“Do you want to save your painting?” Rita asked last Saturday, after we’d ransacked the basement storage areas in preparation for the move from Santa Monica to Brentwood.
“What painting?” I asked, wondering what the joke was.
“The ‘masterpiece’ you saved in Philadelphia. You threw the others out.”
My memory cells jumped to life. Arriving in Philadelphia as a writer some thirty years ago I had a sudden urge to paint. It came when I visited the annual art show in Rittenhouse Square with the idea of buying something but couldn’t even come close to finding it. Then and there I decided I could paint a better canvas than anything I’d seen—and would prove it in my spare time.
Once a week for six weeks, fighting the April winds, I brought home a five by six foot canvas the art supply store had stretched for me. I bought gesso by the gallon. I am sure many of those small tubes of oil paint are still lying around my one-room bachelor pad on Locust Street.
The paintings that resulted moved with me to breathing room in the Spruce Street floor-through, then on to my fancy duplex walk-up on Delancey Place. They eventually found the perfect setting lining a full story of stairs leading to a penthouse in Alden Park. And it was there in the middle of a September night that my career as an artist soared to a height I could never have foreseen—someone pried the downstairs door open and stole one of my paintings.
When it came time to move to Santa Monica and begin my career in earnest as a novelist, only one painting survived. But the subject of serial killers hiding in art galleries and a Monet stolen by evil Nazis along with a gallery owner whose beauty men would die for would blossom in my novels.
And, yes, I’m taking that ‘masterpiece’ with me to Brentwood. But please avoid questions about what school of art I practiced. Just remember that someone stole one of my paintings—how many of you artists out there can say that?
Causes William Ong Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center