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Volume 2 -2017




What happened to the list?

As the CCJ transitions to a model better geared to leverage social networks, we are moving away from our past use of email notification services. If you would like to be added to our internal email distribution, please send your request to Rick@RARWRITER.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, which we will use to keep you notified of new features and news articles.


ABOUT RAR: For those of you new to this site, "RAR" is Rick Alan Rice, the publisher of the RARWRITER Publishing Group websites. Use this link to visit the RAR music page, which features original music compositions and other.

Use this link to visit Rick Alan Rice's publications page, which features excerpts from novels and other.



Use the RARADIO link to go to our radio page, where you will hear songs you are not likely to hear elsewhere.



"Music Hot Spots"




























Rick Alan Rice (RAR) Literature Page


CCJ Publisher Rick Alan Rice dissects the building of America in a trilogy of novels collectively called ATWOOD. Book One explores the development of the American West through the lens of public policy, land planning, municipal development, and governance as it played out in one of the new counties of Kansas in the latter half of the 19th Century. The novel focuses on the religious and cultural traditions that imbued the American Midwest with a special character that continues to have a profound effect on American politics to this day. Book One creates an understanding about America's cultural foundations that is further explored in books two and three that further trace the historical-cultural-spiritual development of one isolated county on the Great Plains that stands as an icon in the development of a certain brand of American character. That's the serious stuff viewed from high altitude. The story itself gets down and dirty with the supernatural, which in ATWOOD - A Toiler's Weird Odyssey of Deliverance is the outfall of misfires in human interactions, from the monumental to the sublime. The book features the epic poem "The Toiler" as well as artwork by New Mexico artist Richard Padilla.

Elmore Leonard Meets Larry McMurtry

Western Crime Novel











I am offering another novel through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Cooksin is the story of a criminal syndicate that sets its sights on a ranching/farming community in Weld County, Colorado, 1950. The perpetrators of the criminal enterprise steal farm equipment, slaughter cattle, and rob the personal property of individuals whose assets have been inventoried in advance and distributed through a vast system of illegal commerce.

It is a ripping good yarn, filled with suspense and intrigue. This was designed intentionally to pay homage to the type of creative works being produced in 1950, when the story is set. Richard Padilla has done his usually brilliant work in capturing the look and feel of a certain type of crime fiction being produced in that era. The whole thing has the feel of those black & white films you see on Turner Movie Classics, and the writing will remind you a little of Elmore Leonard, whose earliest works were westerns. Use this link.



If you have not explored the books available from Amazon.com's Kindle Publishing division you would do yourself a favor to do so. You will find classic literature there, as well as tons of privately published books of every kind. A lot of it is awful, like a lot of traditionally published books are awful, but some are truly classics. You can get the entire collection of Shakespeare's works for two bucks.

You do not need to buy a Kindle to take advantage of this low-cost library. Use this link to go to an Amazon.com page from which you can download for free a Kindle App for your computer, tablet, or phone.

Amazon is the largest, but far from the only digital publisher. You can find similar treasure troves at NOOK Press (the Barnes & Noble site), Lulu, and others.





The piece below, by New Mexico-based artist Elizabeth A. Kay, offers a very personal insight into the life of the wide-ranging, artistic tour de force Mark Stock, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 62.

Though not a native Californian, Stock had a high profile in a variety of artistic communities on the west coast. He was a brilliant lithographer and painter who distinguished himself as an artist, after printing for some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century. His painting "The Butler's in Love" hangs in the legendary San Francisco restaurant Bix, where it captures a certain strange aspect of the character of The City, where style, mystery, and esoterica feel native.

Mark was an actor, engaged in performance art in Los Angeles, as well as a talented magician who dazzled audiences in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mark was a champion amateur golfer, and also a gifted musician, a drummer who began playing with rock bands as a kid and then later became a jazz drummer. Mark played for a time in the trio of Bay Area sax stalwart Jules Broussard, though Mark's life partner Sharon Ding says "the two musicians who Mark credited for teaching him his jazz chops were pianist Tee Carson and bassist John Goodman. Mark played in Tee’s trio for many years during the 1990s in San Francisco," before a long stint leading his own Jazz unit.

In this long and touching piece, Ms. Kay details her lifelong friendship with Mark, which began at the University of South Florida in the 1970s, when both young artists were inspired by master lithographer Theo Wujcik. Her story is a fascinating look into the life of an artist, his and hers, and will certainly resonate with readers who have traveled similar paths.

Elizabeth A. Kay's paintings, which offer a whimsical take on traditional southwestern American iconography, have been exhibited in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, and elsewhere. One of her works appears in the recently published Georgia O'Keeffe, Living Modern by the renowned art historian Wanda M. Corn (Brooklyn Museum - Delmonico Books - Prestel. 2017) who writes - "Referencing pop culture and employing a regional vocabulary...Kay's portraits of O'Keeffe capture the reductive and commercial nature of celebrity in contemporary American culture." Like her lifelong friend Mark Stock, Elizabeth is also a musician - a pianist and singer.


In January as I was cleaning out some old files, I found a trove of letters, photographs, articles and emails that my friend Mark Stock had sent to me between 1978 and 2010, along with a stack of show announcements from his San Francisco gallery Modernism. His work was exhibited there regularly, until his death in 2014 at age 62. January being bitterly cold, I holed up in the studio, lit a fire, and for the next few days read through the hand-written letters. Then I spread everything out on the drawing table and began to organize the materials into a folder. At the same time, I emailed Mark’s partner, Sharon Ding, asking if she would like the folder for his archives, and was delighted when she responded enthusiastically. As I organized the letters and announcements by date and inserted them into plastic sleeves, I knew that the time had come for me to write something about my unusual, gifted friend whose life had ended so suddenly.

Mark and I met in 1974 in a lithography class taught by Theo Wujcik at the University of South Florida in Tampa. We were two undergraduate art students working towards B.F.A. degrees. Several years my senior, Mark was a slender, blond, good-looking young man of 23. Other students in the litho class were John Ludlow, Wendy Meyerriecks, Arnold Brooks, Judy Jaeger, Bill Masi, Richard DuBeshter, and Bill Volker, many of whom Mark wrote about in his letters. A mutual friend named Cynthia Zaitz was also mentioned, although she was not part of our class.

Wendy Meyerriecks introduced me to lithography. After graduating from the same high school in 1972, we enrolled as fine art majors at USF, a vast campus whose student body numbered about 17,000 and was growing fast. For the first year, I concentrated on painting, drawing and design classes, along with other requirements. Then one afternoon Wendy brought me into the litho shop, put a grease pencil in my hand and encouraged me to draw on the smooth surface of a limestone block about the size and thickness of a dictionary. I have had a couple of epiphanies in my life and this was one of them. As I felt the point of the pencil drag across the polished stone and saw the sensitive line it made, I knew I had found my medium.

Lithography had been invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder (1771-1834), a young German author and actor with a background in chemistry, who was looking for an inexpensive way to duplicate his plays. One day as he jotted down a laundry list with a grease pencil on a piece of Bavarian limestone, he was struck with the idea that if he etched the stone the grease markings might remain in relief. Two years of experimentation later and Senefelder had invented the technique of lithography— a process that would revolutionize the printing industry. So long as the etched stone was kept wet the grease marks could be repeatedly inked and printed in large quantities.

Senefelder documented his discovery in a book called “A Complete Course of Lithography,” which was translated into French and English. The new process became an instant success and was first used to duplicate sheet music and prayer books. Artists quickly caught on to the infinite range of tones, textures and lines that could be drawn on the stone. By the 1820s, lithographs of people, scenic views, and expressive flights of imagination were being marketed individually, or sold as portfolio sets and book illustrations. All the great artists of the 19th and 20th centuries made lithographs: Géricault, Delacroix, Whistler, Daumier, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Redon, Matisse, and Picasso among them. In the late 1900s another boom occurred with the production of colorful mural-size theater posters.

I discovered that I loved everything about the complicated, physically demanding process, from the fragrance of the buttery inks, to the strength it took to polish limestone slabs using water, pumice grits and a heavy, hand-rotated levigator. I even loved the smell of nitric acid poured drop by drop from a glass beaker into an ounce of gum arabic, though the fumes burned my nose. The shop’s fork lift was designed to move big stones from table to press bed, but I took pleasure in testing my strength by carrying medium-sized ones. Lithography was the messiest process imaginable, but if properly done it yielded a uniform edition of pristine, hand-made works of art.

Unlike the solitary business of painting and drawing, the litho shop, though by no means large, was a communal space where I could work on my art, learn from my peers, or be amused by them. Men outnumbered women, but not by much, and everyone in our class had a wry sense of humor. Personalities began to distinguish themselves. As I meticulously drew surreal subjects on stones, ranging in size from 11” x 14”, to 20” x 24”, I noticed that Mark Stock was already maneuvering 30” x 40” stones. Mark was constantly exchanging quips with John Ludlow, who worked for the City of Safety Harbor and whose cartoon-style drawings matched his down-home wit. Bill Masi was a thickset young man with a trim black beard and long pony tail who worked at the Tampa Tribune. Judy Jaeger was a pleasant married woman a bit older than the rest of us. Arnold Brooks looked and mumbled like Bob Dylan, and Bill Volker was secretive behind his John Lennon shades. Wendy and I were the youngest members of the class, but just as determined as everyone else to master lithography.

I didn’t know it, but lithography had been enjoying a renaissance in the 1960s and ‘70s, and it was just dumb luck that we students were working in a cutting-edge center for the medium. When our instructor, Theo Wujcik, wasn’t teaching or making his own art he was printing editions for artists at Graphicstudio, a professional atelier connected to our shop. Visiting artists like James Rosenquist, Robert Rauchenberg, Shusaku Arakawa, Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Jim Dine were making prints just a few yards down the hall. As I walked to class I could see their proof prints tacked on the walls.

I was taking a full class load each quarter, trekking across the sweltering campus, arms loaded with books. But I came to regard the litho shop as home-base, a place where I could rest between classes, work on my latest print, and visit with friends. I noticed that Mark was always in the shop working on a print, even during school breaks when few people were around. While the rest of us struggled with the complicated medium, he mastered it quickly and was soon pulling large, spectacular prints off the biggest limestone slabs. He and Theo began to set a standard of excellence that was influencing the rest of us. Theo was as excited by Mark’s prints as Mark was and helped him at all hours to achieve success. At night I watched the two of them bent over the press, Theo swiping away wayward flecks of ink (“scum puppies,” we called them) with a wet sponge, as Mark rolled ink onto the image. John Ludlow, who was struggling with a print run at another press, suddenly bellowed in his rich southern drawl, “Scum puppy be-GAWN!” which made us all laugh.

Mark loved working with the human figure and quickly found subject matter literally at his fingertips. He photographed John, Richard and Arnold and then drew large, realistic portraits on stone with litho pencils that he kept sharpened with a single-edge razor blade. When a drawing was finished he chemically processed the surface of the stone with gum arabic and nitric acid, washed away the residue with solvents, recharged the drawing with asphaltum, wetted the stone, and inked the image with a large roller charged with black ink. I still own the portrait he did of a laughing John Ludlow, as well as a lithograph he made of my hands with a martini glass falling out of them titled, “February Slip.”

I was in the shop one day when Mark was printing one of his big portraits. He had worked countless hours on the drawing and was in the process of pulling an edition of ten prints. The limestone slab was on the press bed, Mark inked the image and immediately wiped the stone with a wet sponge. The thin film of water allowed only the image area to receive ink, but if the stone dried out the ink would instantly adhere to the non-image area and the dreaded “scum puppies” would suddenly be everywhere. Sponging was an art in itself and master printers always had a sponging assistant. The stone inked, Mark laid a large piece of Arches White rag paper on top, making sure the registration marks were perfectly aligned. He then covered the rag paper with newsprint and a plastic tympan, and lowered the handle of the press, locking a greased wooden scraper bar onto the stone. As he smoothly hand-cranked the press bed it moved under the scraper bar, which exerted enormous pressure across the tympan as it transferred the ink drawing evenly to the rag paper. The room was quiet, except for the clanking sounds of the press and the splash of the water bowl. Suddenly there was a strange “pinging” sound. Mark froze. “No, no, no, no!” he said under his breath. We rushed over as he removed the plastic and papers and what we saw made us groan. A hairline crack ran the entire length of the stone, right through the center of Mark’s gorgeous drawing. The stone, probably worth $1,000, had just broken. It could be recut into two usable smaller stones, but Mark’s drawing was ruined.

Anyone else would have scraped that image and moved on to something else. Not Mark. When I saw him next, he was polishing another large stone on the grinding table with water, grit, and the heavy round levigator. That task finished, he transported the stone with the fork lift to one of the metal tables and began laboriously making the exact same drawing again. It took time, determination and grit (pun intended), but in the end Mark got his edition.

Tuition at USF was amazingly affordable in the early 1970s; good thing, too, since none of us had much money. I paid for each quarter with wages I made as a part-time waitress and still had enough left over for rent and groceries. Mark didn’t have much spare cash either, and I remember feeling properly jealous when he told me he had just won $200 in an art contest — big money in those days. So it was a special treat when Mark, myself, and other friends piled into our VW Bugs (mine was white, Mark’s a battered navy-blue) and left campus for lunch at a cafe called Main Street Bakery. There we wolfed down grilled cheese sandwiches, drank coffee and listened to Mark rave about his favorite Charlie Chaplin film. Then it was back to the litho shop to work on our prints, until the building closed at 11 p.m.

Most students lived at home, in the dorms, or rented small apartments in the university area. Mark must have rented an apartment nearby, although I never saw it. I was lucky, because a friend had invited me to rent several rooms in a grand, if rundown, country house near the rural town of Lutz. At eighteen, I moved out of my parent’s conventional home in the suburbs into a truly marvelous old Florida estate built in the 1920s. The gracious, red-tiled, Spanish-style house had multiple fireplaces and (it was whispered by my fanciful house-mates) Scandinavian demonic symbols painted on its cypress wood ceilings. It also had a secret compartment in the wall for stashing bootleg whiskey. It was rumored to have been one of Al Capone’s homes, though I’ve never found any historical evidence to support this. Shaded by towering pines draped with Spanish moss, it sat on ten acres of private land surrounded by cypress swamps, an orange grove and a wide lawn leading to a lake. The first time Mark came out he fell in love with the house and its romantic history. He even embellished its sinister past by insisting that a shallow porcelain tub lying in the grass had probably been used for dissecting dead bodies. He might even have been right since the house was owned by a local doctor. One time, Mark brought a friend out and to my astonishment proceeded to give his captivated audience a thrilling tour of its history, as if Mark, not I lived there! It was the first time I glimpsed what a masterful showman and story-teller he was.

As we all became better acquainted we learned that Mark was not only an exceptional artist but a talented golfer and a fine musician who played drums, guitar and sang. Being a guitar player myself, I invited him and Cynthia Zaitz out to my house where we sang songs by Elton John, Carol King, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers. Needless to say, Cynthia and I had bad crushes on Mark, but for whatever reasons nothing ever transpired between Mark and I besides friendship.

Graphicstudio’s manager, Chuck Ringness, a man not much older than us, had a gravelly voice and tended to mumble his words. John Ludlow called him “Arrgh” behind his back. Chuck brought in a young printer named Patrick Lindhardt to assist him and as we students became better acquainted with the printers at Graphicstudio there was some socializing. Over Christmas Chuck invited Patrick and me to a party at his apartment, where I enjoyed my first taste of hot buttered rum. Sometime later, when the litho people came out to Lutz for a party, Chuck and his fiancé brought along artist-in-residence, James Rosenquist, and his family.

Just before I graduated, Chuck prevailed on me to let him have his wedding reception in Lutz. I cleaned the house until it shone, filled several punch bowls with Sangria, sliced oranges from the orchard, and made avacado hors d’oeuvre picked from the monster tree growing next to the house. Students, faculty, and artists began arriving with flowers, food and plenty of liquor. I had bought a new dress for the occasion — a flowered ’20’s style gown that flowed to my feet. Mark showed up wearing a colorful jacket, followed by friends from the litho shop, who turned up in their best clothes to toast the bride and groom. We sat outside in the generous old patio with a fire flickering in one of the outdoor fireplaces for atmosphere, since it was a balmy evening. Candles twinkled and the once-majestic old house took on a mellow cast, as if it had been waiting a long time for just such a party. It was a merry time, even as the company went from being mildly tipsy to seriously so. And if John Ludlow and I went for a late-night canoe ride on the lake, and ended up tipping over in the middle and had to swim back in the dark, which pretty much ruined my beautiful dress, well . . . it was a grand artist’s party and such things are to be expected.

Mark and I spent two years in Theo’s classes learning the alchemy of lithography, trying to make the best prints possible, and rubbing elbows with professional artists. That heady combination set my life in its particular direction, which up until then I did not have a clue about. When Chuck Ringness’s fiancé told me about the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where people trained to become master printers, she had hardly finished her sentence when I determined that I would move to that city and see if I could get into the program. And if that failed, then perhaps I could get into graduate school at the University of New Mexico. With that plan firmly in mind, I made preparations to leave Florida right after graduating. Theo wrote a glowing letter of recommendation, ranking me among the top five percent of all the graphic students he had worked with over the last ten years. Having worked alongside Mark, I did not feel that I deserved such praise, but I was deeply grateful for the letter, which helped open the right doors.

Mark’s masterful prints had caught the attention of the head of the art department, Donald Saff. After Mark graduated in 1976, Saff helped him land a prestigious job as a lithographer at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles where Mark printed for (and befriended) the artistic giants of that generation: Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein.

In June of 1975 I packed my print portfolio, clothes, and a few kitchen supplies into my VW and drove to Albuquerque, followed by my friend Cynthia Zaitz, in her sky-blue Pinto. I was 21, Cynthia was only 17 and neither of us had been to New Mexico before. But as I breathed in the dry, high-desert air and gazed across the small city to several jagged volcano cones on the horizon, I felt immensely happy. Over the next few days we found a small apartment near the university and quickly landed part-time jobs. Then one wickedly hot summer afternoon, portfolio of prints in hand, I found my way into the lithography studio in the basement of UNM’s old Fine Arts building. No one was around other than a strong looking man with thick black hair who was rolling ink onto a stone. The basement was hot and he had stripped down to a sleeveless cotton undershirt.

“Excuse me,” I said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you Garo Antreasian?” Like every lithography student, I knew that Garo Antreasian was one of the country’s most distinguished fine art printmakers. He had founded the Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Los Angeles in 1960, becoming its first Technical Director, before moving to Albuquerque in 1964 to join UNM’s art faculty and head its litho department. Some years later in 1971, he and Clinton Adams would write the definitive book on creative lithography called "The Tamarind Book of Lithography: Art and Technique".

Garo laid the large roller in its carriage and gave me his full attention. I introduced myself and said that I had just graduated from USF, where I'd worked mostly in litho and I was hoping to get into UNM’s graduate school. Garo said he respected the program at USF and knew many of the people I had worked with in Tampa. His deep voice and measured words resonated in the quiet shop. Despite the sweaty t-shirt, Garo was clearly a man who commanded respect.

“Let’s see some of your work,” he said pleasantly, pulling a metal stool up to one of the long grey tables. I spread out the lithographs I had made in Florida: surreal images of children in bathing suits wandering inexplicably through high mountain tundra, the nude back of a young woman emerging from a textured gray wash, and some large etchings of enigmatic shapes floating high above the earth. As always, I felt incredibly uncomfortable showing my work, which I suspected wasn’t very sophisticated.

Garo was kind but direct. “These are very well printed,” he said. “But you won’t get into graduate school with this body of work.” His words came as no surprise, yet for some reason I didn’t feel crushed. He studied me for a moment and then said, “Tell you what, why don’t you sign up for my Litho class in the fall. You don’t have to be part of the program to do that. Take my class and let’s see where it goes.”

Not surprisingly, Garo turned out to be one of the finest instructors I ever had. As an artist he was a superb and innovative printmaker whose complex, eye-dazzling abstractions were setting both style and standard in that era. He was also an avid educator who not only lectured about printing techniques, but assigned his students papers to write about the great printmakers of the past. My first assignment was to write about Richard Parkes Bonington, Eugène Isabey, and Eugène Delacroix, all 19th century artists whose fine draftsmanship and eye for picturesque beauty had generated a new art market for lithographs of exotic subjects. Delacroix, I learned, was an artist immersed in dark passions who lived to tell the tale, unlike his contemporary Théodore Géricault, who painted severed human heads on his kitchen table, along with the monstrous “Raft of the Medusa” that hangs in the Louvre, but was dead by 33. I could understand these romantic artists, and would have loved to emulate their lives and imagery. Trouble was I was living in 1975, not 1850— and art had come to have far different meanings and appearances. Nonetheless, thanks to Garo’s encouragement, I was one of only a few students accepted into the M.A. program the following semester.

While I coped with the challenges of UNM’s graduate program, Mark was learning to be a professional printer at Gemini. We started exchanging letters, talking honestly and openly about making a go of it in our new surroundings, our botched romances, and the art we were trying to produce. Mark’s loose, elegant penmanship was a visual delight and though he insisted he was slightly dyslexic and not very comfortable putting thoughts into words, he was actually a fine writer. His letters, fluid in appearance and narrative, provided an intimate picture of a young man absolutely determined to become a great artist. He wrote to me about the images he was creating, ideas bursting from his imagination, and after two and a half years, his decision to leave Gemini to concentrate on his own art. As the years passed he described financial uncertainties, a string of passionate, mostly short-lived love affairs, celebrations when his art sold and there was money to burn, collaborations with LA’s ballet, dance and theater companies, and the vicissitudes of being represented by a prestigious New York gallery. A constant theme was his deep affection for Los Angeles and his artist friends. He was never so content as when working on a painting as the rain poured down outside his cavernous studio. It was a sound he never tired of.

Mark set extraordinarily high standards for himself and expected the same of his fellow artists. Unable to match his ideals they often disappointed him. Running through his letters was a clarion call to achieve great things in art and not become distracted from the path. Three times in three different letters he quoted Marcel Duchamp’s admonition that a true artist will forgo family and friends for the sake of art. Mark agreed about staying clear of marriage and children, though he wasn’t so sure about sacrificing friends. Mark’s friends were his family and he remained steadfast to many of us to the end.

Having spent a couple of semesters trying to adapt to UNM’s grad program, I found myself floundering, confused, and threadbare. Everything I thought I knew about art was being challenged by instructors whose sensibilities were totally outside my experience and emotional makeup. My committee was made up of middle-aged men, some of whom were devotees of Abstract Expressionism. Making sense and meaning out of non-objective work was turning out to be a terrible struggle, though I’d been doing my damnedest to push past my limitations. It was especially troubling to think I was letting Garo down; that maybe I was turning out to be a bad bet.

In the summer of 1977 I drove to LA to visit Mark, who was still printing at Gemini. My old roommate, Cynthia, had moved there and was living in an apartment not too far from him, so while she was at work Mark whisked me around the city in his old blue VW, eager to show me the sights and talk about old times. He was very thin, more hyper than in the past and even more good looking. Living so close to Hollywood, his old obsession with Charlie Chaplin had only intensified, and so my tour included all the Chaplin landmarks: houses the Little Tramp had lived in, his old film studio, streets where his movies had been shot, his actresses’ homes (some of whom were still living), theaters where his films had premiered, right down to (as I told my mother later) Charlie Chaplin’s favorite manhole cover.

We ended up in the Hollywood hills, Mark gunning the engine up narrow, twisting roads past bougainvillea-covered walls concealing Spanish-style bungalows, to the parklands just below the giant Hollywood sign. He was fascinated by the sign and would eventually create a body of enormous art works inspired by it. To me, the scrubby hillside with dirt trails meandering through the dry grass felt like the last shred of the natural world. As we gazed over the city, Mark told me about a lovely young woman he had recently fallen in love with who he had wanted to impress. For their first date he had invited her to dinner at an upscale restaurant. Being youthful residents of glitzy Los Angeles, they had both dressed to the nines, she in a shimmering evening gown, he in a white linen suit and fedora. But first, suggested Mark, in his velvet-soft voice, why not take a moonlight drive into the Hollywood Hills and look at the city lights for a bit. Oh, what a lovely idea, Mark, the poor innocent must have simpered. So up the winding road they went under a brilliant full moon, until they climbed above the suburbs and parked on the windy hillside near one of the trails snaking through the dark undergrowth. Mark cut the engine, turned to his beloved, and suggested that they walk up the trail a little ways to get a better view. Smitten by the handsome artist, the young lady gingerly set her high heels on the dirt path, clutching her dress so it wouldn’t snag on the brambles. A few steps further and— lo and behold, in the darkness ahead — a twinkling light. Why, what is that? said Mark in a perplexed tone, gently pulling the girl forward, as she was starting to back away from the thought of potential ax murderers. Mark, she said tremulously, maybe we should turn around? But Mark was insistent. Just a few steps more, he insisted. Then around a bend something improbable came into view — a table covered with a white cloth, glowing candles, and a single rose in a vase. Most spectacularly, standing beside the table, was a stone-faced, slick-haired butler, with a white napkin folded over the arm of his impeccable uniform. Mark’s date burst into nervous tears as the butler pulled out a chair for her, popped the cork on the champagne, and proceeded to discreetly serve the couple shrimp appetizer en plein air as the moonlight shone on the looming letters of the Hollywood sign.

It took me a long time to close my jaw after hearing this story. I couldn’t help but think that it would take a most remarkable woman to keep up with Mark Stock’s effusive brand of romance.

The next day was Sunday and since Gemini was closed Mark gave me a tour of the pristine facility filled with state-of-the-art presses. The printers were currently working on a Jasper Johns series called “6 Lithographs (after Untitled 1975)”. Jasper Johns, as I well knew, had long been regarded as one of America’s most influential and important artists. I studied the prints, literally “hot off the press,” that consisted of fields of colorful crosshatches and flagstone-like shapes. Each print was related to, yet subtly different, from the next, as if Johns was manipulating the deceptively joyous pattern in various ways that contradicted itself. Not only was he playing a complex intellectual game by arranging and rearranging strong visual elements, he was also raising philosophical questions about patterns, expectation, and unpredictability. And beneath that cleverness I sensed something emotional driving the whole process, even though Johns, a master of camouflage and deflection, kept that mysterious component well hidden.

Seeing those prints kicked my artistic circuitry into high gear. Back at UNM, inspired by a new vision of how abstraction could be intellectual, playful, and emotional at the same time, I buckled down and produced a series of large abstract lithographs. Against dark gray or black backgrounds that could be perceived as either solid or atmospheric, strong-colored shapes interacted with game pieces stamped with enigmatic symbols that I had seen on an old mahjong set. Garo’s influence was evident in the technical virtuosity it took to print the editions, and in the use of “rainbow rolls” of color. Most importantly, the imagery corresponded to hard realities that I was grappling with in life: chance, change, unpredictability, and luck. Somewhere in my readings I had run across a remark by Marcel Duchamp along the lines of: There is this thing we call luck, but your luck and my luck are not the same. Thanks in large part to Mark’s kindness, I graduated in 1978 from one of the most difficult printmaking programs in the country, having produced a body of art work to be proud of.

In LA, Mark was painting gigantic canvases in an absolute whirlwind of energy. Once an idea had captured his imagination he didn’t let it go until he had made an entire series about the subject. He had developed a lush, painterly style that harkened back to John Singer Sargent, but whose color palette had all the vibrancy of Pop Art. Each highly realistic painting resembled a pivotal moment in a movie or play where some disquieting truth is being revealed. Illuminated by warm lights or cloaked in dark shadows, men in tuxedos and begowned women spied on each other through parted curtains, doors or windows. Other subjects that intrigued him were suicide, crimes of passion, loneliness and heartbreak. Composed with dramatic chiaroscuro lighting, the scenes were part George de la Tour and part Caravaggio with a big dollop of Alfred Hitchcock. At the same time, Mark was designing billboard-size stage sets for dance companies, posters for film festivals, and hobnobbing with film makers and professional magicians.

Photo: "The Butler's In Love" from the collection of Bix Restaurant, San Francisco, California, courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

One of the paintings from his series “The Butler’s in Love” inspired a short film by David Arquette (available on YouTube), in which Mark appears briefly as a magician; sophisticated magic tricks having become yet another talent he was perfecting. “The Butler’s in Love” was to become the iconic image Mark was best known for, and he painted many variations of a butler who falls in love with the woman who employs him. Her station in life is far above his, she doesn't know he exists, or else she is attracted to him, but trapped in a world of money and privilege; thus, the butler’s helpless muteness and unrequited longing. His outpouring was nonstop and his colorful canvases filled the walls of galleries and museums. Mark was turning out to be a hugely complex human being: enormously talented, ambitious, theatrical, funny, enthusiastic, charming to the nth degree, but also someone driven by some very strange undercurrents.

Like Mark I had shifted from printmaking to painting as my life had gone through many permutations: working at an art gallery in Dallas, teaching art at TCU in Fort Worth, traveling to Europe several times, earning yet another graduate degree, writing and illustrating the book "Chimayo Valley Traditions", and producing a line of cards under the business name Pythea Productions. By 1986, I had moved to northern New Mexico to live with a man I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. When I wasn’t painting I was making a living selling masterworks of photography at the Andrew Smith Gallery in Santa Fe.

1999 through 2000 was a time of significant recognition for both Mark and me. Mark had every reason to be extremely proud of the lavishly illustrated biography, “Mark Stock: Paintings” by Barnaby Conrad III, (2000), a book that left no doubt what a brilliant artist he was. Around this same time, a young photography curator named Shannon Thomas Perich, working at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art, had picked up a card I had made of one of my paintings. On the surface Santo Pinholé looked like a traditional New Mexican retablo of a saint, but Shannon quickly decoded the visual reference to Ansel Adams’s “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico,” along with the card’s tongue-in-cheek puns about the history of photography. In 1999, she designed a showcase on the museum’s first floor that displayed Santo Pinholé, alongside a 19th century New Mexican retablo of San Ignacio (patron of teachers), and an original Ansel Adams print of “Moonrise.” Other display items informed the public about the history of the photographic process and the tradition of icon-making in colonial New Mexico. It was the first and, no doubt, only time that Ansel Adams, the history of photography, and the cult of New Mexico saints would cheerfully occupy the same space.

Mark was delighted for me, if a bit baffled by how such a small painting could have generated so much attention. I couldn’t have agreed more, and privately chalked up the Smithsonian exhibit to a spectacular stroke of Duchampian luck.

After 2000 our exchanges grew a little more infrequent. But even after Mark moved his studio to Oakland, he never stopped sending me personalized invitations for his shows, all of which I saved. In 2010 I called him to say I was making a trip to the Bay Area and hoped we could see each other. He was thrilled about the reunion and we made plans to spend an evening together. “But Liz,” he laughed in that gentle, self-effacing way I knew so well. “I’ve changed. You won’t recognize me.”

When a friend dropped me off at Mark’s two-story condominium in Oakland, not far from Pixar Studios, he was waiting outside to greet me. The youthful, lithe man I remembered from 35 years ago had vanished. Mark was nearly bald now, heavier, and he even seemed taller than I remembered, although that couldn’t be possible. But his soft voice and kind eyes were the same, as was the hospitality he radiated, along with his eagerness to tell me absolutely everything about his life.

We sat in his handsome Oakland home, its high walls covered with art works illuminated by afternoon sunlight filtering through a twenty-foot window. The window was flanked by heavy floor-to-ceiling curtains, so it felt a little like being inside an old movie house, especially as the music playing quietly in the background might have been the soundtrack from an eerie suspense film. I smiled to myself. I was once again in Mark’s theater where anything could happen.

“Do you like my walls?” asked Mark as he poured drinks into a couple of fluted glasses. I walked over to feel the dark wood and instantly knew that every single panel, hundreds of them, had been painted by Mark to look like wood. As we sipped drinks and caught up on our lives, he told me that he had finally found what he had always longed for: a solid, loving relationship with a woman named Sharon Ding. He talked enthusiastically about his life with Sharon, their travels, and their beloved pet beagles. Although Sharon lived and worked in Los Angeles and he was in Oakland, they saw each other regularly and had been together for nine years.

In his home that evening, and later at his downtown gallery Modernism, Mark dazzled me with a few uncanny magic tricks. “Pick a card,” he said, fanning the deck in his large hands. As I picked out the 4 of Spades he handed me a felt tip pen. “Now Liz, would you please write your name on the card.” I scrawled Liz Kay over the card and then inserted it back into the deck that he held out to me. Mark shuffled the deck for a few seconds. Suddenly he tossed all the cards into the air. They fluttered over our heads and fell randomly at our feet. “Look up!” he said. “Is that your card?” Stuck to the ceiling high above us was the 4 of Spades with my signature scrawled over it. I had absolutely no idea how he had done this, nor would he tell me.

As we were leaving his house, he pointed out a gold frame hanging on a dark green wall opposite the front door. There was nothing in the frame, just the green wall behind it. Then Mark bent forward and turned a virtually invisible door knob. “This is where I sleep,” he said. The small room had a bed in it cluttered with magazines, papers, books, clothes and photographs. He was using it as a storeroom at the time, because with the downturn in the economy he was having to give up his studio. He had already moved his paintings into his garage, and his possessions were in chaos. Maybe it was the uncanny card trick, or the creepy music, but I felt more than a little relieved as we left the condominium. If there was ever a hidden door behind which to hide a body, I had just been in and out of it.

Mark had become an absolute pro with his magic skills. In downtown San Francisco we entered a skyscraper and took an elevator up to Modernism, where an opening was underway. After he introduced me to gallery owner, Martin Muller, and we had looked at his most recent series of trompe l’oeil paintings, Mark asked if I would indulge him in just one more magic trick. This one involved my thinking of a number between 1 and 100 (I thought of 95), and his not only guessing it, but showing it to me written on the inside of his palm: a trick that made the synapses in my brain freeze in a “this can’t be happening” moment. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the staff at Modernism gleefully enjoying my stupefied reaction. Clearly, Mark the Magician had become as legendary as Mark the Artist.

From Modernism he took me to see his painting “The Butler’s in Love -- Absinthe”, the great centerpiece of a swanky San Francisco restaurant called Bix. The massive painting of a melancholy butler contemplating a cocktail glass with lipstick marks on its rim, hung above the piano where a jazz singer was crooning to the fashionable crowd.

It was pushing 9 o’clock as we walked through the heart of North Beach, San Francisco’s oldest quarter, whose faded brick walls had withstood earthquakes and fires and whose frontier coffers had once been stocked with gold and whiskey. Mark recounted the district’s history as if he had been witness to it all, just as decades earlier he had taken me all over Charlie Chaplin’s Hollywood, pointing out buildings and theaters made famous by the Little Tramp. It was the same consummate performance I had seen the beginnings of 35 years earlier in Lutz.

In a quiet Italian restaurant (“Mark!” greeted the owner, clapping my friend on his shoulder and leading us to a special table), we talked for hours about the past, retelling stories about our old friends Theo Wujcik, John Ludlow and Cynthia Zaitz, and sharing the trajectories of our lives since our USF litho shop days.

“You’ve always been like a sister to me,” said Mark warmly as we hugged goodbye on the doorstep of my friend’s house.

After I came home and to my utter astonishment, he sent my husband Raymond and me a painting as a gift: a framed oil of the 4 of Spades with my signature. This generous, kind, extraordinary man had titled it, “A Souvenir from My Ceiling.”

Only a few weeks before Theo Wujcik, by then age 78, died of cancer in Tampa on Saturday, March 29, 2014, Mark had flown to Florida to visit him. When they said good-bye Mark surely knew it was for the last time. But who could have dreamed that Mark himself would die suddenly from heart failure on Wednesday, March 26, 2014— 4 days before Theo died.

I was stunned and profoundly saddened by the news of both deaths, but especially by the loss of Mark. Tragically, I learned from Sharon Ding, that Mark had died just before a new exhibit of his work was due to open at Modernism. Sadder still, he and Barnaby Conrad had been making plans for a second book. It was distressing beyond measure to know that Mark had been snatched out of life so abruptly and with so much yet ahead.

As all this was happening, Raymond and I were on the point of leaving for Germany on vacation. I had been there before, but this time I was looking forward to seeing the country near Hamburg. My mother’s ancestors had immigrated to America from that area in the late 1800s. Knowing that Mark had been born in Frankfurt to American parents stationed at a military base, I determined I would take something in his memory to the country of his birth. Modernism had just sent us an announcement of his death with his painting “Sunset,” 1989, on the front. I decided to take it with me and leave it somewhere in Germany— perhaps toss it in a river.

In Berlin we discovered that our friend Lars-Olav Beier, who we were staying with, lived next to a large cemetery. I knew immediately that this would be the perfect place to leave Mark’s announcement, a decision that was solidified when Lars’s father, Lars-W. Beier, who lived in Münster, sent an email encouraging us to visit the cemetery because so many of Germany’s great citizens were buried there.

On our second morning in Berlin I put Mark’s announcement in my purse and after breakfast, Raymond and I left the apartment, walked a block and entered Luisenstädtischer Friedhof through a stone gateway. It was a cool spring day. Puffy white clouds drifted in the blue sky above chestnut trees laden with pink blossoms. We followed a gravel walkway bordered by lush green grass sprinkled with wild flowers. Masses of purple lilacs bloomed next to ivy covered stone walls, and everywhere trees and bushes were bursting with sweet smelling flowers. Some of the statues seemed to be reaching for the blossoms, as if trying to smell them. It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful cemetery I had ever seen.

We had walked only a few yards when I stopped in my tracks and said to Raymond, “I don’t believe this.” We were standing in front of a large family memorial with a larger-than-life statue of a young man with his hand over his forehead. The name carved above the statue was “Robert Stock.”

Now, I did not think for a minute that I had found Mark Stock’s long lost German ancestors. As far as I knew, Mark didn’t have any German ancestry— this was just an extraordinary coincidence. Nonetheless, the statue standing in the pose of a weary worker wearing an apron, his arm bent over his forehead, looked almost exactly like a photograph of Mark taken in Gemini when he was printing for the artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Raymond and I marveled at this uncanny connection for a long time before continuing to explore the cemetery.

Wandering up and down the paths, I photographed the graves, statues and plants. Then, as we headed back toward the Stock memorial, it seemed that the quality of the air changed subtly, as if the barometer pressure had become heavier. My steps slowed; it felt like I was moving through water permeated by gentle sadness. Probably I was just tired, but the sensation was so strong that I described it to Raymond, who said he wasn’t aware of anything unusual. Back at the Stock memorial I carefully placed the card with Mark’s painting “Sunset” at the foot of his doppelgänger. The next morning I returned with a bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley and laid them beside the announcement.

That should have been the end of the story— my humble tribute to my old friend at the grave of the unrelated Family Stock. After I came home I did a little research and learned that Robert Stock (1858-1912), the actual inhabitant of the grave, was a brilliant inventor and entrepreneur, who rose from humble roots to become a sort of Henry Ford/Thomas Edison of Germany. If I read the awkward English translation correctly, he appears to have invented the German telephone system!

Then one more piece of information fell into place.

I emailed the description and photographs of the cemetery to Sharon Ding, who passed it on to Mark’s brother, Don. In an email Don said that in fact, his and Mark’s ancestors had come from Germany, from the town of Dettingen. I looked up Dettingen on a map and discovered that it lies only about 85 miles from Munich— where Alois Senefelder invented lithography.

So my small part in Mark’s life ended in his ancestral homeland, in a stately cemetery where Germany’s celebrated citizens are buried and whose atmosphere had all the beauty, uncanniness and melancholy that Mark infused into his paintings. It’s all so quirky that I’ve even wondered if Mark didn’t somehow have a hand in it. In any case, I know one thing for certain— if Mark was still here he would have turned it into art.

~E. A. Kay - © March 2017











There is a video at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eSYOAPmiBus of Mark Stock discussing the image on this tombstone.

PHOTO LEFT: Liz visiting Mark’s grave at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California




Additional information on Mark Stock can be found at http://www.theworldofmarkstock.com/bio.htm.

Additional information on Elizabeth A. Kay can be found at http://www.pytheaproductions.com/exhibitions.html.

Additional information on Theo Wujcik can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_Wujcik.

Additional information on Garo Antreasian can be found at:  https://www.antreasian.com


This photograph is from http://www.theworldofmarkstock.com




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