Charlie Spear painted Falling Down Man while participating in a project to revitalize a poor part of Indianapolis that contains a large number of homeless people.
The buildings of Indianapolis can be seen in the background of Charlie’s painting. In the foreground slouches a marionette of some sort who has fallen and cannot get up.
The marionette clearly represents the homeless.
What an image. I can’t stop scrutinizing the marionette. It has, it seems to me, two faces: one real, one lurking recessed in the knees. The pathos of the homeless almost seeps from it.
I couldn’t be happier with Charlie’s painting. I think it is brilliant. Eloquent and brilliant.
Of course, it is a bit unfortunate that the USPS abused Falling Down Man.
No, that’s not quite right: the USPS ABUSED Falling Down Man.
One really has to see the painting in person to appreciate that fact.
I have had two wonderful conversations with Charlie, one before and one after I got his painting. He of course was a bit upset at what the USPS had done. Here is a statement that he wrote shortly after our last phone conversation.
I wanted to write my impressions on seeing and hearing the news of Falling Down Man...as "an abuse of the abused." Poverty is not a declaration of a person’s worth. The sight of the frame and knowing that the work may be destroyed as a whole piece had a ring to it with a spiritual resonance. The crisis this country is in today financially has put a lot of people in Falling Down Man's place. My wife works for WorkOne an arm of Work Force Development of Indiana. She deals with everyday people who worked for 15-20-30 yrs. and find themselves out of a job and out of unemployment. They are stranded in a sense in this financial purgatory or limbo...I know she has probably saved a few people from cashing out. She is a sensitive caring person. Falling Down Man is now more about the possibility of homelessness for anyone.
The sick feeling my wife and I felt when we saw the damage was real. The piece should have made it. This is the first time I have ever seen this kind of treatment from the USPS. Fed Ex and UPS have shipped damaged packages in the past but have gotten better in recent years.
I can't help but think there is something more going on here. Vincent's paintings were about the poor and the destitute. Failing as a preacher he became a painter following the leading of his heart. We look at his art and have a sense of possibilities. Unfortunately after shooting himself he died poor and basically homeless...I still would want the USPS to make this right...but more might be afoot than we see physically.
It has been a true pleasure getting to know Charlie. Among other things, he has helped me to see just what a peculiar fortune the Universe has bestowed upon me.
But why, one might naturally want to know, do I think the Universe bestowed a fortune on me?
The answer to that question is a bit involved and will have to wait for a future post. I will, however, say that it involves Plato and Duchamp.
Oh yes. One last thing: if anyone wants to trade for Charlie Spear’s brilliant and now perhaps historic painting, let me know.
AMANDA C. MATHIS
5 weeks ago