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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ba'lls to the Wa'll, Y'all - Part 2

This article is contributed by Maureen Kelleher, who is an avid admirer of James Baldwin and who came to know about Beauford because of his friendship with Baldwin. "Ba'lls to the Wa'll, Y'all" expresses Maureen's thoughts about a painting that she viewed at the ongoing exposition Beauford Delaney: Internal Light.This is the second excerpt from her article.


Untitled: Yellow, Red and Black Circles
1966 Gouache on wove paper
25.25 x 19.25 inches (64.1 x 48.9 cm)
Signed and inscribed lower right to James Baldwin
© Estate of Beauford Delaney, by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

Delaney’s work resulted from his trip to Istanbul and meeting up with Baldwin. Untitled: Yellow, Red and Black Circles is a pronouncement.

“I’m here and I’m queer” -- proud, loud, no shame. And “I got balls.”

He hooked up with his buddy, Baldwin. I can easily imagine each man feeling relief – “The cavalry has arrived! I have back–up! I’m saved! I’m normal! All is good with my world, now!” Validation. Affirmation. Hugs. Love. Kindness all around.

The glorious glow that takes one over when we see a person we love, walking toward us, after a long time apart, getting closer, closer, their face, we smile, we start laughing!, we get giddy, and then so thrilled to hug him/ her and have them in our arms! Glory be! I am loved! It’s all okay! You’re here!” “I am so happy you are here!” And that’s just the part that can be expressed in thoughts and words.

And for these two odd [American] balls, who so clearly rejected so much of what was “normal” back “home” in the old streets of the USA: to be within reach of each other was an affirmation of how they chose to live. Pure joy.

Each saw himself in the other, and enjoyed the validation from the other man when in his company, when he watched the other one move, be, talk, relate, eat, joke, drink, smoke, etc.

I can only guess there was an extraordinary vibe and understanding between them, shared: ‘you are me and I am you. Period. Thank god for you.’

I can imagine Baldwin gabbed on and on -- seriously, goofy, humorously, sardonically, subtlely, deeply -- about his love for Delaney (and everything else). He was a talker, sometimes a bullshitter, a sharp-as-shit eye on everything, the voice of what was going on all around him and inside his head, heart, and probably in his loins, too. He talked, he wrote. He wrote more. And more. He got so much up and out. I doubt he would have held back in his verbiage when he met, head on, someone he loved. No lack of expressing the love.

Beauford’s self-expression? I imagine a lot of bear hugs! And jovial physical back and forth with all he came within arm’s length of. And, of course, he expressed through painting.

“Untitled: Yellow, Red and Black Circles,” aka:

"Balls, and I’m proud of 'em."


“Life, and I’m alive!”


“I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m so happy to be.”


“And this is where it all comes from!”


“Life. Let’s get it on.”


“I’m with Jimmy again! Wahoo! I’m so happy!”


“I have no idea what this freaking life is really all about,
but here I am. And here’s where it all started.”


“I know what life is all about, and I’m living it. And here is where I got my start.
Thank you very much!”


Delaney’s epitaph reads: “I am home.” Clearly he thought about what he wanted to say to the world, when given the last shot.

“I am home.”

My life, his life, our being born: is the leaving of home and trekking out -- being pushed out -- into the world? Out into human existence we go! – to live outside of the home, and death is our happy return ?
Death: the successful coming “full circle” – in which we get back to where it all started? i.e., I made it! I found it! I got back! I’m back!! He believed life was one huge, decades- long search? An effort, the striving, working, to getting back to a special place?

The trail, the damn long road, we each take, once we make that first fluidy wriggle, from that first cell, that meeting of egg and sperm, that will become me? Fall out of the womb, get pushed out, and the trek begins? Striving, from that moment on, to get back in?

To my mind, home is where I feel safe.

While living, Delaney felt at “home” when in the presence of Baldwin. Of that, I feel certain. Baldwin validated so many aspects of Delaney’s being and his essence, too. And vice versa for Baldwin.

For Delaney, he envisioned death was home, and it feels like he looked forward to the relief dying and being back at “home” would bring.

Perhaps he looked forward to the place, the time, where / when he didn’t have to be afraid of and wrestle with and negotiate pain, poverty, demons in his crazy ass head, bills, hunger, the voices, and (I imagine) a monstrously long list of painful crap (that we’ll never know) that his life was chock full of.

Will we ever know the inspiration, Delaney’s real, deep down, inspiration, for this painting? One thing is certain. He dedicated it to Baldwin because he felt love for Jimmy. It is a love letter. It screams love on many levels. It was created while he was in a self-imposed exile, a self-made uprooting, and re-planting in Europe. And within that exile, an even more special trip, days long, to an even more strange (unfamiliar) country, to visit Baldwin.

I’m guessing it was relief, calm, tranquility, love, adoration and all-things- wonderful when one is in the company of a soul mate – in Istanbul in 1966.

And from this came Untitled: Yellow, Red and Black Circles.

For the full article, visit Maureen's Web site at www.beanartbean.com

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