What a pleasure to engage in conversation! Saturday morning, I was invited to a session of The Art Crowd, a kind of salon, hosted for more than twenty years by our friend Phyllis Lutjeans. Phyllis has been a lively, activist presence in the Southern California art scene for decades now, and her home is chock-a-block with the work of artists to whom she has, in one way or another, lent her support. She lives and breathes art, as naturally as most of us breathe air.
So it's an honor to be invited to a session with her group. As I told her, quite sincerely, after she had introduced me, I have spoken in many different venues over the years, and hers is the best. She attracts people who are not only interested in art and ideas, but eager to discuss them. This was my third "appearance" there, and it's never a one-way street. There are always questions, comments, arguments from a group that, by body-count is relatively small--up to twenty or so people--but yet fills the space of her living room. And not only with their physical presence, but their energy, so that the space feels notably "crowded", appropriate to the title that she gives her continuing series of events.
I had planned, as usual, to read a few passages from the book and then open things up for questions and comments. No such luck! I'd barely introduced a couple of ideas and had not even read a single paragraph before the questions came. We talked and talked. About masculine sexuality, of course, because that's what the book's about; but also about a wide range of other things, from profoundly personal experiences of life to the larger issues of our time--social relationships, politics, religion, war... It was only towards the end that I offered to return to my original plan and read a couple of passages from the book, and found the group to be an attentive and appreciative audience.
So thanks to Phyllis! I admire her energy, her constant engagement with art and ideas, her ardent desire to share it all with others. Her gift is one she shares with many notables from the history of Western culture. I think, for example, of the extraordinary Gertrude Stein, who hosted her salon in early 20th century Paris, attracting the great posts and artists of her time. I'm no Picasso, of course. Not even an Apollinaire. Still, the spirit of generosity and the embracing of ideas is not that much different. I'll hope to find an occasion to be invited back to The Art Crowd one of these days.