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Bud Grossmann’s
Words of the Week
for the Week of
January 10, 2016

Previously unpublished family history.
© 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.

Rec Room (2016)
  Rec Room (2016)
© 2016 by Bud Grossmann


I am drafting this note on Saturday, January 9, 2016. The 577 words that follow this annotation amount to the entire contents of a draft of a piece of writing I intended to publish as Bud Grossmann’s Words in Progress for Tuesday, January 9, 2001. The writing was never completed (my dollar-a-week subscribers evidently received no WiP dated 1/9/01), and I don’t recall that any part of the draft was ever published until now. I am presenting the draft exactly as I discovered it tonight.

If you click on the photograph above, you will see another photo (which I took tonight) of the framed watercolor that is the subject of the piece of writing. I feel obligated to state the obvious, that a small photo on a computer screen insufficiently reveals the various glories and imperfections of a large framed painting. Nonetheless, I invite you readers, upon viewing my picture of David Lee’s picture, to form an opinion about it and to write to me, letting me know what you think of the painting. I also invite you, my readers, as I always do, to comment upon my photographs and my writing.

      Thank you very much.


       If I had to guess at the current fair market value of the David Lee watercolor-on-silk that hangs in our living room, I would say the painting and frame are probably worth a little less than nothing at all. Their sentimental value, however, is appreciably higher.

       I acquired the framed painting in 1972, as in-kind compensation for shooting a set of catalog photographs for Mr. Lee. At that time, Lee was not yet wildly famous, but he had opened his first gallery and was beginning to sell prints of some of his original paintings. He was still hawking his goods to tourists on Saturday mornings, outdoors, under the not-entirely-impermeable shelter of the monkeypod trees along the Honolulu Zoo fence on Monsarrat Avenue. The posted price of our particular painting, was, as I recall, several hundred dollars.

       Over the next few years, David Lee's prints, of Chinese-y blossoms and misty landscapes, became ubiquitous here in Honolulu. Prices climbed. At one point, I, motivated by a pile of persistent payment-due notices on my desk, sought to sell our David Lee. Based on what I'd seen other art owners ask in the classified ads of the local papers, I tried for thirty-five hundred dollars. If I could get it, I was sure my wife would be pleased. Before I received any calls, though, Frances found out, and she ordered me to yank the ad. The piece was not for sale, after all.

       David Lee's work, though selling well, was not universally accepted and admired. Some critics hautily condemned it as "posterish." Show me almost any photographFrances and I are not insensitive to With popularity came controversy and resentments: "Is David Lee an artist or merely an illustrator?" some critics wondered aloud. When critics wonder, collectors wonder, too. Although we kept our Norman Rockwells in a darkened closet, Frances In the eight years my family has lived in this home, I surely have greeted far more than one hundred guests at our front door. Perhaps it's been more than two or three hundred; we don't ask them to sign in, and we don't count them with a clicker. Of all the many, many guests who have had a chance to face that painting (which is twenty-four inches by thirty-six inches, exclusive of its frame, and which receives the flattering light of an enormous front window in daytime and the decent light of an overhead fixture at night), only one guest, to my awareness and recollection, has remarked upon it in any way.
still selling was I paid taxes on the

A few years ago, inspired by prices I'd seen in the classified ads of the local daily papers, and motivated also by a pile of persistent payment-due notices on my desk, I sought to sell our David Lee for thirty-five hundred dollars. But , but
So I would would have expected someone, sometime, to stand in my living room and say, "Hmm! A David Lee!"
       Someone, sometime, I should have thought, might have dared to remark, "That's a nice David Lee print." And I could have then replied, with cautious modesty, "Um, actually, that's an original. A watercolor-on-silk."
       Last year, in June, someone spoke. My son Dave had some college-bound friends over, and one of them, Jennifer Prins—a freshman now at Notre Dame—said to me, "I like that painting!"
       "Oh, yeah?" I said. "I do, too. So tell me, Jenny, what do you like about it?"
       And she told me.

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This page was updated Sat, Jan 9, 2016, 11:49PM CST.

© 2016 by Bud Grossmann