guzzle without end. Extrapolating this important water conservation aspect to local, state, national and international uses, one can immediately appreciate and understand the benefit to humanity.

     Upcoming Memoir chapters will reveal efforts by others—that have taken place since my permanent return to Texas in 2006—to keep influential Dallas groups from knowing of the proven success of the Wildflower Works. I have learned that the Dallas arts blacklist is active and influential, just like decades ago, only more intense. Unfortunately for me, it has adversely affected my life as an art professional.

     Since the beginning people have attempted to usurp my Wildflower Works concept; and in the dead of winter 2011, three appellate court justices in Chicago actually cobbled together a legal barrier to my authorship of it! More on that astonishing decision later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 12

     An irrefutable track record of local state and national publicity across many years, of what countless others have said about my Wildflower Works concept (1976 to present) via their correspondence and other documentation, the many meetings I conducted with my slide shows, and of course my work in watercolor, oil and drawings and much more is what directly influenced Lady Bird Johnson to establish the National Wildflower Research Center (since renamed Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center). In the years leading up to her decision to make the NWRC a reality, what follows is a tiny sample of selected correspondence coupled with a compelling narrative that underscores my assertion.

     The November 1980 issue of ARTnews featured an article about my new medium for painting, Wildflower Works, with a photo of yours truly.     
The November 1980 issue of ARTnews featured an article about the new medium for painting, Wildflower Works.  

      Jim Street, Public Information Officer of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport issued a three page press release dated April 11, 1977, heaping praise on the Airport’s Wildflower Works.

     Robert Mac Doty, Director of the Akron Art Institute wrote a letter dated April 19, 1977 saying, “…innovative, delightful and lots of other adjectives for your divine new work.”

     Again from Jim Street of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, penned a letter dated May 1, 1978, “…you have made a real contribution to the Airport and I thank you for it.”

     The Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board of Directors received a letter written by the Texas Wildflower Protection Society dated May 10, 1979, commending the Wildflower Works, “You are very fortunate to have such an ambitious, intelligent designer and artist as Chapman Kelley working with you.”

     Again from Robert Mac Doty, this time as the Director of the Currier Gallery of Art, wrote a letter dated December 18, 1979 saying, “…the piece [news media article] didn’t mention all the good work you did to support contemporary art and artists in Dallas.  So there is a lot of the Chapman Kelley story still untold.” (emphasis added)

     It was not a total surprise when I received a handwritten note with very encouraging comments from Lady Bird Johnson dated June 2, 1980. Notably, this was more than two years prior to the opening of the National Wildflower Research Center in December of 1982.

     Louise Perry (spouse of E. Gordon Perry Jr.) President of the Dallas Garden Club forwarded a copy to me of a formal resolution in 1980 which states in part, "...the Dallas Garden Club endorses the efforts of Chapman Kelley to plant wildflowers in public places and does hereby encourage other such organizations, groups and municipalities to commend and assist Mr. Kelley in this endeavor."

     Jack W. Robinson, Director of Dallas Parks and Recreation wrote a letter dated August 18, 1980 confirming that a resolution has been passed by the Dallas Garden Club for "...beautifying open spaces in Dallas through wildflower is most gratifying to have the support of influential citizens in such an important community project."

     Jane Scholl of the Smithsonian Magazine in Washington D.C. wrote a letter dated April 6, 1981 informing me, among other things, that just one more editor (of several editors) needed to come on board so an article could be written about the Wildflower Works.

     George Philip Huey Jr., Dallas Parks and Recreation Assistant Director of Maintenance and Beautification penned a letter dated May 21, 1981 saying the Dallas Museum of Natural History/Wildflower Works "...can give us the impetus for more of the same in other parts of town."

     Clyde D. Walton, landscape architect with the state of Maine Department of Transportation wrote a letter dated August 4, 1981 informing me that my broadcast commentary with Craig for Maine Public Radio "...came off well..." and requested a Wildflower Works catalog for Maine Governor Joseph E. Brennan and several others.

     Eddie C. Hueston, Superintendent of Dallas Park Maintenance, wrote a letter dated September 24, 1981 saying, “Chuck Finsley of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and Al Naugh of the [Dallas] school system are meeting with us…to determine a site for the continuing study of bluebonnet germination. This ‘spin off’ from the original Wildflower Works is another cooperative effort we are happy to participate in.”

     So Lady Bird Johnson was keenly aware of my previous years' success as evidenced above, which began as early as 1976 and with the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport Wildflower Works and later the Dallas Museum of Natural History/Wildflower Works.  In her heart she knew that the future NWRC would not fly without my hands-on participation and top-tier guidance. She phoned her best friend Patsy Steves of San Antonio, TX to have her ask me to approve and participate in the steering of the future NWRC, which I did.  To feel most comfortable about the situation Lady Bird insisted that I become a member of the NWRC's board of directors, executive committee and head of the education committee and I did so.  What I brought to the NWRC was concept and plans for its beginning, middle and long term viability.  It was something no one else had ever done or was capable of doing.  I would soon regret my decision to get involved. 
     Soon after coming on board I recommended that the NWRC hire range scientist Dr. Thomas Jefferson Allen.  Because Allen was at the time an employee with the Texas Highway Department, we sought their approval prior to the hire and they saw no problem.  In the wake of Dr. Allen becoming one of the staff, a meeting at the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, Texas was convened to hear my Wildflower Works presentation which was that it was the underpinning and driving force of the NWRC.  The meeting included Laurence S. Rockefeller (of the prominent Rockefeller family) and his wife Mary, and Nash Castro, General Manager of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission of New Jersey.  Rockefeller’s interest in the Wildflower Works concept was stoked by that presentation.   After he  left the Ranch it dawned on him that he had an important follow-up question for me. Because Rockefeller and Castro had attended my lecture at the same time, and after several months had passed, Rockefeller asked Castro to refresh his memory.  Castro felt that he could not answer Laurence's query with authority. So Castro followed up with a letter to me dated August 12, 1982 telling of his recent meeting with Rockefeller and his question. 

     The two-page letter I wrote seven days later to Nash Castro dated August 19, 1982 clearly answered Rockefeller’s question about how and why my Wildflower Works concept could solve the world’s lack of potable water.  We proved that the Wildflower Works was acceptable to the general public, that it thrived solely on rainwater, used no fertilizers or insecticides and bloomed sequentially through three seasons.

     And seven days later Nash Castro penned a letter to Laurence Rockefeller dated August 26, 1982.  In the correspondence Castro tells Rockefeller, “I think his [Chapman Kelley's] statistics are rather impressive.”

     As a result of my LBJ Ranch presentation and Nash Castro's "middleman" role to help resolve Laurence Rockefeller's concern, everyone was delighted to learn that Laurence promised to make a donation to the NWRC of somewhere in the $250,000 range; Margaret McDermott contributed $25,000.
     Realizing that my use of a new medium for painting, that of using wildflowers, coupled with its massive water-saving properties constituted a major arts/science breakthrough and with just 40 days remaining until the official opening of the NWRC, Lady Bird Johnson penned a letter to me dated November 12, 1982.  "You are the real pioneer!" she hand-wrote at the end of her two-page letter.

     On December 21, 1982, the evening before the NWRC opening, Candice Land, Bonnie Leslie and my spouse Joan accompanied me for an event with the NWRC's board of directors. The event was organized, sponsored and paid in full by yours truly.   Lady Bird was scheduled to attend.  She was a no show.
     The NWRC's official opening date was by design December 22, which marked Lady Bird's 70th birthday. One NWRC board member who attended was socialite Bonnie Swearingen, wife of oil tycoon John. Bonnie and I became friends as a result of her attending my art classes in 1962 in Corpus Christi and where my work was shown at the Centennial Museum. She and John became collectors of my work.  They convinced Joan and me go up to Chicago for several fundraisers, across some years, at the Chicago chapter of the Boys and Girls Club they were supporting.  I contributed some paintings to the events. In the fall of 1977 I was the Swearingen's guest and through them I met Chicago mayor Michael Bilandic for the first time.  That trip evolved into a press interview about the Wildflower Works. All of this happened a solid five years before the establishment of the NWRC.
     After the birthday party for Lady Bird, Bonnie and John came to our suite to see my slide show which included the Dallas Museum of Natural History Wildflower Works and that showed the obvious progress through 1977.  It was on this occasion that both of them invited me to come to Chicago to do a great work!
     The morning after the opening, December 23, 1982, I learned that a superintendent with the Dallas Parks and Recreation had been added, at the last minute, to the NWRC board of directors and executive committee. Alarmed at the unscheduled and unannounced change, I phoned art collector Olga Hirshhorn for advice.  She told me to get an explanation from Lady Bird.  I immediately scheduled a meeting with her.   Instead it turned out to be a meeting held much later, probably the following month, and surprisingly only with Lady Bird’s accountant and a lawyer.  That was certainly irregular and twice that I know of that Lady Bird had skipped out of a commitment.  At some point I took parliamentarian Mary Jo Shotts with me to one of the NWRC executive committee meetings; she was to furnish advice on meeting protocol.
     Much to my surprise I Iearned from Texas Highway Department of Transportation landscape architect Craig Steffans that Lady Bird had spoken with Dallas arts patron Margaret McDermott.  Steffans conveyed to me that McDermott had told Lady Bird that I had sued "her" (McDermott's) museum, the Dallas Museum of Fine Art.  McDermott was referring to the 1975 class action lawsuit that advocated for Dallas' public interest---an interest which unfortunately had no prior legal representation---as part of the disputed Virginia Lazenby O'Hara $4.5 million in Dr. Pepper stock shares bequest to the Foundation for the Arts (an ongoing private entity) and the DMFA.  I feared that McDermott’s talk with Lady Bird had infected her with the blacklist and that Lady Bird and her cohorts would  seek to eliminate me from the NWRC project.  That would leave only one person to get credit for my "big idea" of 1976, i.e. the Wildflower Works:  Lady Bird Johnson.  And I'm sure that McDermott desperately didn't want me to continue receiving credit for this important arts and science solution to the world's greatest future problem: managing the water supply. As evidence of McDermott taking an adversarial position against Dallas' public interest, at one NWRC executive meeting I played the audiotape for Lady Bird's lawyer and accountant of the Dallas City Council hearings of the contested Virginia Lazenby O'Hara $4.5 million bequest involving the DMFA; they heard McDermott's testimony. (The audiotape hotlink and narrative is accessible here in the last paragraph of art historian Sam Blain's Dallas Art History Blog.)
     Within days of the NWRC opening ceremonies I learned that it had been decided for NWRC to instead become a clearinghouse to publish the results of others' research without NWRC actually incurring the expense and risk of doing the hands-on work.  I suspected that a ruse had taken place not unlike the classical bait and switch ploy and that the hard research work would never get done.  
     The NWRC was originally to be located in East Texas where Lady Bird had lived as a child. It was never made public as to why the NWRC original site got switched to Austin suffice to say the new site was located under Lady Bird's radio station towers and on land unusable for almost anything else.  The new NWRC site was most likely used to favorable advantage on Lady Bird's federal income tax return.
     At some point Lady Bird and I were invited to jointly give a Wildflower Works presentation in Louisiana, we accepted--but instead of keeping the commitment she sent a staff person as a replacement.
     Since the purpose of the NWRC sprung directly from and all about doing the research related to my Wildflower Works concept, during one executive committee meeting I brought up the fact that a current NWRC board member had ordered the Dallas Museum of Natural History/Wildflower Works be destroyed despite having a written agreement to the contrary.  Board member Nash Castro responded by saying members could not discuss other member's business.  The board member ended up doing a stint in prison for unlawful sexual behavior while in a Dallas public park men's room.  The scandal was reported by the Dallas newspapers.  I felt that I had hit the proverbial stone wall and so I had architect Peter Block pick me up from the meeting.  I declined a lunch invitation from Lady Bird and never returned to another NWRC committee meeting.
     In the spring of 1983 the Allen's and I were at the LBJ Ranch for a barbeque where Nash Castro, then-President of the NWRC asked Dr. Allen for his resignation.  Of course Allen was now expendable to NWRC, but that freed him up to work with me on the Chicago Wildflower Works, hurrah!  Allen was a retired Texas A&M professor so the lost income meant little to him.  Being such a kind and conscientious person, Allen would not have engaged in double-dipping anyway.
     So the initial aim of the National Wildflower Research Center was to provide the scientific support for what range scientist Thomas Jefferson Allen described as a new vegetative management system based on my Wildflower Works concept.  The millions of dollars raised for the NWRC were expected to be used for research.  That is how the project was advertised and planned.  Everyone I knew expected that Lady Bird's name would eventually be incorporated into the Center's name, but why in the world would "research" be dropped from it?  What happened?  Had the NWRC's mission changed so radically? Had Lady Bird and her handlers schemed behind the scenes to create an organization using my "big idea" to raise lots of funds, then change the entity's name, and eventually establish a memorial called Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center?  Or had the Internal Revenue Service intervened after receiving a tip that no research or publication of such was forthcoming in NWRC’s new role as a clearinghouse?  The IRS may have asked the NWRC for evidence of plant research, and having not gotten any, forced the Center to amend its name to reflect reality:  the gross lack of research activity.  By shifting the purpose and focus of the NWRC did Lady Bird and her minions dupe Laurence S. Rockefeller, his wife Mary, Margaret McDermott and all of the other initial contributors out of their donated cash?


     These memoirs are a work in progress. Please submit information you may have to refresh my memory.  

Note:  With the exception of the news media images, all of the above is my copyrighted material, all rights reserved.  Permission for use will be considered upon written request.  Blog comments are encouraged, the use of actual full names is strongly recommended, as are affiliations with organizations.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 11

     In the early 1970s I was a delegate at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations or UNESCO, 16th Conference on the Environment, held in Houston, Texas.  The experience caused me to be more aware and empathetic about world-wide problems.

     In March of 1976 at my Saturday art critique I challenged attendees with the proposition, "What would you do if you were able to do anything in the world?"  After each student had been called on they turned the question back to me. By this time I was used to the conscious use of intuition that I had learned from author, inventor and futurist R. Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller at the University of Illinois symposium called "Matrix for the Arts," in 1967 where I was a participant.  The result of this learning had already brought me opportunities such as creating the Dallas-based art school the Northwood Institute, the Free University at Lee Park and the training of high school students in the arts as part of Mayor John Erik Jonsson's "Goals for Dallas" initiative.  Once in a while I'd have the opportunity to share the following experience with others in my studio. I'd tell them how I had been travelling with my clients in their private planes.  I suddenly realized that I could transpose both figuratively and metaphorically the flat concrete roads and runways of the new Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport with the nonfigurative elements of my paintings. The airport's general oval drainage areas among the runways were bordered with black top asphalt which mirrored the bands around the ellipses in my work; the only thing remaining was to install actual wildflowers in place of painted ones.  Because of my close association with Françoise Gilot, Dr. Jonas Salk and Fuller's tutelage I realized the environmental benefits of cultivating wildflowers to an exacting new level, coupled with gaining the public's approval of a new aesthetic and replace the still-current preference for residential and commercial water-guzzling green lawns, that we should no longer tolerate because of the worldwide water crisis.

     If wildflower cultivation and research could be pursued as I indicated, I predicted that unrealized food, fuel, fiber and medicines would be found which could allow for the easy development of the common uses of native plants in landscaping resulting in a marriage of the arts and sciences benefiting and bringing together humankind and nature in a vibrant working relationship. Everyone was rather flabbergasted at the possibilities of my D/FW Airport Wildflower Works.  There was an immediate demand that I pursue the concept because with the support of those present, between 20 and 30 people, the idea might be discussed and either ignored, suppressed or misused by others.

     So I went to Dallas acting mayor Adeline Harrison and she sent me to the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport board to share the idea.  I offered to pay the entire cost of the wildflower seeds, which I did.  The airport board assigned to me the airport's central area—four miles with 300 feet between the roadways.  Johnny Pate was in charge of helping develop the seeding and entirely responsible for the upkeep. An offshoot idea was to harvest the seeds from the seed heads the following season and to sell them to anyone interested.  The income generated from selling the seeds, tote bags and tee shirts, etc. to commission new works of art by other artists in a beautification effort for the Dallas/FW Airport.  This was all previously documented and agreed upon between the airport board of directors and myself. 

     The concept and effort gained immediate attention and garnered publicity around the U.S.  Subsequently, many lectures and honors came my way.  Airport officials were shy about the premature media fanfare and wanted to wait until the following spring blossoming.  Several tons of lupinus texensis, known as the Texas' state flower the bluebonnet, would by then have been sowed along with several hundred pounds of phlox drummondii, otherwise known as red flax, scarlet flax and crimson flax.

     To make my vision for the airport's wildflowers tangible, through the winter I painted watercolors madly—85 of them in 125 days!  They were related to my earlier works as wells as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Wildflower Works.  Historian Sam Blain and my assistant Candice Land began creating a catalog announcing this new dimension in the arts. The widely-considered great American collectors of art, Olga and Joseph Hirshhorn, who already owned my work and had gifted a diptych painting to President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird, allowed a comment to be published in the catalog. 

     On April 22, 1977 Joan and I were Lady Bird's house guests.  I was Lady Bird's dinner partner at a large event honoring biographer Robert Caro and his wife Ina. He took on the responsibility of writing four books about Lyndon B. Johnson. Caro has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

     I had taken some of the watercolors and discussed the Dallas/Ft.Worth Wildflower Works concept with Lady Bird, Mr. and Mrs. Preston Jones, he a famous Texas playwright and Fleur Cowles the morning of the 23rd.  (Two decades later the October 1996 issue of Vanity Fair had this to say about Cowles, "...legendary American expatriate, editor, writer, painter, hostess, and philanthropist, is publishing her memoir and "The Best of Flair," an opulent anthology of the dazzling, short-lived magazine that galvanized the literati in the early 1950s.") Lady Bird had encouraged the Texas Highway Department to use wildflowers on its highways; they had done so since 1929 after a superintendent realized the beauty and reduced mowing costs.  However, Lady Bird said that to her knowledge no one had ever been able to deliberately cultivate them and unless our team succeeded it was just an empty dream. 

     In the spring some early mowing took place.  Those plants that had been seeded and that were not destroyed by the early mowing began to make an excellent beginning.  The art world and news media had a field day reporting on the blooms.  The resulting exhibition of my related watercolors was a huge success.  I was invited to give presentations, which I did, such as for the Transportation Research Board (national) at two venues, San Antonio, Texas and Orono, Maine.  Art News published a nice story on my new medium.  In 1979 the Texas Highway Department hired range scientist Dr. Thomas Jefferson Allen to set up the department to develop better more dependable plantings along many more highways in TexasAs a result of this I began to be a "regular" at the LBJ Ranch. You will recall that in the early 1970s I was President Lyndon B. Johnson's last visitor when I delivered the diptych painting and unexpectedly spent the entire day, one on one, spontaneously discussing his legacy; 36 hours later he was dead.  I made a series of what were to be the final photos of a living LBJ.

     I met Dr. Allen at a symposium attended by many people who worked out of offices in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.  From that day on Dr. Allen and I were joined in mutual effort like Siamese twins; we were this way until his death.  His professionalism as a range scientist and his impeccable integrity were the key aspects to our success.

     Of course I was doing test plantings at my gallery on Fairmount St. and at my homes in Highland Park and Turtle Creek.  Unfortunately for us, Johnny Pate and his boss at the D/FW Airport abandoned ship.  The replacement boss was a retired military officer.  He wanted the airport grounds clipped close like the haircut of a new military recruit.  Thus the D/FW Wildflower Works petered out without explanation.

     I don't expect that we will ever gain any hard evidence that the Dallas Museum of Fine Art's (since renamed Dallas Museum of Art) blacklist had anything to do with the D/FW Wildflower Works demise. However, the occurrences of the museum's and others' efforts to negatively affect the careers of several Dallas artists will be forthcoming in this memoir. 

     The good that came from this experience with the D/FW Wildflower Works is that we proved that cultivation was possible.   One mistake (we learn from these too) was not to have the outside general maintenance component under my control.  Another misstep was to expect expensive aerial photography to convey the color density and saturation after only one year of a growth cycle; Life Magazine staff had expressed a keen interest in such images.  Another error was not accepting the beautiful Lorraine Haacke, art critic with the Dallas Times Herald, to do a Wildflower Works cover story for Braniff International Airways' in-flight magazine.  Finally, not understanding how complex the planning and development of outside grounds maintenance would be was a setback; it happened before I met Dr. Allen in 1979.

Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport Wildflower Works and Braniff International Airlines passenger jet

    In April of 1980 I was approached by Walt Davis curator at the Dallas Museum of Natural History and later by its director Lou Gore about having a retrospective exhibit of my paintings at the museum.  They also expressed a keen interest in my installing a Wildflower Works which would surround that museum building.  Walt had become familiar with my work after visiting my gallery in 1979.  I shared the proposal with Dr. Allen and when he volunteered his guidance we accepted the offer.  At some point during all of this Dr. Allen suffered a heart attack.  Amazingly, he was subsequently able to be a full partner in the choice of plant materials and related matters for the creation of the DMNH/Wildflower Works.

     Walt told me that the Dallas Museum of Fine Art, literally next door, would have to be purposely misled by outdoor signage during the autumn and winter announcing the event.  The bogus signage was necessary because we knew that the DMFA was determined to stop me and any other Dallas painter or sculptor from having any important recognition—such as what I once had in Dallas—that could be garnered independent of the DMFA.  In fact, this Wildflower Works exhibition and the related artist recognition by the public was why the DMNH would be able to gain free beneficial publicity and foot traffic that natural history museums rarely received; such publicity was the norm for art museums.  The museum staff knew that if the DMFA had learned of the show beforehand they would have somehow interfered because it was no secret that the DMFA had lots more clout with city and landlord park district officials. 

     We plunged into making an ambitious catalog and series of lithographs relating to the show.  Botanist David Block regularly inspected the progress of our plantings even through the winter.  I was disappointed that the DMHN did not contribute anything to the catalog.  It would not even accept my cousin Eula Nelms (Mrs. Horace) $10,000 contribution.  She intended on taking a federal income tax deduction for her donation.  I considered the DMNH's refusal to accept the donation to be a very bad sign!  However, I believe that the museum did contribute something to the grand dinner opening party which was catered by my chef son Cole and his wife Lisa.  Blossom and Brad Horton were also an integral part of the culinary team.  The event was a great success.

     The exhibition and DMNH/Wildflower Works installation succeeded as planned.  Olga and Joseph Hirshhorn came to see the show.  Kenny and John Pickens hosted a dinner party for out-of-town guests which included folks from both U.S. coasts.  Susan Horton hosted a Sunday brunch for visitors in a setting that surrounded everyone with her extensive collection of my work.

     The DMNH and its staff had not had such a high level of attention before; as a result they extended the exhibit and Wildflower Works through the next year.   I was honored when they asked me to plan a traveling exhibit with them.  On weekends bus loads of school age children came for tours.  Some of them sent back color drawings in testament to the tours I had conducted.  News of the exhibit naturally spilled into the museum's surrounding residential area.  The young neighborhood children became our docents.  Each was given an official Wildflower Works ribbon to wear.  I don't know if the children adopted us but we had wonderful times and enjoyed enhanced community relations with the neighborhood.  The museum was affiliated with a local high school club.  The club installed a bee hive in a museum window and did interesting experiments.  However, their test plots, for which we had furnished seeds, weren't consistently tended and yielded less than satisfactory results.

Volunteers/docents and botanist wearing official Dallas Museum of Natural Histroy Wildflower Works ribbons circa 1980
     Walt Davis and Lou Gore were invited to give a presentation about the museum's participation in the Wildflower Works at the annual American Association of Museums convention in Philadelphia PA.  For that event I donated 450 DMNH/Wildflower Works catalogs that were snapped up by collectors/attendees even before Gore arrived!  Their talk drew a standing room only audience and as a result they were asked to repeat the presentation.  Obviously flattered by the request, they gladly did so. 

Gounds of the Dallas Museum of Natural History - Wildflower Works

     DMFA museum director Harry Parker must have crawled back to Dallas under the bellies of snakes from the embarrassment of having a natural history museum next door have such a big hit exhibition by a local Dallas painter, yours truly, and unfortunately for the Dallas art scene, the target of a DMFA blacklist.  This is where the trouble began; remember, in the power center that is downtown Dallas, the DMFA clearly had much more clout than the DMNH.

     I had a scale model made for a "portable" room and exhibition for the proposed traveling exhibit.  I brought along the model when Walt Davis took me to visit the director of the Hoblitzelle Foundation. Established by Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle in 1942 the foundation makes grants to social service, educational, medical, and other organizations in Texas, especially in the Dallas area. The purpose of our visit was to explore funding for my traveling exhibit.  The Hoblitzelle director's son, who happened to be a pilot at the D/FW Airport, said that his fellow pilots created an informal lottery to pick the day the airport's wildflowers would blossom.

      The DMNH was given an exceptionally long time frame to submit its application for a grant.  The Hoblitzelle director personally held open the deadline to file, he did so several times.  I realized that in all likelihood the DMFA had intervened and killed the prospect.  Sometime around 5:30 p.m. I phoned the mayor about it; he was an executive of Tom Thumb food stores.  We arranged to have breakfast the following morning.  Since the mayor knew that I headed the campaign to preserve Oak Lawn and particularly the community where my gallery on Fairmount St. was located, (currently the prosperous Uptown area) he thought our meeting was about a neighborhood preservation issue.  When I explained how the DMNH had inexplicably balked and missed some application filing deadlines and my suspicion about the DMFA's intervention, he put the director of the park board in touch with me.  The park board was the landlord of the parcels used by the DMFA and DMNH.  The director's first report was that the DMNH would submit the grant proposal immediately.  He promised that if it didn't happen then he would personally provide it.  Eventually nothing was ever done.  You will hear more of this gentleman, who was also on the National Wildflower Works Center executive committee and about how he was sentenced to a prison term for unlawful behavior in a public park men’s room.  The incident was reported by the Dallas newspapers.
     By now Robert Caro's first book on President Lyndon B. Johnson had been published.  As a direct result of LBJ's "insider" connections forged from a career in state and national politics, Caro pointed out in his book that although LBJ was a most capable politician, LBJ had conducted personal business transactions that caused more than a few eyebrows to be raised.  Choosing to increase the U.S. involvement in Vietnam War overshadowed LBJ being remembered as being among the greatest of U.S. presidents based on the congressional enactment of his domestic policies. LBJ's political career was flawed only because of his decision to escalate the Vietnam War.  The legacy of subsequent American presidents is similarly tarnished for not heeding President Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the military-industrial complex.  To offset Caro's sometimes negative content about her husband's personal profit-making deals, Lady Bird sought to create some upbeat publicity hoping to diffuse that unflattering material made public by Caro.  And can you guess what Lady Bird chose to do?  She had her best friend Patsy Steves of San Antonio, TX ask yours truly to approve and participate in a newly created organization, the National Wildflower Research Center, which was to conduct the necessary research to fully develop the public use of the technical vegetative management system that would result from my Wildflower Works!  However, it was foolish of me to agree to participate.  I should have known how politics can be played whereby people exploit minds and divert funds for their own benefit.  It would have been so much the better for me to have politely declined Lady Bird's offer and instead develop a Wildflower Works entirely on my own. I would have long ago published the findings and recouped my initial monetary investment.

     In 1979 I had another successful exhibit at my atelier. National recognition flowed for the Wildflower Works concept.  If I may say so, my beautifully redone gallery received lots of compliments as did the Lambert house which had a lawn of wildflowers on Turtle Creek Boulevard.  My lawn at the gallery prospered--wildflowers were present spring summer and fall with a lawn full of bluebonnets in green rosette stage through winter.  Unlike my work, I learned that there were a number of professional and amateur self-styled experts who had "nothing to show" regarding their project's sequential blooming across three seasons of the year.

     I was travelling about to learn whatever possible about cultivating wildflowers.  I gladly presented lots of slide shows at no cost to attendees.  However, I sensed that there seemed to be an unlikely possibility for another "Dallas" Wildflower Works.  At this juncture I was further convinced that I had become a target of a Dallas Museum of Fine Art blacklist and because I was such an integral part of the Dallas art scene, the blacklist doomed the future of that, too.

     It was very gratifying to have both the respect and support of so many here in Dallas who could see the importance of the work of art in the community, the world at large as well as the water conservation aspect of the concept.  However, the efforts by the DMFA to enforce their censorship of all artists in the community through fear demonstrated their reckless cruelty as well as their historic foolhardiness.

    In this case the eagerness of the DMNH to enhance its reputation through sharing the related publicity generated by this traveling Wildflower Works exhibition was soon brought to a halt.  The project was likely stymied by the more powerful DMFA.  The result was that the Wildflower Works was destroyed by being cut back against a specific written agreement and the funding of the traveling exhibit of my work never materialized.

      As you may know, a blacklist is insidious and obviously unjust.  It is illegal punishment for independent souls who believe that we have in fact the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  Blacklisting is conveyed through innuendo, libel and a negative "whispering campaign" in order to frighten others.  It hopes to deprive its targets of their right to freedom of expression.  It seeks to dominate a community of people and have them accept the will of those with power.  It strives to make the warning, "YOU MAY BE NEXT!" a cornerstone of its effort.

     The other disastrous effect of the blacklisting was that my financial portfolio at the First National Bank in Dallas was purposefully misplaced.  How could this possibly happen while the bank proudly displayed so much of my work and for such a long time?  For example, my "Nine Poplars" painting hung on the most conspicuous bank wall in Dallas.  It was hung under a skylight in the bank officers’ formal reception area surrounded by private dining rooms where VIP clients were made to feel pampered and comfortable.  Only well-heeled clients visited the bank's ninth floor where bank officer's suites were located; that's where my paintings were in the offices of the chairman of board and top tier vice-presidents. R. H. Stewart III, who headed First National Bank in Dallas since 1959, and his wife Cynthia, who was my pal, art student and tennis partner had been among my most ardent supporters since I arrived in Dallas in the 1950s.  Their home was full of my paintings.  Their daughter, like others such as Mary McDermott, was sent to counsel with me.  Being perceived as a serious painter signaled a caring and idealistic human who young people of that age, those of the 1960s, could trust.  If I may say so, such personal characteristics were confirmed by the larger society and well demonstrated by my pivotal role in the creation of the highly popular Free University at Lee Park in Dallas.  

     The public example made by the blacklisting of this leading painter, art dealer, art teacher and fortunate art collector was that I went from having my own bank officer chosen and assigned personally by R.H. Stewart III to handle my financial consultations and portfolio, to subsequently being relegated to visiting an under-the-street pedway booth for my banking needs.  The "underground" banking person had no real authority and was not even aware of my bank account or that it had been "demoted" and reassigned.

     In pursuing the by now widely-acclaimed Wildflower Works concept, of course my expenses grew exponentially.  To continue, the only option I had was to sell the most valuable objects of my personal collection such as original works by Alexander Calder, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Henry Moore, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol.  I sold them for far less than their worth and risked the viability of my real estate holdings.  The benefactors of these sales were some of my best clients, resulting in disastrous consequences for me.  Soon I was forced with the double dealings of supposedly respectable clients and friends but also the efforts of others who wished to actually claim credit for the Wildflower Works concept. 

    It is ironic that Austin, Texas storyteller and radio show host John Henry Faulk (who became my friend via Dallas arts patron and promoter Bonnie Leslie) and famous playwright James Maxwell Anderson were also blacklisted in the 1950s. The blacklisted Anderson is the grandfather of our new art museum director and well-documented champion of museum reform, Maxwell L. Anderson.  Faulk with his attorney Louis Nizer beat the architect of that blacklist campaign against him, U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy and his backers, in a federal court libel lawsuit.  A jury awarded to Faulk three times in damages beyond the amount he had requested. As a result Faulk went on to become a famous First Amendment lecturer and wrote a book about his blacklisting experience called "Fear on Trial."  The book was adapted for CBS television.  Ironically, CBS had ended Faulk's broadcasting career in the mid 1950s after bowing to pressure from blacklisters.  You will learn more in a near future memoir chapter about my 1980s First Amendment "victory" lawsuit after my noncommissioned “Chicago Wildflower Works” (1984 - 2004) artwork was threatened by folks affiliated with the Chicago Park District. 

1979 note from John Henry Faulk to Kelley and associates
     With this cast of characters, blacklisting information and historical background we'll see how all this plays out. 

     And given the area's water shortage issues, it will be interesting to see what future generations will have to say about Dallas' neglecting to take advantage of the vast water savings that the Wildflower Works proved was possible; it was a new aesthetic landscape made acceptable to the general public and one waiting to replace a current watering regimen which is no longer affordable.


     These memoirs are a work in progress. Please submit information you may have to refresh my memory.  

Note:  With the exception of the newspaper images, all of the above is copyrighted material, all rights reserved.  Permission for use will be considered upon written request.  Blog comments are encouraged, the use of actual full names is strongly recommended, as are affiliations with organizations.